A few years ago, I stepped on the scale and saw a number I wasn’t exactly proud of. It was one of those things where I had slowly but surely put on more weight than I’d like, and it was time to make a change. Until that point, I had been lucky enough for most of my life that I never really had to diet. Embarking on one was a relatively new concept to me.
After some research, I had decided to give the Keto diet a try. I didn’t want to go full-blown Keto, but I did want to implement one of the significant aspects of it, cutting out added sugar. Somewhat shockingly, there was a ton of sugar in almost everything I was eating. I’m not talking about the obvious stuff like donuts and candy. Even something as innocuous as peanut butter was packed full of sugar. Cutting things out would require a significant change to my daily eating habits and what I was eating.
Many times when switching to a healthier diet, it can be difficult. Not only to change years of habits, but it will typically cost more as well. I wanted to change what I was eating but not how much I was spending. I made it a point to not only find keto-friendly foods and meals that would help me lose weight but not strain my wallet. Below is my meal plan on a budget, but first, a little more on how the Keto Diet works.
What is the Keto Diet?
In a nutshell, the Keto diet is a high fat, low carb diet. The Keto diet is very similar to Atkins, the main difference being how much protein you eat. With the Atkins diet, there is typically no limit on protein. With Keto, most versions will limit your protein to 20% of your total calories. The goal of the Keto diet is to put your body in a state of ketosis to lose weight. You are training your body to use fat as its primary source of energy.
Different Versions of the Keto Diet
Like other diets, there are multiple versions of the keto diet, which can vary depending on your goal.
- Standard ketogenic diet: This version is the high fat, low carb version of Keto most people know of. This also includes some protein intake, with the cap typically at 20% of your calories.
- Cyclical ketogenic diet: This version involves small intervals of high carb “refueling,” essentially taking in all your carbs in one or two days for the week. Bodybuilders typically use this.
- Targeted ketogenic diet: This version allows for carb intake before or after workouts. Again, mainly used for those looking to gain muscle mass and lose weight.
- High protein ketogenic diet: This version is like the standard ketogenic diet but has a higher protein intake.
Foods to avoid on the Keto Diet
Suppose you choose to follow the keto diet. In that case, any foods high in carbs and specially added sugars should be avoided or have their intake contained to the minimum amount possible.
Some examples of food and drink that should be avoided are:
- Soda, fruit juice, sports drinks high in sugar, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
- Condiments high in sugar, this can vary greatly, so check labels!
- Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
- Most fruits, berries are typically the exception
- Beans or legumes: peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Root vegetables: potatoes, beets, peas, yams, etc.
- Unhealthy fats like processed vegetable oils
- Alcohol in general (this likely falls into the “keep at a minimum” category for most of us!)
Foods to eat on the Keto Diet
Most of what you eat on the Keto diet should involved these foods.
- Meats like beef, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey
- Fatty fish like salmon and trout
- Butter and creams
- Unprocessed cheeses like cheddar, cream, blue, or mozzarella
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, etc.
- Healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
- Avocados in general
- Low carb veggies: green veggies, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
- Low sugar condiments like salt, pepper, herbs, and spices
Keto Breakfast on a Budget
I have two main breakfasts I’ll eat that are budget and Keto friendly.
Breakfast One: This is an easy one. Two scrambled eggs with some Keto-friendly veggies mixed in. Veggies I use will typically be bell peppers and tomatoes. Sometimes I’ll have spinach or scallions to add in too. I mostly buy the frozen versions to keep costs down or, when I can, buy fresh from a local farmers market.
Also Try: Bacon, other fatty meats, Sour Cream
Breakfast Two: I’ll admit that this breakfast doesn’t sound appetizing, but I swear it’s delicious. This is more of a shake breakfast. The main part will be 25% heavy whipping cream (stay with me here) and 75% milk. Mix in a scoop of almond butter and a half scoop of protein powder (I prefer chocolate flavored). Again, it doesn’t sound appetizing, but I swear by it.
Also Try: Add a scoop of greek yogurt for protein
Avoid: Peanut butter (very high sugar content)
In addition, you should avoid cereals as well. They are high in carbs and typically have a lot of added sugars too. Not only will these keto breakfast ideas keep you full, but they will be friendly to your wallet as well.
Keto Lunch on a Budget
There are lots of different foods that will fit the keto diet for lunch. I’ve mostly settled on four different main pieces that I use both for convenience and price.
The main part of my typical keto lunch is ground turkey with other Keto-friendly veggies mixed in. In addition to those vegetables already mentioned, like tomatoes and spinach, I’ll also throw in cucumber, asparagus, or zucchini, depending on if any are on sale or available from local farmers’ markets.
Another staple of my keto lunches is one of my favorites, avocados! Avocados are super Keto-friendly and, for me, super delicious. They can be expensive at grocery stores, but I’ve found that Costco has excellent prices for them.
Bonus Tip: You can stock up without having avocados go bad by letting them ripen a little and then keeping them in the fridge until you are ready to eat them. They will stay good for several weeks there.
The next part of my keto-friendly lunch is cheese. Cheese is another food I’m am happy to announce that is very keto-friendly. I’ll typically slice up a bit of extra sharp cheddar as part of my budget-friendly lunch.
The last part of my keto lunch is greek yogurt. I typically go with the Oikos Triple Zero to avoid any unnecessary sugars. When bought as a four-pack or, better yet, the larger tubs, they can be very cost-effective.
Also Try: Chicken and ground beef can be good as central portions of lunch as well. Adding mayonnaise to make a chicken salad or turkey salad type of meal is also a good addition. To spice things up, I’ll sometimes add a keto friend hot sauce to the mix as well.
Avoid: Breads, Pasta, Rolls, other carb-heavy foods
Keto Dinner on a Budget
Dinner can be a bit tricky. I am the only one in my family who is actively following the keto diet. Making separate meals can be difficult. Luckily, we are already a relatively frugal family. When it comes to dinners, I can pick and choose which parts I eat. For the most part, the main portions of dinners are relatively keto like:
Avoiding the pitfalls by simply not eating them is where you’ll need to excel. Avoid breads, pasta, rice, and high-carb veggies. Take the burger off the bun or eat a taco bowl instead of the tortilla and you can easily keep the same meal for the whole family and keep your keto diet going too.
Keto Snacks on a Budget
More than likely, you’ll find yourself feeling fuller for longer on the keto diet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want a snack now and then. Here are a few budget friendly ideas:
- Fatty meats (salami, pepperoni, etc.)
- Small amounts of nuts or seeds (also a good deal at Costco)
- Hard-boiled eggs
- 90% dark chocolate
- Full-fat Greek yogurt
- Veggies with Hummus or Guacamole
- Berries with plain cottage cheese
- Beef jerky
The keto diet is a great way to lose weight, it worked for me, and it’s over two years going now. It’s also not a diet that will strain your finances. Most foods can be found at a farmers market, or in my case Costco for low prices. The trick is to keep it to simple ingredients.