Looking to shake up your keto meal plan? Here’s a roundup of low-carb recipes you can prep once and enjoy all week.
If you live somewhere that carbs are in just about everything, sticking to a strict food regimen like the keto diet can feel impossible.
One of the difficulties of the ketogenic diet, an extremely low-carb diet that uses fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates, is how restrictive it is. To keep your body in a state of ketosis, only 5 to 10 percent of calories can come from carbs, while 75 percent or higher must come from fat (and any remaining calories from protein), according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But when you cut out carbs, a macronutrient that keeps our bodies nourished and functioning, finding keto-friendly foods can be a huge challenge, say nutrition experts like Jennifer Maeng, RD, founder of Chelsea Nutrition in New York City.
“One poorly chosen meal can kick you of ketosis,” Maeng says. “Especially when you’re first starting out, it’s so important to prepare meals in advance so you’re following the diet accurately to stay in ketosis.” Ketosis is the metabolic state key to many low-carb diets, including keto; it triggers the burning of carbs instead of fat for fuel, a study notes.
Keeping in ketosis is just one reason meal planning is vital to maintaining the high-fat, low-carb diet. Cutting out carbs dramatically shrinks the list of foods you’re able to eat, which makes it that much easier for you to become nutrient deficient. To avoid this, Maeng recommends incorporating plenty of nonstarchy vegetables into your diet, to ensure that you’re getting enough fiber, and rotate protein sources to include things like fish, so you’re not always eating red meat or poultry.
Besides being deprived of nutrients it’s accustomed to getting, your body also isn’t used to being in ketosis, says Katherine Brooking, RD, who is based in New York City and is the cofounder of Appetite for Health. The sudden switch to this metabolic state can lead to what’s called the “keto flu,” which can plague you with flulike symptoms that can range from headaches, weakness, and irritability to constipation, nausea, and vomiting, Brooking says.
“This is a regimen that is very difficult to stick with — there are more balanced ways of losing weight,” she says. “Also, the keto diet doesn’t emphasize healthy fats, and foods high in saturated fat, like cheese and butter, can increase the risk of heart disease.”
Although many experts eschew the keto diet, if it’s done carefully and correctly, it may lead to quick (albeit often temporary) weight loss, and it may help stabilize your blood sugar if you’re managing type 2 diabetes, notes an article published in March 2019 in StatPearls.
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Some studies, like a 50-participant study published in July 2016 in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior, have shown that the keto diet can reduce seizures in children with epilepsy. But recent reviews — like one published in 2019 in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience — conclude that the lack of high-quality studies means that more research needs to be conducted to identify the mechanisms of action that lead to positive results for children with epilepsy.
The keto diet isn’t for everyone, and in some cases, can be hazardous to your health, says Maeng. Those at risk for heart disease should look to other alternatives to lose weight, and she advises anyone with a history of an eating disorder (that includes binge eating disorder) to avoid any form of fad diet as it may aggravate symptoms or bring back unhealthy eating behaviors.
If you’re committed to trying keto, always consult with a registered dietitian to learn more about the diet and get help creating a meal plan. To avoid eating bacon and fat bombs every day, we rounded up 20 quick and easy keto-friendly favorites you can make ahead of time.
Bacon? Blue cheese? Buffalo sauce? Say no more. This super salad is packed full of nutrients and takes only about 20 minutes to prep ahead of time. With 17.2 grams (g) of carbs (yet 8.7 g net carbs) and 46.4 g fat, this salad also gets you fiber, potassium, and protein. Net carbs, while not recognized by an official scientific body like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, are total carbs minus fiber and sugar alcohols, per Atkins.com. Some keto dieters count these instead of total carbs because it suggests how much a food might spike your blood sugar. Though keep in mind this is a rough estimate. As DakotaDietitians.com notes, many factors, including how processed something is, can affect how much a food may impact blood sugar. Long story short, take a food’s net carb amount with a grain of salt. For this recipe in particular, be mindful of what brand of sauce you use — many prepackaged sauces contain added sugars.
Get the recipe at KetoDiet.
Breakfast can be hard to prep for on the keto diet, but these breakfast bombs are easy to make ahead of time and freeze well. This quick breakfast bite has just 4.7 g total carbs, 2.7 g net carbs, and 24.6 g fat. To satisfy all your taste buds, drizzling on some sugar-free maple syrup really brings out the saltiness of the bacon.
Get the recipe at Hey Keto Mama.
When you’re on a restrictive diet like keto, filling your carb-shaped void with snacks is a must. Because chickpeas and other legumes are high in carbs, hummus is usually a no-no. But this cauliflower hummus work-around is just as tasty and meets the keto criteria with 18.33 g total carbs and 4.96 g net carbs. To give the cauliflower an extra kick, pair it with these easy-to-make harissa crackers also included in the recipe.
Get the recipe at Ruled.Me.
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This dinner dish is rich, savory, and so full of flavor you wouldn’t even know it’s a keto recipe. Great for batch cooking, this recipe requires only a handful of ingredients found around the house, and it has 6.8 g carbs and 5.1 g net carbs. You can pile your sloppy joe on a low-carb bun or into lettuce cups for an added crunch, or serve on top of mashed cauliflower.
Get the recipe at Cast Iron Keto.
Quick to cook and high in fat, pork chops are a great protein alternative for weeknight dinners — and make for great lunch leftovers, too. This recipe calls for pan searing the pork chops, then spooning on an addictive sweet chili sauce. With only 3 g net carbs (including the sauce), you can round out this dish with a side of zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice. (This blog doesn’t list the total carbs for this recipe.)
Get the recipe at I Breathe I’m Hungry.
If you’ve ever been enchanted by the Swedish meatballs at Ikea, now you can make your own version at home — and yes, they’re keto-friendly. A family favorite that you can have ready in 30 minutes or less, these meatballs are slathered in a creamy sauce and pair perfectly with mashed cauliflower. And don’t skip the salt; the sodium in the meatballs can help keep up your electrolytes to combat symptoms of keto flu, notes the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Three meatballs clock 1 g total carbs, making this a certifiably keto-friendly food.
Get the recipe at KetoGasm.
Muffins are an American staple for grab-and-go breakfasts, but they’re often full of carbs and added sugar. Made with almond flour, these grain-free muffins have a tangy blackberry filling with a twist of lemon. These muffins freeze well, so they are great to make in batches, and each one has only 4 g total carbs and 1 g net carbs.
Get the recipe at Simply So Healthy.
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Meal prep is even easier when you don’t have to cook. Perfect for lunches and hot days when you dread turning on the stove, this ginger vegan noodle salad takes only five minutes to make and has 7.5 g net carbs per serving. (This blog does not specify the total carbs per serving.) You can swap out peanut butter for almond or sunflower seed butter, and use coconut aminos instead of tamari if you want to go soy-free.
Get the recipe at Meat Free Keto.
If you love shrimp but have been opting out because they’re so low in fat, an avocado can solve that problem. Ready in less than 20 minutes, this fresh, zesty dish is ideal for lunches and quick dinners. It has 47 g total carbs in two servings, coming out to 18 g net carbs per serving.
Get the recipe at Essential Keto.
This dairy-free soup uses coconut milk to create a rich, creamy base, and is great to make in batches. With 5.2 g carbs and 3.7 g net carbs, this light soup also offers fiber. Enjoy your bowl hot or cold. Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top for a bit of crunch.
Get the recipe at All Day I Dream About Food.
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Grains like corn and quinoa are usually no-nos on the keto diet because of their high carb content, but luckily, this "corn bread" recipe is actually corn-free. Requiring minimal ingredients like almond flour and powdered sweetener, this keto corn bread substitute is fluffy, with just a touch of sweet. This dish has 3.5 g total carbs (and only 1.5 g net carbs) and works well as a side to sop up saucy meat dishes, like ribs or pulled pork, or as a quick grab-and-go breakfast snack.
Get the recipe at Savory Tooth.
Salads are one of the easiest (and when planned well, healthiest) items to make ahead of time when you’re on a high-fat, low-carb diet. Layered with a tangy sun-dried tomato dressing, one serving of this salad gets you two servings of vegetables. This recipe has 9 g carbs and 7 g net carbs per serving, but if you’re looking for a lower carb count, add some lettuce to bulk it up.
Get the recipe at Wholesome Yum.
When you’re on a diet as restrictive as keto, you deserve to indulge without having to constantly worry about being kicked out of ketosis. These fudgy strawberry pops make a refreshing daytime snack or afterdinner treat, and they can be made with blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries as well. Just make sure you’re using dark chocolate that has at least 70 percent cocoa for it to be keto-friendly. One pop will set you back only 4 g carbs and 3 g net carbs.
Get the recipe at Sugar-Free Mom.
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This recipe combines the best of both worlds: tacos and burgers. A great grilling recipe for summer, these burgers are quick and easy to make, with minimal kitchen cleanup required. Serve with mixed greens or a low-carb bun, or enjoy as a lettuce wrap. You can sink your teeth into one of these burgers with ease knowing that you’re consuming a mere 2.3 g carbs and 1.6 g net carbs.
Get the recipe at Keto in Pearls.
If you’re intimidated by making Indian food, this easy butter chicken recipe is the perfect place to start. With 6.25 g carbs and 6 g net carbs, this rich dish can be made with chicken, lamb, beef, or even veggies if you’re looking to pack in more fiber. Round out this meal with cauliflower rice or low-carb naan bread for a satisfying weeknight dinner — it also makes great leftovers for lunch.
Get the recipe at KetoConnect.
Fruit and meat don’t always mix, but in the case of chicken and watermelon, it works. This recipe is a go-to if you don’t have time to cook, and it can be a great way to use up any leftover chicken. Peppery yet refreshing, this salad is full of nutritious ingredients, plus walnuts, avocado, olive oil, and feta cheese to up the fat content. This blog doesn’t list the macros involved, but you can rest assured that the ingredients are all keto-friendly.
Get the recipe at Fat-Burning Man.
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It can be hard to plan family-friendly meals on the keto diet, but these crispy salmon burgers will keep everyone happy and hungry for more. With only 6.2 g total carbs (and a mere 0.3 g net carbs), this burger is a keto-dieter’s dream. Topped with aromatic dill and homemade mayo, this burger can be eaten on its own or served with low-carb keto flatbread.
Get the recipe at Primal Edge Health.
Protein bars are usually off limits on keto because of the high carb and protein content — plus, like many processed foods, they can be expensive and aren’t the healthiest choices. But protein bars can also be a convenient and filling snack for people who are constantly on the go, or if you’re having a snack-related emergency. You can make these homemade bars with either macadamia meal or shredded coconut, and infuse them with matcha powder, dark chocolate, or cinnamon. This recipe doesn’t list the nutrition facts, but the ingredients involved all fit in a keto diet.
Get the recipe at My Sweet Keto.
If you’re just starting keto and wondering how you’re going to survive without your morning bagel, don’t despair. Made with almond flour and cheese, this pizza bagel recipe takes less than 30 minutes to make and has 10 g carbs and 6 g net carbs per bagel. You can also make the dough in large batches and freeze to use later for keto pizza, keto pretzels, or keto empanadas. Yum!
Get the recipe at Peace, Love, and Low Carb.
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This dish won’t pass as traditional in Italy, but it will satisfy any risotto cravings for those on the keto diet. If you’ve made risotto before, this recipe has basically all the same ingredients; you just have to swap out regular rice for cauliflower rice. With 7.7 g carbs and 5.1 g net carbs , this pairs perfectly with a seared steak or makes a surprisingly good breakfast served with some eggs.
Get the recipe at Ketovangelist Kitchen.
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