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Well, you made it to the new year. Which means it’s quite likely you’ve made some resolutions or intentions to start off 2020—some of which may very well revolve around food, health, and wellness. 

Perhaps you’re trying to cut out processed foods. Or move toward a plant-based lifestyle. But if you’re one of those people who’s looking to test out the keto diet in the first month of this new decade, you’ve come to the right place (and you’re definitely not alone).

Related Reading: What Exactly Is the Keto Diet?

Dr. Urvashi Pitre, a blogger and cookbook author who jumped on the keto diet and lost 80 pounds, knows a thing or two about the high fat, low carb diet. Her newest cookbook, “Easy Keto in 30 Minutes,” is a testament to that, a sweeping book brimming with 100 ketogenic recipes from around the world. You’ll feast upon artichoke chicken soup, beef shawarma, sour cream chicken enchiladas, and lemon pound cake—recipes that are not only healthy, but will be on the table within 30 minutes. 

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The cookbook is also filled with a number of helpful guides—especially for those who are testing out the diet for the first time—including calculating macronutrients and advice for feeding non-keto family members. Each recipe is marked by dietary notes, so you’ll be able to easily determine which dishes are dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan.

Ahead, Urvashi shares her tips for easing into the keto diet during the first two weeks (the final two weeks of the month-long process can be found on her website or in the book itself), making the process far less intimidating and difficult. At the very bottom, you’ll find Urvashi’s recipe for cauliflower mac and cheese with bacon and jalapaeños, where noodles are swapped for riced cauliflower, swirled with a heaping of cheese, heavy whipping cream, and cream cheese, and topped with crispy bacon and jalapeños.    

Related Reading: A Cauliflower Pizza Crust That’s Actually Good

Excerpted from “EASY KETO IN 30 MINUTES: More than 100 Ketogenic Recipes from Around the World” © 2019 by Urvashi Pitre. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

A 4-Week Plan for Easing Into Keto

When my boys were little, I taught them both to read. Mark was reading by the time he was two and a half years old, and Alex by the time he was three and a half. (I wasn’t able to stay home with him, so it took us a little longer.) I taught them using a series called Bob Books. The principle of the books is that they start with two consonants and a vowel, and an entire book is written with just those three sounds. Book 2 adds a few additional sounds, and this continues with additional books until the boys were reading effortlessly.

This build- on-it pedagogical approach made it so easy for the boys to keep reading and to keep learning. I also saw the sense of pride they had in reading a whole book by themselves. It reemphasized for me the need for us all to experience small victories as we build a feeling of self- efficacy while learning a new skill.

Weight loss is a long, drawn- out process. If your only milestone is that you will celebrate when you reach a 50- pound loss, you will be waiting for a long while, and you may get a little discouraged. Instead, I am a firm believer in celebrating NSVs, or non- scale victories.

NSVs include fitting into smaller clothes even though the scale hasn’t moved.  Going for a long walk, turning down your favorite pasta, feeling better than you have in years, joints that aren’t swollen—all these are great and delightful NSVs that you can focus on.  These are important because much of weight loss, especially the pace of weight loss, is often something you can’t dictate as much as you’d like to.

What You Can and Can’t Control

I want you to listen to me carefully on this. You cannot fully control how fast your body wants to lose weight. You can only control what you put in your mouth—or don’t put in your mouth.

If you’re anything like me and a thousand other slow losers, you could do everything you’re meant to—and stall, lose one week but not other weeks, lose more slowly than other people, and otherwise get utterly discouraged.

Your body has its own rhythm, its own rate of weight loss. You can control what you eat or don’t eat. You cannot dictate to your body how fast it should lose weight.

So I have to judge my success not just on the scale, but in behavioral changes. As a cognitive psychologist, I am a huge proponent of behavioral therapy as a way to achieve sustainable behavioral change. Change your behavior, change your eating habits, change what you eat and when you eat, and health and weight loss will follow. This chapter focuses on how to make these behavioral changes in a manner that is sustainable, gentle, and effective.

Before you start, I should mention some-thing: I am not a medical or healthcare professional, so you definitely want to consult what my sons call “a real doctor, not a PhD like my mom.” My only objective here is to show people how easy it can be to start on keto using baby steps and achievable goals.

Related Reading: How to Make the Best Keto Chili

Easing Into Keto

Some of us want to jump straight into keto, while others are better of easing into it slowly. We worry that we will start something we won’t be able to keep up with, and we use that as an excuse to never start.

If you are someone who prefers easing into keto, I want to share with you the plan that thousands of people have followed, with great success, within my TwoSleevers Facebook keto group. It is a gentle, but effective way to change around your eating habits. Many have also used it successfully to bring reluctant family members on board.

Each week, I will give you three or four things that you will want to do. By the end of four weeks, you will be eating almost entirely keto, and tracking your macros to ensure that you are on track.

I know these tips look ridiculously simple—but they work.  There are volumes written on eat this, not that, do this or that,  don’t eat this par tic u lar food unless it’s a full moon— but really,  there’s no need to complicate things that much.

#trustUrvashi, as we say in my Facebook groups. Follow these tips and you will be on your way to good health.

Week 1 Tips

  1. Don’t eat: This week, don’t eat potatoes, pasta, bread, rice, grains, beans, and sugar, and limit fruits to two per day.
  2. Do eat: Eat whatever you want for meats, eggs, vegetables, cheese, nuts, avocados, and fats. Eat meats, nuts, and cheese for snacks between meals if you get hungry.
  3. Find recipes: Go to my website and find the 170+ keto, low-carb recipes, then choose a few that look tasty to you. Make two or three of those recipes this week so you can eat real food on keto. East as much as you want of those.

That’s it for week 1. Seriously, that’s it. No counting, no tracking, no worrying. Just do this all week and you’ll be ready to take on week 2.

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Week 2 Tips

Keep doing:

  • You should already have given up grains, legumes/beans, and pasta/rice/potatoes.
  • Enjoy your meat, veggies, nuts, cheese, cream, bacon, avocados, and other yummies as before.
  • Find a few more keto- friendly recipes made with real food that sound good, and make two or three of them.

For week 2 you have three new goals:

  1. Reduce fruit to once a day or better still, cut it out entirely. Cut out regular yogurt. You can use a little full-fat, plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt if you must, but try to replace with a dab of sour cream instead.
  2. Start fasting between meals. Go at least 4 hours between meals. Do not eat snacks in between. So you could eat at 8:00 a.m., noon, 4:00 p.m., and 8:00 p.m., as an example. You need to keep insulin down. Eating causes insulin release. Insulin release =  no fat burning. If you get super- hungry, first drink water or a sugar- free beverage of choice. If that doesn’t work, eat a fat bomb. This book is absolutely full of delicious fat bombs, many of which are no- cook, so finding a tasty fat bomb should not be difficult at all.
  3. Hydrate well. Drink at least 64 ounces of liquid daily this week. Use it to hydrate, to fill your stomach in between meals, and to create a habit.  Water really does help with fat loss.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Jalapeños Recipe

This is ooey, gooey, creamy, spicy comfort food. I love how easily this goes together. Adjust the number of jalapeños to suit your taste buds. To make it a complete meal, add some chicken tenders after the jalapeños go in. Cook for 5 minutes before adding the cauliflower mixture.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Jalapeños

Prep Time: 5 minutesCook Time: 16 minutesServes: 6
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 3 cups riced cauliflower
  • 1 ½ cups Mexican blend cheese or other melting cheese
  • ½ cup heaving whipping cream
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the cauliflower, cheese, whipping cream, cream cheese, pepper, and salt. Mix well.
  3. When the bacon is cooked, add the jalapeños to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the cauliflower mixture and stir well to combine. Cover and cook over medium- low heat until the cheese has melted, about 8 minutes; stir to combine.

Header image courtesy of Ghazalle Badiozamani.

Amy Schulman is an associate editor at Chowhound. She is decidedly pro-chocolate.
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