It doesn’t seem possible that a diet based on eating all the fat and none of the carbs would be beneficial to your nutrition, but that’s exactly what is happening with the latest dieting craze: the ketogenic diet. Commonly referred to as the “keto diet,” the diet has become one of the most popular trends in health and nutrition. It seems appealing; you can consume fat and still lose weight. How is it even possible?

If you’re considering starting the keto diet, you probably have plenty of questions. Is it safe? What’s the best nutrition plan for the most effective weight loss results? How do you get started? Luckily, we have all the answers you need to decide if the keto diet is the best option for your health.

What’s the keto diet?

Before you can even begin to decide if the keto diet is best for you, you need to understand the diet. The keto diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares similarities between the popular Atkins and low-carb diets. The diet reduces your carbohydrate intake and replaces it with fat. This process puts your body into a metabolic state, known as ketosis, in which your body produces ketone bodies out of fat and uses them for energy. This occurs in the liver, which supplies helpful energy to the brain.

The keto diet reduces carbohydrate intake in your blood sugar and insulin levels. The diet requires individuals to remove certain foods from their diet, including grains, candy, soft drinks, legumes, potatoes, and fruit. To be successful with the diet, you need to eat fewer than 50 grams of carbs every day. Do you think you could handle that?

Do you lose weight?

You probably think you can’t lose weight with a high-fat diet but think again. With the keto diet, you no longer have to count calories or track your food intake to lose weight. Some individuals can lose up to 10 pounds during the first two weeks of the program. But you need to be careful. Just like any other diet plan, you should discuss any health changes with a doctor before you begin the program.

You won’t lose weight only with the keto diet. Long-term weight loss requires a variety of factors: your physical activity and exercise, sleep patterns, stress management, hormones, and any additional medical issues. The keto diet is simply an eating plan. If you want to lose weight, you have to exercise and take care of your body to achieve your weight loss goals.

How to begin

When following the keto diet, fats should deliver approximately 75-percent of your daily calorie intake, replacing the majority of carbs in your nutrition diet. Your body should learn to rely on proteins and fats instead of glucose. While it may seem overwhelming to switch to the keto diet, it doesn’t have to be a difficult transition. Focus on how many carbs you consume every day and reduce them to as little as possible.

To follow the ketogenic diet, meals and mid-day snacks should include the following foods:

  • Eggs, specifically pastured, organic whole eggs
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Fish, including wild-caught salmon, herring and mackerel
  • Venison
  • Pork
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Bison
  • Yogurt
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Full-fat cheese, including cheddar, mozzarella, brie, goat cheese, and cream cheese
  • Nuts and seeds, including macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and flaxseeds
  • Natural peanut, almond, and cashew butter
  • Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut butter, and sesame oil
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Condiments, including salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and spices

In addition to the foods, there are many sugar-free beverages to enjoy on the keto diet. This includes unsweetened coffee (you can add heavy cream), unsweetened green tea, sparkling water, and water. You can add fresh mint and a lemon peel to your bottle of water for more flavor.

While you should restrict alcohol consumption as much as possible, health experts agree it’s okay to enjoy a low-carb drink, like vodka or tequila, every once in a while. Combine the alcoholic drink with soda water on special occasions.

Foods to avoid

Now that you know which foods you should eat, what about the foods you need to avoid? The keto diet is strict with its requirements, but it’s easy to learn which food to skip at a buffet bar or at the grocery store.

To follow the ketogenic diet, you should avoid the following foods:

  • Bread and baked goods, specifically white bread, whole-wheat bread, crackers, cookies, doughnuts and rolls
  • Sweets and sugary foods, including ice cream, candy, and maple syrup
  • Sweetened beverages
  • Pasta, including spaghetti and noodles
  • Grains, including wheat, rice, oats, breakfast cereals, and tortillas
  • Starchy vegetables, including potatoes, butternut squash, corn, peas, and pumpkin
  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Grapes
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple
  • High-carb sauces, including barbecue sauces and high-sugar salad dressings
  • Beer
  • Margarine
  • Shortening
  • Vegetable oils, including canola and corn oil
  • Hot dogs

Should you start the diet?

The keto diet has become a popular trend, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all diet plan that will work for everyone. Health experts say the diet leads to fast, short-term weight loss, but those results may not match your health and wellness goals. Brian St. Pierre, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition, says the keto diet might not be the best diet choice for sustainable weight loss solutions. He commented, “I let them [his clients] know that there isn’t a universal approach that works for everyone, and that restrictive diets like keto can be hard for folks to stick to long-term.”

If you decide the keto diet is the best option for you, understand your new meal plans. Know which foods you should eat and which ones to avoid. But most importantly, find an approach that’s easy to maintain, enjoyable, and healthy. That’s what matters.