How to Build a Nutrient-Dense Keto Meal in 5 Simple Steps
When we tell people that we follow a keto lifestyle, we often get questions like: how do you find time to prepare all your meals, isn’t it time consuming? Keto involves a lot of meal prepping right?
These questions mostly refer to lunch meals, since most offices don’t offer a lot of options for a nutrient-dense keto meal and most people are not home around this time. Also, for breakfast we mostly have a keto coffee, something small or nothing at all.
What if we assure you that preparing your keto meals doesn’t have to be time consuming at all, as long as you make the right decisions and pick the right ingredients!
In this article, you find an answer to the big question: how to build a nutrient-dense keto meal that is also ready within 15 minutes? And the best thing: you can at all times follow these steps, while at the same time varying with the ingredients you include.
First things first: what is a nutrient-dense keto meal?
From a Dietitians perspective, a nutrient-dense keto meal consists of 5 elements: a base of leafy veggies, protein of your preferred choice, the healthy fats, some tasty condiments, and extra fats. Therefore, below you find how to build your keto meal in 5 simple steps with these elements!
When you follow these steps, you will have a well-formulated keto meal that covers the following macros:
500 - 800 kilocalories (depending on your goals and macros)
5 - 10 grams of carbs
25 - 30 grams of protein
50 grams of fat
7 - 10 grams of fiber
Step 1: pick your base of leafy veggies
It is not possible to call a meal nutrient-dense when it doesn’t contain vegetables. Leafy vegetables are perfect to start building your delicious healthy keto meal. It is important to consume at least 300 - 450 grams of vegetables each day, so the amount you use per meal really depends on how many meals you consume in total. Leafy vegetables provide your body with essential minerals, vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and electrolytes it needs to thrive on a keto lifestyle! (1)
We use 200 grams of vegetables, preferably a mix of different veggies, to get in a broad range of vitamins and minerals. To save time, you can pick vegetables that can be eaten raw.
The following leafy veggies are great to consume (raw) on a well-formulated keto lifestyle:
Use at least 200 grams and fill one lunch box with your preferred choice of veggies.
Extra tip: on a Sunday, make a big portion of mixed vegetables that you divide over 5 different lunch boxes. Now, you have your base ready for the upcoming week and you don’t have to cut or prepare it on every single day.
Step 2: time for some protein
Whether you are following a vegetarian keto diet, a pescetarian or a carnivore one, protein always plays an important role in your keto meal. Aim to eat around 25 - 30 grams of protein per meal, since you want to divide your protein-intake throughout the day for optimal absorption and fueling your muscles.
Research shows that this happens with this given amount of protein (2). Keep in mind that a keto Lifestyle is a moderate protein lifestyle, so don’t overdo it! For most people, a daily protein intake between 1,2 and 1,5 gram per kilogram body weight is more than enough. An excessive amount of consumed protein can turn into glucose, and can therefore negatively effect your level of ketosis (3).
Protein sources when doing vegetarian keto
2 (boiled) eggs
1 boiled egg and 50 grams of cheese such as cheddar, brie, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese
1 grilled vegetarian hamburger that contains less than 5 grams of carbs
100 - 125 grams of grilled tempeh
Other meat replacers that contain less than 5 grams of carbs
Tip: try to avoid products that consist for the larger part of unfermented soy. Unfermented soy products, such as tofu, have been linked to a higher risk of developing different health problems such as hormonal imbalances, gastric distress and thyroid dysfunctions (4).
Great fishy protein sources
100 - 125 grams of canned tuna, sardines, mackerel, salmon or anchovies in water or olive oil (warning: your colleagues might not be so happy with eating this for lunch)
100 - 125 grams of smoked / grilled mackerel or salmon
Tip: when you pick canned fish, always go for the one that is either in water or olive oil. Vegetable oils such as sunflower oil are high in omega-6 and can disrupt the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 associated with in a higher risk of inflammatory processes in your body (5).
For the carnivores
100 - 125 grams of grilled organic chicken breast
125 - 150 grams of minced grass fed beef (baked in some grass fed butter)
50 grams of organic dried meat such as beef (sausage) or salt-cured pork
100 grams of smoked chicken, ham, salami without added sugars
Tip: always buy organic or grass fed meat. These types of meat are real meat, provide more vitamins, don’t contain growth-hormones and are way less processed. Besides that, it is better for the environment and animals have had a way better life!
Step 3: add your healthy fats
Maybe our favourite part of building a delicious keto meal: adding the healthy fats! Questions we get about this: which types of fat should you add and how much? This question is not so easy to answer, since it really depends on your goals. If your goal is to be shredded and lose body fat, we recommend to eat mostly products that are high in monounsaturated fats. These fats can lead to quicker and long-term weight loss, as long as you are in a caloric deficit (6).
Most people on a keto Lifestyle, consume around 140 - 170 grams of fat per day. Therefore, a nutrient-dense keto meal contains around 50 grams of fat.
Pick one of the following nutritious foods that are high in monounsaturated fats
1/2 avocado - 1 avocado
OR / AND (depends on your individual needs)
25 grams - 50 grams of nuts / seeds: almonds, brazil nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, macadamias, pecan nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and walnuts.
Tip: buy a package of mixed nuts / seeds, since every nut and seed come with their own specific nutrients.
Step 4: spice up your meal
Plain meals? No, thank you! The most important part of building your meal is knowing that you are going to enjoy the taste to its fullest. Although all the above-mentioned ingredients are already delicious, we always make a meal extra tasty by using fresh condiments. Besides the taste, some fresh herbs & spices have anti-inflammatory properties and can be a powerful antioxidant (7).
No idea which spices or herbs to add? These are our favourites:
Fresh herbs as coriander, parsley and basil
Fresh Italian herbs
Red bell pepper
Step 5: in need of some extra fats!
We can’t get enough of fats of course and by using the amount at step 5, we won’t reach the goal of 50 grams of fat. Therefore, we always add some extra fats in the form of oils or butter (mostly 2 tablespoons).
Good sources of fats / oils are
Extra virgin olive oil
Flax seed oil
These types of fat are full of heart-healthy mono unsaturated fats and even some of omega-3 fatty acids (walnut oil). For that reason, it makes them the perfect icing on the keto cake.
Of course, we haven’t discussed all the ingredients that you can consume on a keto Lifestyle. However, the ones mentioned above are by far the most important and most nutrient-dense that you can use to build a super healthy keto meal. And this in less than 15 minutes!
How do you build your nutrient-dense keto meal?
Let us know in the comments, and whether these tips help you with finding new inspiration! Need help with creating keto meals based on your individual needs? Book your free call with Dietitian Lotte!
1: Morris MC, Wang Y, Barnes LL, Bennett DA, Dawson-Hughes B, and Booth SL. Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline: Prospective study. Neurology, 2018.
2: Layman DK, Anthony TG, Rasmussen BB, Adams SH, Lynch CH, Brinkworth GD, and Davis TA. Defining meal requirements for protein to optimize metabolic roles of amino acids. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2015.
3: Veldhorst MA, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, and Westerterp KR. Gluconeogenesis and energy expenditure after a high-protein, carbohydrate-free diet. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009.
4: Dr Mercola. Fermented vs. Unfermented Soy: Which Is Better?
5: Lands WE. Dietary fat and health: the evidence and the politics of prevention: careful use of dietary fats can improve life and prevent disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2005.
6: Kaippert VC, Santos Lopes dos MCO, Carvalho de PD, and Rosado EL. Effects of unsaturated fatty acids on weight loss, body composition and obesity related biomarkers. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, 2015.
7: Paur I, Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, and Blomhoff R. Antioxidants in Herbs and Spices. In: Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects (2nd edition), 2011.