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How to Start a Keto Diet: 7 Tips for Beginners

woman on computer in the kitchen

If the tenets of a keto diet—high in fats and low in carbs—sound familiar, you’re not wrong. Atkins and keto are not dissimilar. The goal of both diets is to help you lose weight more efficiently by reaching a metabolic state in which your body burns fat (instead of carbohydrates) and sugar (for fuel). Classic keto diets are very high in fat, can be quite restrictive, and are often done with medical supervision. But this ultra-high level of fat may not be necessary for you to maintain the fat-burning state of ketosis. Atkins is a ketogenic diet, but one with more food choices and a greater balance of macronutrients.

Consuming a well-constructed keto diet with adequate fiber from vegetables, moderate protein, approximately 40 grams of net carbs or less a day, and about 65% of your daily calories coming from healthy fats—as you do on Atkins 20® or Atkins 40®—has shown to be safe and effective. If you’re new to the keto diet, here are a few easy tips to getting your diet plan started.

Keto Diet for Beginners

  1. Decrease carbs (but eat more veggies) 
  2. Eating a very low carb diet is important to achieving ketosis, but low carb does not mean no carb. With Atkins 20, net carbs are restricted to 20g or fewer per day for about two weeks to guarantee that ketosis is achieved. After this induction phase, you will gradually add small amounts of net carbs back into your diet while still burning fat. You can easily count the net carbs you are consuming with the Atkins® app or this guide.

    When limiting your carb intake on a keto diet to 20–40 net grams per day, it is important to eat plenty of foundation vegetables to ensure you’re getting all of your necessary vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber. Reach for nutrient-dense, non-starchy veggies like kale, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, and peppers. Another bonus: the combination of eating whole foods plus gradually adding net carbs as you maintain ketosis also helps prevent setbacks, hunger pangs, and cravings for processed foods.

    Bonus tip: Swap in low carb ingredients to make your favorite meals. For example, use zucchini noodles to replace regular noodles in your favorite pasta dish!

  3. Decrease stress

    We know that sometimes this is easier said than done! High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can elevate your blood sugar levels and get in the way of your body’s ability to achieve ketosis. If your job or personal life is currently more stressful than usual, you may want to wait to start a keto diet. You can also help reduce stress by getting lots of sleep, exercising regularly, and trying relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga.

    Bonus tip: Prioritize sleep by sticking to a set bedtime schedule, and aim for a consistent 7–9 hours of sleep every night.

  4. Increase healthy fats

    Low carb keto diets replace your reduction of carbs with an increase in fat, which typically accounts for at least 60% of your daily calories. Because we've been told for so long to avoid fat, most people under eat fat when trying a keto diet. It is important to choose healthy fats from high-quality plant and animal sources, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil as well as cheese, eggs, nuts, and fish.

    Bonus tip: If you find yourself getting hungry between meals, you may not be consuming enough healthy fats.

  5. Increase exercise

    As with any diet, increasing your activity levels can help you achieve your weight loss goals. Regularly exercising while on the keto diet, however, can also help you achieve ketosis and transition into a low carb, high fat lifestyle more quickly than you would otherwise. That’s because to achieve ketosis, your body needs to get rid of any glucose, and the more often you exercise, the quicker your body uses up its glycogen stores before turning to fat for energy.

    Bonus tip: It’s not uncommon to feel a bit sluggish when starting a keto diet. Ease into any new workout regimen, and be sure to include plenty of low intensity exercises as you adapt to your new diet.

  6. Increase your water intake

    Water is crucial to supporting your metabolism and regular body functions, and low carb diets like keto have a diuretic effect on the body. Not consuming enough water, especially during the induction phase, can lead to constipation, dizziness, and cravings. In addition to drinking enough water, make sure you’re getting all of your electrolytes by adding some broth to your diet or a little extra salt to your food.

    Bonus tip: Stay well hydrated and drink a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. Drink even more if you have upped your exercise or if it’s a hot day.

  7. Maintain your protein intake

    A keto diet requires eating enough protein to supply the liver with amino acids to make new glucose for the cells and organs, such as your kidneys and your red blood cells, that can't use ketones or fatty acids as fuel. Not consuming enough protein can lead to loss of muscle mass, while consuming an excessive amount can prevent ketosis.

    Bonus tip: When following a keto diet such as Atkins 20, aim for 20-30% of your diet to be made up of protein.

  8. Maintain your social life!

    Starting a keto diet doesn’t mean you have to eat every meal at home. Make smart choices when dining out by checking the menu ahead of time, asking the restaurant for nutrition information, sticking to meat and veggie options, and opting for a side salad instead of a starchy side like fries.

    Bonus tip: Replace sugar-laden condiments like BBQ sauce and ketchup with yellow mustard, ranch dressing, hot sauce, or butter. Also, meet up with your friends at these keto-friendly restaurants!

Sample Keto Diet Plan for Beginners

This sample keto diet for beginners provides 21.4g of net carbohydrates. Atkins has even more plans personalized to your lifestyle, as well as an incredible library of delicious low carb recipes.

Breakfast: 4.6g net carbs

Eggs scrambled with sautéed onions and cheddar cheese

Snack: 1g net carbs

Atkins French Vanilla Shake

Lunch: 6g net carbs

Grilled chicken over baby spinach, tomato, and avocado salad 

Snack: 4.4g net carbs

1 cup sliced red bell pepper with 2 tbsp ranch dressing

Dinner: 5.4g net carbs

5 oz hamburger, 1 oz pepper jack cheese, 1 small tomato, ½ Hass avocado, 2 romaine lettuce leaves