Not just a diet, but a lifestyle, keto has been known to help people lose weight and become healthier all around. Those who partake in the keto diet can eat meat; fish; leafy greens; above-ground vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus, and green beans; high-fat dairy; nuts; seeds; avocado; berries; sweeteners; oils; and fats. The diet eliminates grains, sugar, fruit, and tubers, like yams and sweet potatoes, from daily intake.
Related Reading: What Exactly Is Keto?
With all that in mind, the diet does require a certain amount of prep time, and those who try it should know their way around a kitchen—at least the basics. So, in order to help make your keto journey a success, we put together a guide to ensure you have everything you need in one place to stick to the plan.
Keto Pantry Staples
Be sure to stock these essentials so you can easily whip up a keto-friendly meal when the time comes.
- Avocado oil (for when you need a higher smoking point)
- Beef jerky (for snacking)
- Coconut aminos (to stand in for soy sauce)
- Coconut oil
- Nut butter (any kind you like, as long as it’s unsweetened)
- Nutpods (original for cooking and flavored for coffee)
- Nuts of your choice (raw and/or toasted; if you buy in bulk and don’t go through them that fast, store them in the fridge to keep them fresher longer)
- Olive oil
- Tuna (in packets or cans, but without added salt; it’s great for a quick addition to a salad or with keto crackers)
Related Reading: The Best Keto Costco Buys
Keto Fridge Staples
Likewise, stock your fridge with these keto-friendly foods.
- Avocado and/or compliant guacamole (it will go on everything, promise)
- Cheese sticks
- Cottage cheese (good for a meal or a snack)
- Eggs (you’ll learn to love them if you don’t already)
- Fish of your choice (salmon being one of the best)
- Butter (we love Kerrygold Irish butter)
- Meat of your choice
- Riced cauliflower (good for so many dishes, like fried “rice,” mashed “potatoes,” or pizza crusts)
Unlike the beginning days of ketogenic diets, there are now certain substitutes and condiments that weren’t around before. These days, getting keto-compliant ketchup, mayo, and dressings is as easy as checking out Thrive Market (in which you can shop by diet to make things easier), Amazon, or Whole Foods.
Related Reading: The Best Keto BBQ Sauce You Can Buy
Additionally, while this list is made up of mostly whole foods and basic pantry staples, there are lots of other enhancements that places like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and even more local grocery outlets are carrying to make lifestyle choices like keto easier. Nutritional yeast, for example, oven-baked cheese bites, ghee, and other keto-friendly foods are now stocked on the regular.
Keto Meal Prep Tools
These are all super helpful when meal prepping in general.
A multi-cooker can do everything, from slow cooking like a Crock-Pot to pressure cooking for fast meals (handy if you’re making several batches of something on a single day). An Instant Pot can do it all, but a slow cooker is fine, too.
Instant Pot Duo 60, $79 at Walmart
Chef’s Knife and/or Filet Knife
A good knife will make all the difference while cutting and chopping. Yes, there are many items that are pre-chopped, pre-cut, and even pre-measured at the store, but not everything is, and you can save money and often get fresher ingredients by doing it yourself anyway.
A sturdy chef’s knife (like one from Wusthof) or a filet knife (like a Hammer Stahl) can be the difference between minutes and seconds spent slicing and dicing—and can also ease frustration. Dull knives make everything more difficult.
8-Inch Chef's Knife, $89 at Made In
Related Reading: The Best Knives to Buy in 2019
Egg muffins are an easy breakfast that can be prepped for the entire week in one go. And, bonus, they can be filled with a variety of different things, from vegetables to meats, so you don’t have to eat the same thing every morning—unless you like consistency. You can go with classic metal muffin pans or non-stick silicone for easier egg release.
Trudeau Silicone Muffin Pan, $26.95 at Sur La Table
Throw a piece of protein—marinated or not—and vegetables on a sheet pan with the fat and spice of your choice, pop it in the oven, and you’ve got a healthy meal (or two!) without very much effort at all. Line it with parchment or a silicone mat and cleanup is easy too.
Nordic Ware Half Sheet Pans, 2 for $29.56 at Sur La Table
Related Reading: How to Clean Your Dingy Baking Sheets
Having a blender for Bulletproof coffee as well as chopping or pureeing vegetables is a must. (Think: cauliflower rice, avocado smoothies, and cauliflower mash.) You may prefer a food processor, but something with blades and a motor is a big help in keto cooking—especially if you want to make homemade nut butter for fat bombs and the like.
NutriBullet Personal Blender, $59.95 at Williams Sonoma
If you’re prepping, you must store. Glass storage containers like the ones from Pyrex may be heavy, but since they’re glass, they can be heated and eaten from without any stress, and are dishwasher-safe.
10-Piece Glass Storage Container Set with Pen, $39.95 at Sur La Table
Keto Meal Prep Tips & Tricks
When it comes down to making sure your keto diet goes as smoothly as possible, there are a few tips and tricks that can help keep you on track and reach your goals, without having to scramble or feel discouraged.
1. Think About How You Like to Eat
Basic, yes, but helpful. Are you the type of person who could eat the same thing for days in a row? Then prep huge batches, portion them out in your preferred method of storage (like these Pyrex glass bowls with lids), and be done.
However, if you’re prone to food boredom, prepping takes on a whole new dimension. Yes, you can dice, chop, blend, and prepare as much as possible on your free day, however, batch cooking will likely hinder you if you need variety. In that case, plan to cook extra dinner meals each day and take the leftovers for lunch.
While grilled chicken and veggies might be easy every day, by Friday, you may be tempted to go off-track if you’re just not feeling it anymore. So make smaller amounts of things, but do as much in advance as possible (including making sauces or dressings, chopping and measuring components, and writing out your plans—more on that in a bit).
2. Know Your “Hero” Foods
Keeping something ready-to-go on hand can definitely be a game-changer. For example, hard-boiled eggs that are already peeled and waiting make the perfect snack before dinner or can act as an easy breakfast if you wake up late. Frozen blueberries can ease an ice cream craving (just blend them with a little coconut milk, or eat them as-is if that’s enough to trick you). Keto-compliant Applegate cold cuts can make for an easy lunch roll-up, snack, or addition to morning eggs, so if you think you might need the help, don’t hesitate to buy ready-made alternatives.
3. Create a Detailed Shopping List
Don’t just go to the supermarket and grab a bunch of keto-compliant items that you think will make a meal. Oftentimes, they don’t add up to a satisfying dinner. Do plan your meals for the week—in detail—and go grocery shopping armed with that list. That way, you’ll know you have everything you need, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your plan. (Don’t forget to add the aforementioned hero foods to that list!) You’ll obviously need a full list written out for online grocery orders too; check it at least twice to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything before you submit.
Related Reading: The Best Grocery Delivery Apps for Shopping Online
4. Write Out Your Weekly Calendar
Seeing your week on paper is eye-opening. Being able to figure out when you’re eating out, what days you’re going to need to pack a lunch (instead of relying on leftovers), and when you may have to be on the baseball field with your little one after work (prime time for hanger strikes) is going to allow you to be more prepared when it comes to your meals and even snacks. It’s all about taking the guesswork out, even if that means a little more work in advance.
(Now that coronavirus mitigation efforts have so many of us indoors all the time, this might seem like a moot point, but it’s still helpful to have everything planned out beforehand.)
5. Get a Little Outside Assistance Via Meal Kits
If all of the above has you feeling daunted rather than encouraged, consider signing up for a keto meal kit like Home Chef that will send you keto recipes and all the ingredients you need to make them every week. It saves you time (and mental energy) spent shopping and planning, and may make it more likely that you’ll actually cook a keto meal even after a tiring day since nearly all of the prep is done for you. If your budget allows, it just might be the best thing you can do to support your keto endeavor.
Home Chef Meal Kit Subscription
Related Reading: The Best Healthy Meal Kits to Try
Sample List of Meals for the Week
Now, it’s time to get cooking. Here are some great keto-friendly options you can make completely (or at least prep parts of) in advance.
Breakfast prep doesn’t get much easier. Throw your meat and/or veggies into your muffin pan, crack an egg over it (or crack several eggs in a bowl and scramble, then pour), and in just a few minutes, breakfast is served—and set for the week. You can make a couple batches (and several different flavors at once) and keep these in the fridge to grab-and-go all week. Get the Egg Muffins recipe.
Stock up on coconut flour and almond flour and make a big batch of these in advance to store in the freezer for those sweet-over-savory mornings. Add nut butter and some fresh berries for a filling and delicious roll-up that won’t take much time at all. Get the Keto Paleo Pancakes recipe.
Related Reading: The Science Behind How to Make Keto Bread
Bulletproof coffee is a keto thing, and an easy, filling liquid breakfast, but sometimes you don’t even have time to measure and mix butter and coconut oil in the morning. Enter these make-ahead pods that you just pop in your blender with some freshly brewed coffee (instant coffee works too) and you’re out the door in no time, without having to hunt down your measuring spoons. Get the Bulletproof Coffee Drops recipe.
Yes, you can have an occasional cocktail on keto, so not all is lost. Especially if you’re imbibing with this keto Bloody Mary. Still spicy and tangy, this is the perfect accompaniment to any keto brunch. And naturally, you can mix it up (without the alcohol) ahead of time, so all you have to do on Sunday morning is pour. Get the Keto Bloody Mary recipe.
Fat bombs will become your best friend, and they’re endlessly adaptable. Make a batch at the beginning of the week and keep them on hand for all snack attacks. Get the skinny on fat bombs.
Sure, you can buy cheese crisps in most stores, but they’re so easy to make at home, you should add them into your meal prep planning. They’re great as a substitute for chips, or crumbled over salads, soups, etc. Stored in an airtight container on the counter, they will lose crispness over time, but will still taste good (and if you’re near an oven or toaster oven, you can re-crisp them if need be). Get the Baked Cheddar Parmesan Crisps recipe.
Lunch & Dinner:
A keto staple, riced cauliflower can be turned into just about anything (including cauliflower pizza crust), but cauliflower fried rice should definitely be in your meal rotation. Add various meats or shrimp for a completely different flavor every time. Or keep the “rice” plain and simply top it with something different several times during the week for a bunch of lunches and dinners with a filling, keto-friendly base and enough flavor variety to keep you happy. Get the Cauliflower Rice recipe.
This Whole30-compliant slow cooker BBQ beef is perfect for those on keto as well. The sauce is made with tomato paste, vinegar, and a few spices and tastes like some seriously good barbecue. Sub out beef for pork, if desired, or make a big batch of chicken (and change up the seasonings however you like too).
You’ll end up with a big batch of protein you can serve in several different ways throughout the week: with shredded cabbage and your favorite keto-compliant mayo (or vinegar, depending on your preference!) for a meal you feel like you shouldn’t be eating, but totally can. Stuff it into baked sweet potatoes or avocado halves for a self-contained supper; put it on the cauliflower rice mentioned above; make lettuce wraps; or even make keto tacos with baked cheese crisps in place of the usual tortilla shells. Get the Slow Cooker BBQ Beef recipe.
While this recipe calls for white wine, subbing in keto-compliant chicken stock works just as well. Additionally, you can skip the pan and add the lemon, butter, salt, and parsley directly to the fish and put on a baking sheet in the oven—plus some chopped veggies tossed in the same pan—for a quick, healthy, keto-compliant meal.
You can prep these and other sheet pan meal ingredients in advance at the start of the week, but even if you chop everything and assemble them last-minute, they’re still quick and easy—and you can double the batch to ensure lunch the next day (either eaten as-is, or repurposed on top of a salad, in a keto wrap, in an avocado boat, etc.). Get the Easy Salmon With Lemon and Capers recipe.
Pro tip: Engage a fabulous fish delivery service like Sitka Salmon Shares and always have fresh wild Alaskan salmon (an ideal keto food) on hand. See the best places to order fresh seafood online for more options.
What is life without dessert? Not a life we want to live for long! This keto-compliant Italian cream cake is so good, you won’t know you’re putting your body into ketosis. And if you make it at the start of the week, you can cut off a slice every day for a sweet finish. Get the Keto Italian Cream Cake recipe.
If you prefer frozen treats, consider making a batch of coconut milk-based keto ice cream before your week begins, and you’ll be able to satisfy any sweet cravings as soon as they hit—without wrecking your keto commitment—because, of course, you planned ahead. Get the Keto Ice Cream recipe.