meal planning on a keto diet - five step checklist

This is a guest post written by Louise Hendon, author of The Essential Keto Cookbook. Her passion is sharing practical strategies on how to use the keto diet to lead a healthier and more fulfilled life. Find out more about Louise and her Keto recipes here.

Please note that I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. Before starting any new diet and exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise and/or diet changes with them before beginning.

You’ve been walking up and down each aisle at the grocery store for nearly an hour now, trying to figure out which ingredients will help you stay in ketosis.

You haven’t even thought about if the food will taste good...

You’re frustrated, tired, and confused.

And I’ve been there, too.

Thankfully, meal planning on a keto diet can minimize a lot of that frustration and confusion.

Instead of…

  • Spending hours at the grocery store each week

  • Preparing meals that you aren’t sure will meet your macros

  • Worrying about your meals not tasting good

Meal planning allows you to…

  • Save tons of time (and money) by only going to the grocery store once per week with a detailed shopping list

  • Optimize your macros to keep you in fat-burning ketosis

  • Eat yummy food using recipes tested (and approved) by hundreds of other keto-dieters

In this article, I’ll give you a five-step checklist to successfully meal-plan on the keto diet.

What is a Keto Diet?

The purpose of a keto diet is to get into ketosis.

Ketosis is when you no longer rely on sugars/carbs for energy, but instead burn fat for fuel.

But why would you want to get into ketosis?

Ketosis has been linked to helping people lose weight, stabilizing mood, and even reducing risk of heart disease, among other benefits.

What do I need to do to get into ketosis?

You’ll need to reduce your carb intake to get into ketosis. When you eat fewer carbs, your body doesn’t have enough glucose (which comes from eating carbs/sugars), and your body is forced to burn fat for energy instead.

What should I eat to get into ketosis?

Ketosis is mainly reliant on reducing your carb intake. So make sure to eat less than 25g of net carbs per day. Then you’ll eat a moderate amount of protein and a lot of healthy fat.

For a better idea of your exact macros, you can check out our keto calculator here.

Eat these:

  • Low-carb vegetables

  • Free-range meat

  • Wild-caught fish or seafood

  • Low-carb fruits

  • Tons of healthy fat.

Do NOT eat these:

  • Processed foods

  • Sugars

  • Sugary fruits

  • All types of grains (yes, including rice)

  • Beans

  • All starchy vegetables (yes, even sweet potatoes)

Is a Keto Diet Right For You?

Although you now know what the keto diet is and what you’re allowed to eat when following a keto diet, that doesn’t mean you should jump right in.

Before you read on to the meal-planning checklist, you first need to determine if the keto diet is right for your life.

And the folks at niKETO have already written an informative post that will let you know if keto is right for you.

Five Step Keto Meal-Planning Checklist

1. Have snacks in all your “common places”

I’m starting with snacks because snacking is often what inhibits people from being successful on keto.

Here’s what usually happens:

You’re out running errands, traveling, at work, or at a non-keto friend’s house for a party.

And when you’re hungry, non-keto foods are even more tempting.

You think that one or two cookies or some potato chips won’t hurt anyone.

And then you wonder why you’re not losing weight or feeling better...

That’s why I recommend you always have keto snacks available for those tough situations.

Keep keto-friendly snacks in your “common places”:

  • At home

  • At work

  • In your gym bag

  • In your purse

  • In your backpack

  • In the car (if it’s not too hot)

  • In your travel bag for vacations

For more keto snack ideas, check out this list of keto snacks here.

2. Use a three-step formula for lunch/dinner…

Lunch and dinner is where it can get complicated on keto.

You want delicious food, of course.

But, searching for recipes to make every night for dinner can be exhausting…

Spending hours in the kitchen is such a chore...

Or spending hundreds each week on expensive ingredients will quickly burn through your bank account...

There’s an alternative way that’s much easier.

For those of you that don’t want to make intricate recipes every night, use this simple formula to craft meals that aren’t bland or overly complicated.

Step 1: Pick your favorite meat

Step 2: Pick your favorite vegetable

Step 3: Pick a sauce/seasoning

Step 4: Pick a method of cooking

For example, you can pick beef, broccoli, tamari sauce, and sauteing. Then you’d end up with a delicious Keto beef and broccoli stir-fry.

Or if you pick fish with spinach, celery along with garlic and basil seasoning in a stew form...then you’d get a quick and nutritious fish stew.

3. Cook a one-pot dish to make for easy cooking and cleaning…

The most important thing for me when it comes to cooking?

I want every part of the cooking process to be easy. From buying the ingredients to cleaning the last pan.

And one pot recipes make the cooking process easy.

My favorite part is that there’s only one pot to clean up. My second favorite part is that one pot recipes can make enough food for plenty of leftovers!

Don’t know any keto one pot recipes? Don’t worry, just do a quick google search and you’ll find tons of ideas.

4. Don’t EVER make breakfast in the morning...

Mornings are stressful enough. And then add cooking a full-blown breakfast on top of that?

To me that sounds like a recipe for disaster...

Instead of cooking breakfast in the morning, it’s much easier just to warm up a pre-cooked breakfast.

That’s why I recommend you make your breakfast in advance. When you wake up, all you’ll have to do is open your fridge/freezer, throw it in the microwave, and enjoy.

For example, egg muffins (pictured above) are one easy breakfast dish that you can batch cook and then just reheat each morning. Homemade sausages are another great option!

5. Smoothies…

There is one type of breakfast that you can easily make in the morning.

They’re so simple to make.

And if you have to get out the door right away then smoothies are great for bringing with you on your commute.

Be careful, though:

Smoothies are usually made with high-carb fruits that have lots of sugar. So don’t just go searching for smoothie recipes online!

My smoothie ingredient recommendations:

  • Greens powder

  • Keto collagen

  • Keto prebiotic fiber supplement

  • MCT oil

4 Ways to Start Keto Right

In addition to having a meal plan, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success.

1. Consider easing into the diet.

If your staple foods have been pancakes, pastas, and breads for the last twenty years, then immediately limiting your net carbs to less than 20g might be too much.

Consider starting light:

Maybe start your first week off by simply getting rid of gluten.

Then the next week limit your net carbs to 75g per day.

On week three you can lower your net carbs even more and start increasing your fat consumption.

You get the idea.

2. Don’t stress over your macros.

I recommend that you only make sure your net carb intake is less than 25g per day to start out.

Don’t worry about doing the calculations for your protein or fat intake.

And then after the first week is over, if you feel like you haven’t naturally figured out your protein and fat macros, you can calculate them then.

3. Donate your non-keto foods.

After you’ve donated your non-keto foods, then fill your fridge and pantry with keto-friendly foods instead.

If you don’t have any non-keto foods around, then you won’t be as tempted.

4. Skip one meal a day

This is a very common practice for those following a keto diet:

I usually skip breakfast.

Why skip a meal?

There are studies out there that have determined that skipping a meal may actually increase your energy.

So if you think your body would benefit from skipping one meal per day, then give it a try!


I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I’ve always loved a quote by the famous UCLA men’s basketball coach, John Wooden:

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

I believe this is true in every area of life. I know that if I don’t have a solid plan in place, then I can’t expect to reach my goals.

It’s especially true with the keto diet. If you don’t have a plan (especially a meal plan), then you’ll be much more likely to quit or fail.

Use the tips from above to create a keto meal plan that will not only be delicious, but that will also keep you in fat-burning ketosis to help you reach your health goals.

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