He found that he lost weight and started feeling healthier, so he bought a keto cookbook and listened to a few more podcasts, all in service of educating himself about this new way of eating. And, as he says, “the rest is history” — Guadagnino is now the author of a cookbook on the subject: “The Keto Guido Cookbook: Delicious Recipes to Get Healthy and Look Great” ($24.83; amazon.com).
What is a ketogenic diet?
According to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, the consumer health education division of Harvard Medical School, the keto diet “aims to force your body into using a different type of fuel. Instead of relying on sugar (glucose) that comes from carbohydrates (such as grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits), the keto diet relies on ketone bodies, a type of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat.”
Like many low-carb diets (including the Mediterranean diet), keto restricts foods like bread, pasta and sugar, but unlike other popular low-carb diets, keto replaces them with foods that are high in fat — both unsaturated (avocados, fatty fishes like tuna and salmon) and saturated (think bacon, eggs and butter).
You should, of course, consult a doctor before beginning any diet or exercise regimen, and this is especially true of keto, which is not recommended for people with a history of heart problems.
Benefits of keto diet
The keto diet was developed in the 1920s to control seizures in children and adults suffering from epilepsy; now it is mainly promoted to people looking to lose weight.
The keto diet is absolutely not for everyone — generally speaking, diets that are highly restrictive, which keto is, have a high failure rate because they are not realistic in the long term — but it does work for some people, and those people are passionate about keto. So we asked keto devotees to tell us about what they eat on a typical day, what kitchen tools they rely on to make their meals and what snacks they swear by when they’re on the go.
Keto diet meal plan
Brooke “The Keto Queen” Brown describes her daily meals as being very simple, almost formulaic: “On an average day I start my morning with a bulletproof coffee,” she says, “which is a high-calorie drink made with added fats.”
- Bulletproof Coffee Starter Kit ($55.95; amazon.com)
Brown says that the bulletproof coffee keeps her full until early afternoon, when she will “typically have raw veggies and berries, and my favorite Pruvit ketones. Then around 6 p.m. I make my family and I a keto-friendly dinner. I stop eating at 8 p.m. and repeat daily.”
Starting the day with a high-fat, high-calorie cup of coffee is a staple of the keto experience. “I usually have coffee with heavy cream, maybe some eggs and bacon, and for dinner some sort of fatty meat and greens. I do a lot of intermittent fasting as well so I don’t eat many meals,” Guadagnino says of his daily meal plan.
Faith Gorsky, a cookbook author and food stylist who founded the site The Keto Queens, also starts her day with a high-fat cup of coffee, along with a more traditional breakfast of either cottage cheese and berries, an egg-and-cheese omelet or “a slice of one of our keto quick breads from our Keto Bread cookbook — the zucchini is my favorite!”
- ’Keto Bread: From Bagels and Buns to Crusts and Muffins, 100 Low-Carb, Keto-Friendly Breads for Every Meal’ by Faith Gorsky & Lara Clevenger ($15.80; amazon.com)
For lunch, Gorsky says she generally opts for soup or a salad, and for dinner, she grills, roasts or pan-sears high-fat proteins like steak, chicken thighs or salmon along with vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, asparagus or broccoli. Because of keto’s emphasis on carb-cutting, starchier vegetables like corn, peas and potatoes should be avoided in favor of more fibrous choices like spinach, eggplant and zucchini.
Essential keto diet kitchen tools
As you might imagine from the daily menus Brown, Gorsky and Guadagnino described, a lot of cooking goes into maintaining a keto diet. We asked what kitchen tools they rely on to turn out their meals.
When it comes to side dishes, Guadagnino says he uses his air fryer for virtually everything, and so a strainer is a must: “I squeeze the water out of the veggies before putting them in the air fryer.”
- Cuisinart Kitcheniismo Strainer, 3-Pack ($12.99 originally $22; amazon.com)
As for his protein, he says, “I love grilling all my meats,” and so a good grill is an essential. (If you’re in the market for a charcoal grill, check out our guide to the best models on the market. And here’s our guide to cleaning them too.)
- Weber Original Premium Kettle Grill ($175, originally $195; amazon.com)
And, while he notes that it’s not a gadget, Guadagnino calls truffle sea salt “a must-have when seasoning my meat.”
- Sabatino Tartufi Truffle Salt Seasoning ($11.39; amazon.com)
Brown also relies heavily on an air fryer, and she loves another small kitchen gadget to make a staple of the keto diet: the chaffle. “You’ll also see me using my Dash mini waffle maker quite a bit for the perfect sized chaffles,” she says.
And for making all that high-fat, high-calorie coffee, she says, “I love my espresso machine and milk frother for bulletproof coffee in the morning.”
- Sowtech 4-Cup Espresso Maker With Steam Milk Frother ($48.44, originally $89.99; amazon.com)
Like Guadagnino, Gorsky also has a favorite tool for prepping all those keto-compliant vegetables: her spiralizer (if you’re in the market for a spiralizer, check out our guide to the best options on the market).
“Zucchini noodles are a delicious stand-in for pasta,” she says. “I also like to spiralize onion, yellow summer squash, radish, cucumber, broccoli stems, etc.”
- Spiralizer 7-Blade Spiral Slicer ($24.97, originally $27.99; amazon.com)
She also loves her Instant Pot for reducing her meal prep time. “I like to cook a beef roast or roast chicken in the Instant Pot for meal prep on the weekend. I use it to make hard-boiled eggs for snacking or lunches during the week, and to make egg bites for breakfast.”
- Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker ($69.95, originally $89.99; amazon.com)
Another time-saving trick Gorsky relies on is the use of large baking trays for roasting vegetables and meats for meal prep. “This helps cut down my time spent cooking so much,” she says.
- Bastwe Commercial-Grade Stainless Steel Baking Pans, 2-Pack ($26.99; amazon.com)
And when it comes to her morning routine, Gorksy can’t live without her Vitamix, which she uses to make smoothies, as well as “instant ice creams, soups and sauces — I also use it to grind chia seeds for baking, and to finely chop nuts quickly.”
- Vitamix Explorian Blender ($299.95, originally $349.95; amazon.com)
Keto diet snacks
The keto devotees we spoke to all emphasize that breaking the snacking habit is one of the keys to making the diet work for you. “I’m skeptical and don’t encourage people to get hooked on sweet treats that say ‘keto’ on them,” Guadagnino says. “The point of keto is to unhook yourself from sweet treats.” But he acknowledges that snacks are a part of life, and shares some of his favorites with us. “That being said, sometimes after dinner I will eat 85% dark chocolate to give me a little hint of bittersweet.”
- Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate Bars, 10-Pack ($46.89; amazon.com)
Brown also keeps her snacking focused on foods she prepares herself, for the most part. “I love raw vegetables with homemade ranch, beef jerky and a good variety of cheese. For sweets I like to have strawberries and Russel Stover stevia-sweetened chocolates.”
- Russell Stover Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate Mix ($24.99; amazon.com)
For more keto favorites, check out our guide to the best keto-friendly snacks.