Being on a diet is not the simplest in the world, especially when you do not know specifically what you should eat. We have worked to put together this list of keto foods to help people make decisions about what they are eating and buying.
Below is a quick visual guide to what to eat on the ketogenic diet.
In general, we must maintain our intake in foods that contain only 5% or less carbohydrates, you can eat mainly foods within these 5 groups:
- Fats and Oils: Try to get your fats from natural sources like meat and nuts. Supplement with saturated and mono-saturated fats like coconut oil, butter, and olive oil.
- Protein: Try to stick to organic, grass-fed, and grass-fed protein for as long as possible. Most meats have no added sugar so they can be eaten in moderate amounts. Remember that too much protein on a ketogenic diet is not good.
- Vegetables: Fresh or frozen, there is no difference. You should stick with the vegetables that grow on the ground, leaning towards the green leaves (lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.)
- Dairy: almost any dairy is fine, but be sure to buy products with all natural fat (nothing light). Hard cheeses typically have fewer carbohydrates.
- Nuts and Seeds: In moderation, nuts and seeds can be used to create fantastic textures. Try to use the fattiest nuts like macadamias and almonds. Nut and seed flours are the perfect substitute for corn and wheat flours.
- Drinks: Keep it simple and stick mainly to still mineral water (plain water). You can add flavor if you feel necessary using flavorings with Stevia or also a few drops of lime / lemon.
If you continue reading down you can find each of these groups with more specific information and each section with the foods you can eat. This list will allow you to make your own combinations and plan to stay within the lifestyle. If you are more of the type who wants to see dish ideas, then visit our recipe section here.
FATS AND OILS
Fat is going to be the majority of your caloric intake when you’re on a ketogenic diet, so your decisions should be based on what you like and don’t like. They can be combined in different ways to add to your meals – sauces, dressings, or simply put a little butter on a cut of meat.
Fats are vital to our bodies, but they can also be dangerous if you consume large amounts of the wrong fats. There are a few different types of fats that are involved in the ketogenic diet. Foods usually have various combinations of fats, but unhealthy fats are easy to avoid. Here is a small review:
- Saturated fats. How are you. Some examples of this are butter, ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil, and shortening.
- Mono Saturated Fats. How are you. Some examples are olive, avocado, and macadamia oils.
- Polyunsaturated fats. You have to understand the difference very well. The naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats in animal protein and fatty fish are wonderful for your body, and you should eat them. The processed polyunsaturated fats in “heart healthy” margarine are bad for your body.
- Trans fat. These must be avoided completely. These are processed fats that have been chemically altered (hydrogenated) to improve their shelf life. Avoid all hydrogenated fats, like margarine, as they are linked to heart disease.
Saturated and mono-saturated fats like butter, macadamia nuts, avocados, egg yolks, and coconut oil are more chemically stable and less inflammatory for most people, so they are our favorites. Below are some common ways you can increase your fat intake while on the ketogenic diet.
You also want to promote a balance between your Omega 3 and Omega 6, so eating foods such as salmon, tuna, trout, and shellfish can help balance your Omega 3 diet. If you do not like or do not eat fish, we can suggest taking a fish oil supplement. You can also take krill oil if you are allergic.
Do not lose sight of your intake of nuts and seeds, as they can be very high in omega 6, which is inflammatory. This includes products such as almonds, walnut, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and corn oil. Eating fatty fish and animal meat, keeping snacks to a minimum, and not indulging in desserts that are dense in almond flour is usually enough to keep omegas in normal ranges.
Essential fatty acids (omegas) provide key functions for the human body, but it is common for them to be out of balance when we eat a standard diet. On the ketogenic diet, with a little preparation, your omega fatty acids are easily manageable.
Some keto foods that are great for contributing fats and oils include:
- Fatty fish
- Animal fat (not hydrogenated)
- Macadamia Nuts / Brazil Nuts
- Butter / Ghee
- Coconut butter
- Cacao butter
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Macadamia Oil
- MCT oil (mono chain triglycerides)
If you are using vegetable oils (olive, soy, linseed, safflower) choose the “cold pressed” if you have them within reach.
If you tend to fry foods, try using non-hydrogenated shortenings, beef tallow, ghee, or coconut oil as they have higher smoke points than other oils. This allows less oxidation of the oil, which means that you will have more of the essential fatty acids.
I would like to provide you with a visual list of the proteins that are consumed regularly on a ketogenic diet. Realize that the higher the protein level, the less you want to eat.
The best option you can have when it comes to choosing proteins is free range, grass-fed proteins. This will minimize your intake of steroids and bacteria. Try to choose the darkest meats in terms of poultry as they have much more fat than white meat. Eating fatty fish is also a good way to include omega 3s in your diet.
When it comes to red meat, there is not much to avoid. Cured deli meats and charcuterie may have added sugars and processed ingredients. If you eat meat, try to choose fattier cuts like ribeye. If you like hamburgers or ground beef, choose a higher fat ratio like 80/20.
One thing you should be careful about when consuming meats is your protein intake. Too much protein on a ketogenic diet can lead to decreased ketone production and increased glucose production. You want to be aiming for nutritional ketosis, so don’t overindulge in protein.
Try to balance the protein in your meals with fattier sides and sauces. If you choose to eat lean meat, you must be particularly careful with your protein servings. Jerky and other meat snacks can add protein very quickly to your diet, so be sure to pair with fatty foods, like cheese!
Note: If you don’t eat pork or beef, you can always substitute for lamb as it is high in fat. Replace cuts of meat like bacon with similar, leaner products. Add additional fat or oil if necessary.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Below you will find a visual list of the fruits and vegetables that are commonly consumed on the ketogenic diet. Realize that the higher the number of carbohydrates, the less you want to consume.
Vegetables are essential in the ketogenic diet, although sometimes we get stuck with decisions that we may later regret. Some vegetables are high in sugar and are not as nutritious – so we must eliminate them from our diet.
The best vegetables to eat on the ketogenic diet are those that are high in nutrients and low in carbohydrates. These, as most of you can guess, are dark and leafy. Any vegetable that looks like spinach or kale will fall into this category and they will be the best to include anytime you can.
Try to eat pure cruciferous vegetables that grow on the ground, with green leaves. If you can opt for organic much better, since they have less pesticide residues. There are many studies that confirm that organic and non-organic vegetables maintain the same nutritional qualities. Both, frozen or fresh, are okay to eat.
Note: You can also eat the vegetables that grow underground in moderation, you just have to be careful with the number of carbohydrates they have. Vegetables that grow underground can usually be used to add flavor (like half an onion to a soup pot) and be easily tempered.
In general, there is no rule regarding vegetables. Try to choose vegetables thinking about the amount of carbohydrates they have and the serving based on the same.
Be careful and monitor the vegetables you add to your food. Especially try to limit your intake of:
- Solanaceae: tomato, eggplant, peppers.
- Roots: onion, turnip, garlic, mushrooms, pumpkin.
- Blackberries: blackberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry.
- Citrus: lemon, lime, orange.
- Totally avoid: starchy vegetables and large fruits like potatoes and bananas.
Below you will find a visual aid with the dairy products that are commonly consumed within the ketogenic diet. Note that the higher the carbohydrate content, the less you want to consume of them.
Dairy products are commonly consumed as an accompaniment to dishes on the ketogenic diet. Try to keep your dairy intake at a moderate level. Most of your food should come from plant proteins and added fats and oils.
Raw and organic dairy are preferred, as processed dairy typically has 2 to 5 times the number of carbohydrates; these add up over time. Make sure to choose products with all their fat content over light or fat-free ones as they have many more carbohydrates and you will feel less satisfied.
If you have any sensitivity to dairy, eat hard dairy products with long ripening processes as they contain much less lactose. Some examples of dairy that you can consume on the ketogenic diet are:
- Greek yogurt
- Whipping cream
- Spreads including cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, mascarpone, creme fraiche, etc.
- Soft cheeses including mozzarella, brie, azul, colby, Monterrey Jack, Chihuahua, Oaxaca, etc.
- Hard cheeses including cheddar, parmesan, feta, Swiss, etc.
Dairy is a great way to add extra fat to your food when creating greasy sauces or side dishes like creamed spinach, but always remember that they also have protein. You should always observe this when combining dairy with high protein dishes.
Some people experience less weight loss when they eat cheese. If you notice that you have reached a plateau or are losing weight more slowly, you may want to consider reducing your dairy intake.
NUTS AND SEEDS
Below is the visual aid with the list of nuts commonly eaten on the ketogenic diet. Note that the higher the number of carbohydrates, the less you want to consume.
Nuts and seeds are best roasted because we remove some anti-nutrients. Try to avoid peanuts as much as possible, as they are legumes and are not highly allowed on the ketogenic diet.
We typically use raw nuts to add flavor and texture to some dishes. Some people choose to have them as a snack or snack, which can be compelling, but works against weight loss. Having a snack or something between meals, in general, will raise our insulin levels and result in slower weight loss in the long term.
Nuts can be a great source of fat, but you should always remember that carbohydrates count and can add up quickly. It’s also worth mentioning that walnuts contain protein as well. Nut flours (almond, macadamia, etc.) are the ones that can add proteins more quickly, so be careful about the amounts you use.
Walnuts can also be high in Omega 6 fatty acids, so it is good to watch the amounts you consume. For a typical diet you will want to stick with the nuts that have the highest amount of fat and the least number of carbohydrates.
The next time you’re thinking about opening a can or bag of nuts, consider what’s best for your ketosis based on the following:
- Low-carb, fatty nuts. Macadamias, Brazil nuts, and pecans can be consumed to supplement fats.
- Fatty nuts with moderate carbohydrates. Hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, and peanuts can be used in moderation to provide texture and flavor.
- High carbohydrate nuts. Pistaches and cashews should be eaten rarely or avoided as they are high in carbohydrates (2 fists of these contain almost the allowable carbohydrate in one day)
Note: If you have any allergies to nuts, a common substitute for flours is sunflower seed flour, just consider that it has a higher content of omega 6 fatty acids.
Below you will see another visual aid with information on the flours that are commonly used in the ketogenic diet. Note that the higher the number of carbohydrates, the less you want to consume.
Nut and seed flours are a great substitute for regular flour. Seed and nut flours are commonly seen in ketogenic diet recipes for baked goods or desserts. Next we will see that nuts (in almond and coconut flour) and seeds (flaxseed and chia flour) are used but they should be eaten in moderation.
You can usually mix different types of alternative flours to get a realistic texture in baked recipes. Combining flours and experimenting with baking can lead to much lower carbohydrate counts in your recipes. In many recipes, we combine nut and seed flours with heavy cream and butter for an incredible texture.
Remember that different flours act differently too. For example: Normally you will need about half as much coconut flour as almond flour. Coconut flour absorbs much more, so you will need more fluids.
In addition to baking, you can also use these flours to bread and even to make a pizza base.
WATER AND DRINKS
Below you will find a visual aid with the drinks that are usually consumed on the ketogenic diet. Note that the more restricted they are, the less you want to consume.
The ketogenic diet has a natural diuretic effect, so dehydration is common for most people to start with. If you are a person prone to urinary tract infections or bladder pain, you have to prepare well.
The eight glasses of water that we are normally recommended to drink, drink them and the same. Considering that we are made of approximately 2/3 of water, hydration plays a substantial role in our daily lives. We recommend that you try to drink about 4 liters of water daily.
Many people decide to start the day with Keto Coffee or tea to boost their energy with added fat. While this is a good idea, you should keep your intake of flavored beverages in moderation. This is amplified with the consumption of caffeine, since this often leads to a stop to lose weight. Try to stay under 2 cups of caffeinated drinks a day.
Note: Many people experience the “Ketosis Flu” when they are trading due to dehydration and lack of electrolytes. Make sure to replenish electrolytes and drink enough fluids. An easy way to do this is by having bone broths or sports drinks sweetened with Stevia or sucralose.
Some examples of drinks consumed on the ketogenic diet are:
- Water. This will be your main source of hydration. You can take with or without gas.
- Broths. Loaded with vitamins and nutrients. Most importantly, they will restore your energy by replenishing electrolytes.
- Coffee. It improves mental focus and has some weight loss benefits.
- Tea. It has the same effects as coffee. Try to stick with black or green.
- Coconut / Almond Milk. You can use the sugar-free versions to replace your favorite dairy drink.
- Diet soda. Try to cut back severely or stop taking them altogether. These can lead to long-term sugar cravings and insulin spikes.
- Flavors. Small packets that are sweetened with sucralose or Stevia are fine. Alternatively you can squeeze a lemon, lime or orange into your water bottle.
- Alcohol. Preferably strong drinks. Beer and wine are high in carbohydrates. Frequent alcohol consumption may reduce weight loss.
Many people enjoy holding themselves accountable by creating challenges for themselves. We use a 1 liter bottle and wrap 4 hair ties around it. Every time you finish a liter, you remove a league and you will see how much you need to reach the goal.
SPICES AND COOKING
Below you will find a visual aid of spices that are commonly used on the ketogenic diet. Even ingredients in small quantities can add some carbohydrates; be sure to monitor the spices and seasonings you add to your food.
Seasonings and sauces play a tricky role in the ketogenic diet, yet people regularly use them to add flavor to food. The simplest way to stay strict in this regard is to avoid all processed foods. There are many condiments and low-carb products in the grocery store, and there is no way to list them all. There are a handful of these that are very good, but most use high glycemic sweeteners, which you will want to avoid.
Spices have carbohydrates too, so be sure to factor these into your intake calculations. Sea salt is preferable over table salt, since the latter is usually mixed with dextrose powder. Most spice mixes have added sugar, so be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label to be sure what they contain. If you have the option, never include added sugar in your spice or food mixes.
This is a list of the herbs and spices that are commonly used on the ketogenic diet. Always remember that spices have carbohydrates, so adjust your nutrition with this in mind.
- Cayenne pepper
- chilli powder
Salt and pepper can be used for seasoning freely without worrying about nutritional information.
Typically the amount of carbohydrates in spices is minimal, so you don’t have to freak out measuring and recording every time you consume them. In the cases of recipes with many spices, it is likely that they will be added and must be considered.
CONDIMENTS AND SAUCES
Below is a visual idea of the condiments and sauces that are commonly used on the ketogenic diet. Sometimes there is a lot of added sugar in just a teaspoon of sauce; Check carefully the labels of the sauces you buy at the supermarket to make sure they fit into your macros.
Sauces, gravies, and condiments are usually a gray area when it comes to the ketogenic diet. Generally, if you want to be strict or strict, you should avoid all pre-made sauces and condiments; unless they are in the list below. These can have added sugar or use sweeteners that are not keto lifestyle friendly.
If you decide to make your gravies and gravies, you should consider investing in guar or xanthan gum. These are well known thickeners in modern cooking and help you by thickening your low carb sauces. Fortunately, there are already different sauces that we can eat that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates. If you need to make a sauce, it’s worth considering a beurre blac, hollandaise sauce, or just plain dark butter to add to meats.
Although it is very good in terms of health and theory, you may not have the time to prepare everything at home. Although it varies from brand to brand (be sure to read the ingredients), the standard prepared seasonings that can be consumed on the ketogenic diet are:
- Ketchup (choose one with little or no added sugar)
- Hot sauces
- Mayonnaise (if you can buy one with avocado oil and free chicken eggs)
- Sauerkraut or sour cabbage (choose with little or no added sugar)
- Horseradish sauce
- English sauce
- Salad dressing (choose those with the highest fat like ranch, cesar, and sugar-free vinaigrettes)
- Flavored syrups (only containing accepted sweeteners)
Try to be careful when it comes to seasonings on the ketogenic diet, especially pre-made ones. Make your sauces with thickeners, and try to make your own seasonings when applicable. Always carefully check the ingredient and nutritional list of your foods to make sure they match your macros.
SWEETENERS | SWEETENERS
Below you will find a visual list of the sweeteners commonly consumed on the ketogenic diet. Note that the less accepted they are, the less you want to consume them.
Staying away from anything that tastes sweet is best – this would help reduce your cravings to a minimum; which eventually promotes success on a ketogenic diet. If you have to have something sweet, there are a few options available that you can choose from.
When looking for sweeteners, try to buy the liquid versions because they usually do not contain added binders (such as maltodextrin or dextrose). These are commonly found in blends like Splenda and can add to your carbs quickly. For ketosis, you’ll want to stick with the lower glycemic sweeteners.
We clarify that this is just a small list of sweeteners or sweeteners that people use when following the ketogenic diet. There are so many brands and blends on the market – we often use Stevia and erytritol in dessert recipes. You might like other options better, just make sure they are on the list of accepted sweeteners.
Typically you want to steer clear of brands that use fillers like maltodextrin and dextrose, or high glycemic products like maltitol. Many of the low carb products that claim to have low net carbs use these sweeteners. Many candies that are advertised as “sugar free” also use these sweeteners. Avoid them as long as possible. These sweeteners have effects on the body very similar to sugar.
When a sweetener has a low glycemic impact (low glycemic index), it has little impact on blood glucose. The higher the glycemic index, the higher your blood sugar levels will rise. Here’s our list of GI 0 sweeteners we recommend:
- Stevia. One of the most common sugar substitutes on the market now. Incredibly sweet and without glycemic impact. Liquid versions are preferred.
- Sucralose. A very easy and very sweet substitute around which there is a lot of misinformation. Many people confuse it with Splenda, but sucralose is the pure sweetener. Liquid versions are also preferred.
- Erytritol. This is a great sugar substitute that has a zero glycemic index. What makes it special is that it passes through the body undigested, and is eliminated without absorbing carbohydrates.
- Monk Fruit. This is less common and you will usually find it combined with other sweeteners.
- Assorted mixes. There are numerous brands on the market that offer these ingredients mixed in different ratios. If you buy a mixture be sure to read the ingredients.
For all those who are looking for something a little closer to sugar, you can use Xylitol. It cooks and tastes very similar to sugar, but has a small glycemic impact (13 vs 100 for sugar). It is wonderful, but always keep in mind that it is toxic in animals and that it will raise your insulin levels a bit. These are the top 2 reasons for not using Xylitol.
SUGAR CRAVINGS AND ADDICTION
Most of the cravings we have are caused by sugars. Sugar, at the end of the day, is an industry that operates on addiction. There are several studies that show that sugar stimulates the reward areas of the brain. There are even some who claim that it is up to 8 times more addictive than drugs like heroin.
When we consume sugar regularly, we release dopamine in the brain – creating addiction and higher tolerance levels. Over time you will have to eat larger amounts of sugar to maintain dopamine secretion. Once our brain generates a dependency on a chemical reaction, we will notice that we have cravings even when we are not hungry.
When we are in the process of switching from a high carb diet to a ketogenic diet, the cravings are definitely very strong. It is always better to start by eliminating any food that may lead to a craving from your home. We recommend that when switching to a ketogenic diet, you restrict the use of sweeteners for the first 30 days. This usually leads to breaking the sugar addiction and eliminating the cravings.
In addition to sugar, sometimes our body requests food due to a lack of nutrients, which we confuse with a craving. These cravings usually disappear when we meet the nutrient intake we are missing by eating an alternative. Below are some ways to eliminate those strong cravings.
HIDDEN CARBS AND NUTRITION FACTS LABELS
Getting started on the ketogenic diet can be difficult at first. It takes time to fully understand what to eat and what to avoid, so if you make a few mistakes at first, don’t be too hard on yourself. It is better to make a mistake and learn from it than to make a mistake and not realize it was a mistake.
There are always going to be foods that hurt us when we eat them. Some foods are particularly gruesome by hiding carbohydrates. Here is a small list of common products that have hidden carbohydrates.
- Low-carb products. There are many options when it comes to bars, snacks and food. It’s best to stay away from these, but if you don’t have a choice, be sure to read the label. Many use high glycemic substitutes.
- Spices As mentioned above, spices have carbohydrates – some more than others. This includes onion powder, cinnamon, garlic powder, ginger, and allspice. Always read the labels and make sure your mixes don’t have added sugar.
- Fruit and Berries. Most fruits are out of the box on the ketogenic diet because of their sugar content. Many people eat berries, but you must control your portions. Be careful with blueberries and blueberries as they add carbs quickly.
- Tomato-based products. Many people use tomato sauce or canned diced tomatoes. Make sure you read the label carefully, companies are notorious for playing with portion sizes to show more “healthy” numbers for their products. Also make sure you don’t have added sugars.
- Seasonings It is practically tradition to add sauces to our food, but be careful with your favorites. Sometimes condiments and sauces can display miniscule potion sizes that actually alter the actual carbohydrates in the products. The nutrition label and ingredient list should be read carefully.
- Peppers and chili peppers. You have to be careful with the type of peppers you use, sometimes they are incredibly sweet inside. Sometimes there can be 3 to 4 grams of carbohydrates in a small hot pepper. If you eat bell peppers, it will be better if you choose the green ones since the yellow and red ones contain a little more carbohydrates.
- Diet soda. You can have diet soda, but it is recommended that you cut them off altogether. Some people have reported that they come out of ketosis after consuming a good amount of artificial sweeteners. Studies have linked sugar cravings to artificial sweeteners – cutting out diet sodas will help you have fewer cravings.
- Chocolate. You can eat chocolate on the ketogenic diet, you just have to be very careful about portion sizes. You will want to stick with the darkest chocolate (90% or more), as it has far fewer carbohydrates.
- Medicines Cold medicines, cough syrups, and flu remedies usually contain a lot of sugar. Some of the generic brands that you can buy in any store have 20gr. Carbs per serving, so be very careful when you are sick or ill. You can usually find sugar-free or diabetic alternatives.
There are many foods that contain hidden carbohydrates. Always be careful what you are buying and try to make or cook as much as possible at home.
FOODS TO AVOID
By now, you should have a very good idea of what to eat while on a ketogenic diet. Make sure to read and re-read the list of accepted foods to build a mental picture of the types of foods you will want to eat.
If you still have questions about foods or products that may not be keto-friendly, don’t worry too much. Below you will find a list of the things to pay attention to:
- Sugar. We typically find it in soft drinks, juices, sports drinks, candy, chocolate, and ice cream. We might think that any food that is processed and sweet contains sugar. Avoid sugar at any cost.
- Grain. Any wheat product (bread or flour), pasta, cereal, cakes, desserts, rice, corn, and beer should be avoided. This includes whole grains such as wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, and quinoa,
- Starches Avoid vegetables (like potatoes and root vegetables) and anything else like oatmeal, muesli, etc. Some root vegetables are accepted in moderation – be sure to read the vegetable section.
- Trans fat. Margarine and any other type of spreadable fat that substitutes for butter should be avoided as they contain hydrogenated fats (Bad for us).
- Fruits. Avoid all large fruits (apple, orange, bananas) as they have high sugar levels. Some berries can be eaten in moderation – see the fruit section above.
- Low-fat foods. These tend to have much more carbohydrates and sugars than the regular versions. Make sure to read Nutrition Facts labels carefully.
In general, the more “real” the food is, the better it is for you. While processed foods are accepted, many are not. Be sure to read the ingredient list and nutrition labels carefully to be reassured that it fits with your diet.