So you have heard a lot about a keto diet, from cookbooks, celebrities, and fitness and nutrition gurus and you decided, why not hop on the keto diet train! All these people raving about it have months or years of experience, but you don’t.
Switching your shopping list to keto-friendly foods you can eat can cause a migraine if you do not know what you are or are not allowed to eat. Worry not, your fairy god-parent on eating keto is here!
A keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet, meaning your body relies on fats as its source of fuel. Limiting high-carb foods, and ketogenic foods will trigger a metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis is your body’s survival mechanism of breaking down fats to produce ketone bodies for energy when there isn’t enough blood sugar in the body.
The proven benefits of a ketogenic diet are blood sugar control, weight loss, improved brain and cognitive function increased energy levels, reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, and immune system strengthening.
Even if you know that on a keto diet, one eats low-carb and high-fat, you may need help pointing you towards foods that are keto to help you stick to a strict keto diet. This article will tell you what to eat on the keto diet and what foods to avoid for a healthier life.
What To Eat On The Keto Diet?
Most people who ask for dietary advice wonder how a high-fat diet can assist someone to lose weight. Simple, when your body is low on blood sugar, it breaks down body fat in storage for energy hence the weight loss.
A ketogenic diet will ensure fat loss and not loss of muscle mass. What is the macro’s target for a keto diet? The ketogenic diet is a moderate protein diet, low-carb diet, and high-fat diet, with the caloric distribution being, 25% from proteins, 70% from fats, and only 5% from carbs.
Keto Foods You Can Eat
To achieve ketosis and promote weight loss, the lower the carbs the better. Foods you can eat on keto in abundance include:
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Unsweetened coffee
- Healthy fats and oils
- Seafood and Fish
- Poultry meat
- Nuts and seeds
- High-fat dairy products
Some foods should you are allowed to eat on the keto diet should be consumed in moderation and they include:
- Non-glycemic sweeteners
- Dark chocolate
Let’s take a look at each of these keto diet foods to see why they are allowed in a ketogenic diet.
Low Carb Vegetables
A ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet, and these carbs are obtained from non-starchy veggies. The foundation of your keto diet should be vegetables low in carbs and sautéed in healthy fats and oils. You should eat vegetables that grow above the ground which are low in carbs compared to root starchy vegetables.
The following low in carbs vegetables with their net carbs per 100g:
- Spinach- 1g
- Asparagus and lettuce-2g
- Zucchini, olives, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumber, kales, and green bell peppers-3g
- Red bell peppers, broccoli, and green beans- 4g
- Brussels sprouts and yellow bell peppers- 5g
A study carried out on obese patients on ketogenic diets prescribed for salads and non-starchy vegetables reported that the keto diet reduces binge eating and carb cravings. It also showed that the keto diet enables one to lose weight and improves psychological functioning.
Leafy greens are also rich in essential nutrients like vitamin K and iron. A study carried out on selected leafy greens proved the antioxidant properties of these veggies. The presence of phenolic compounds like flavonoids and tannins, and alkaloids are responsible for the free radical scavenging effects of plant extracts.
Other low-carb veggies that are good keto-diet foods are summer squash, celery, certain mushrooms, arugula, Bok choy, collard greens, and mustard greens.
Healthy Fats and Oils
What do I love most about the information era? The evolution of knowledge! Gone are the days when fats were considered our enemies. The quality of fat will determine whether or not it is healthy for consumption. What is considered healthy fats?
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and include coconut oil, palm, kernel oil, butter, and ghee. These fats have been demonized for ages, but current research shows some types of saturated fats increase high-density lipoproteins (HDL) reducing the risks of heart disease.
Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can increase the production of ketone bodies.
Other studies have analyzed the relationship between saturated fat and cardiovascular diseases and found no significant evidence that these fats lead to heart problems.
Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fats are considered good cholesterol. Nutritious foods rich in polyunsaturated fats include nuts, fish, sunflower oils, fish oils, flaxseed oil, and safflower oil. Keto diet foods rich in monounsaturated fats are olive oil and canola oil.
A review on MUFAs and PUFAs stated that they reduce the risks of metabolic symptoms by lowering blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity, promoting weight loss, and reducing inflammations.
Dressing your salad with olive oil, or sautéing your vegetables in avocado oil is not only finger-licking good but will also increase the fat content of your keto diet foods.
Nuts And Seeds
Seeds and nuts make for good snacks, as additional ingredients in keto diet foods, and toppings. Keto diet-approved seeds include chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. When you eat keto, nuts you can enjoy include macadamia nuts, walnuts, almonds, coconuts, Brazil nuts, and Hazelnuts.
The carb count of 1 oz. (28g) of keto diet-approved nuts and seeds are as follows (total carbs minus fiber equals net carbs):
- Pecans: 4g total carbs, 1g net carbs
- Walnuts: 4g total carbs, 2g net carbs
- Macadamia nuts: 4g total carbs, 2g net carbs
- Brazil nuts: 3g total carbs, 1g net carbs
- Almonds: 6g total carbs, 3g net carbs
- Cashews: 9g total carbs, 8g net carbs
- Pistachios: 8g total carbs, 5g net carbs
- Flaxseeds: 8g total carbs, 0g net carbs
- Chia seeds: 12g total carbs, 2g net carbs
- Pumpkin seeds: 4g total carbs, 2g net carbs
- Sesame seeds: 7g total carbs, 4g net carbs
A study has shown that an increased intake of seeds and nuts reduces the risks of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Consumption of 50-60g of nuts at least 4 times a week reduce your chances of NAFLD by 15%.
Further research has also shown the roles of seeds and nuts on intestinal homeostasis and weight loss to prevent and manage obesity.
Fatty Fish and Seafoods
Fish are great keto diet foods because they are good sources of proteins and healthy fats. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, and other fatty fish are low in carbs but are rich in omega-3 fats, selenium vitamin B, and potassium.
Shellfish carb count varies with type, with some crabs and shrimp having fewer carbs than others like octopus and oysters. These options are keto-friendly but moderation is key. Ensure you track your carb intake when consuming shellfish.
A clinical trial on overweight men concluded that high consumption of omega-3 promoted blood sugar control by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the development of Type 2 Diabetes.
Another study carried out on cognitive normal to assess the effects of dietary fish intake on brain structure and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) showed that frequent fish intake increased gray matter volume and reduced white matter lesions thus reducing risks of developing MCI.
A meta-analysis of studies on the relationship between fish intake and coronary heart disease proves the decrease in the prevalence of heart disease by reducing risks of stroke, myocardial infarction, and atherosclerosis.
Fish oils contain omega-3 PUFAs that have cardioprotective properties like anti-inflammatory, antithrombic effects, antioxidation, and antiarrhythmic properties that lower blood pressure.
High Fat Dairy Products
Low-carb dairy products are keto-approved foods. Dairy products that are high-fat and low-carb that you can eat on the ketogenic diet include:
Cheese is high in fat and low in carbohydrates which help the body burn fat. The best cheeses for a ketogenic diet:
- Blue cheese: 100g of this cheese contains 8g of fat and 0.7g of carbs
- Cream cheese: This cheese makes for a good snack for keto diets. The carb count for 1 oz. of cream cheese is 1g. The fat content is 8g.
- Goat cheese: Containing 0g of carbs, cheese made with goat milk contains less lactose and protein than cow’s milk making it easily digestible. It contains 8g of fat and 6g of proteins.
- Parmesan cheese: To add a nutty and salty flavor to your salads, grate parmesan cheese as a topping. One tablespoon of this cheese contains o.7g of carbs and 1.4g of fat making it a good keto diet food.
- Gouda cheese: It contains 1g of carbs, 7g of proteins, and 8g of fat per ounce qualifying it as a keto food.
- Cottage cheese: For vegetable dips, the full-fat versions of cottage cheese are more keto-friendly. Although, all are low-carb. One cup of cottage cheese contains 7.2g net carbs, 24.4g of proteins and 5.1g of fat.
Plain yogurt is low in carbs and high in protein. In five ounces of plain Greek yogurt, there is 18g of protein and 5g of carbohydrates.
Studies have shown that the consumption of fermented dairy products like plain Greek yogurt reduces cardiometabolic markers by regulating gut microbiome homeostasis.
Moreover, plain Greek yogurt is high in calcium whose benefits include energy loss through fecal fat excretion and the promotion of body fat oxidation. It also reduced hunger and carb cravings, decreasing macronutrient intake, and further causing weight loss.
Increased calcium intake reduces insulin resistance by restoring adipokine excretion thus regulating blood sugar. With this, I’m sure Greek yogurt will be your favorite keto snack!
Other Dairy Products
Other dairy products like ghee, butter, and cream are low carb qualifying them for the ketogenic diet.
Meat And Poultry
Meat and poultry are good sources of protein and are very important in a ketogenic diet. They do not contain any carbohydrates making them the perfect fit for keto diets.
A clinical study showed that a high-protein diet led to losing weight by inhibiting orexigenic hormone release and promoting the release of anorexigenic hormones. This leads to increased satiety and reduced food intake.
Although, a ketogenic diet encourages the consumption of proteins, eating proteins should in moderation. Balancing with other macros is key!
One hard-boiled egg contains 0.6g of carbs. Eggs contain essential nutrients like B vitamins, minerals, and proteins. The benefits of egg proteins include the prevention of child malnutrition, promotion of skeletal muscle health, immune system strengthening, and weight loss.
Avocados and Berries
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and potassium which are good for the heart. Plus, avocado is one of the most versatile keto food. You can dip it, bake it, and stuff it. And thanks to avocado oil, you can add good fats to your veggies.
Berries like blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are keto-diet foods because they are low in net carbs. In 100g of strawberries, you will get 7.68g of carbs and 2g of fiber. If you squeeze in half a cup of blackberries in your keto diet a day, you will still be able to remain in ketosis, since you consumed only 3g net carbs.
Although most fruits are restricted in a ketogenic diet due to their high sugar content, some are allowed in moderation since they are low carb. Fruits like watermelon, cantaloupes, tomatoes, and lemons are keto-friendly.
Low-carb herbs like thyme, coriander, mint, cinnamon, ginger, and basil can be used to add flavor to your meals. Other herbs like cumin, cayenne, and oregano have more carbs, though they are considered keto-safe when used in moderation.
Sugar is a no-no while on a ketogenic diet. However non-glycemic sweeteners are a good alternative to sugar. Monk fruit sweeteners, Stevia, Allulose, Inulin, and Tagatose are sweeteners that won’t stop ketosis.
When choosing a sweetener, choose one with a low gycemic index so it doesn’t slow the progress of your ketogenic diet. Moreover, limit using these sweeteners at the start of your keto diet, since it increases sugar cravings which leads to more calorie intake. Combine two low glycemic index sweeteners to get a taste that best suits you.
Unsweetened Plant-based Milk
Milk may be high in carbs, but plant-based milk like almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk and soy milk are low in carbs. These milk alternatives are also high in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin E.
Staying hydrated is important when in ketosis because the body loses a lot of water through urination, one of the markers of ketosis. Increased production of ketones leads to loss of body fluids hence rehydration is necessary.
Coffee and Teas
To my coffee lovers, relax, and breathe in. Now, exhale slowly. Coffee is allowed on a keto diet, but before that happy dance, only unsweetened coffee. Traditional coffees and teas lack any calories and carbs making them acceptable as keto diet foods.
Bone broth and fruit juice like lime and lemon juices are also keto-friendly drinks you can enjoy.
For dark chocolate to be keto-friendly 70% to 90% of cocoa powder is required. Dark chocolate contains lower amounts of sugar than milk chocolates. It can also help to trigger ketosis.
Foods To Avoid On Keto
So we have taken our time in discussing what foods we can eat on the keto diet. Now it’s time to see what not to eat while on keto. The right way of keto dieting is eating clean, meaning avoiding refined foods and processed meats.
Cereals, bread, pasta, crackers, beer, and rice are all high in carbs and should not be consumed while on a ketogenic diet. The high levels of carbohydrates in whole grains stimulate glucose metabolism, inhibiting ketosis.
Root vegetables are usually very high in carbohydrates disqualifying them as keto-friendly foods. Sweet potatoes, cassavas, yams, potatoes, pumpkins, corn, and beets are some of the starchy vegetables you should steer clear of.
Although legumes are rich in proteins and other essentials, they are high in carbohydrates too. If you choose to go keto, you will have to give up baked beans, chickpeas, black beans, green peas, kidney beans, lima beans, and all other legumes you can think of.
Hey, sweet tooth, don’t shy away from a keto diet. I did give alternatives to sweeteners that you can enjoy and still remain in ketosis. Sugar, honey, maple syrup, and any other sugars are a no for you. Remember, excess sugar increases fat mass gain rather than muscle mass, which leads to weight gain.
Yes, I know I did sing their praises up there, but hear me out. Proteins from meats can be great for maintaining muscle mass but some meats contain hidden carbs that are bad for ketosis. Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, deli meats, pates, sausages, canned meat, and ham have hidden carbs from fillers like breadcrumbs and flavorings.
Limit your consumption of beef and chicken sausages since they are high in sodium which is not good for your heart. Alternatively, you could replace these with grass-fed meat and poultry.
I love being specific, so I will mention beverages you should avoid drinking on a ketogenic diet. Sweetened drinks like sodas, sweetened coffee, lemonade, iced teas and fruit juice are not allowed on a keto diet.
Alcoholic drinks are like cocktails, liquor, wines, beer, and kefir are not allowed on a ketogenic diet. This is because of their effects on the liver and the body’s general health.
Unhealthy Fats and Oils
In keto diets, unhealthy fats are hydrogenated fats, trans fat, and fats that cause inflammations. Junk foods like burgers, fries, chips, and fast foods are high in trans fats which increase the risks of heart problems.
Replace canola oil, corn oil, margarine, commercial lard, soy-based oils, grapeseed oil, and rice bran oil with coconut oil and olive oil.
Saturated fat is better for cooking because they are stable fats since they are closely packed together and release fewer free radicals. Safer choices for high-heat cooking like roasting and grilling include coconut oil, avocado oil, and ghee.
Milk does not qualify as a keto food including dry and evaporated milk. This is because it is high in lactose, a simple sugar, that can spike blood sugar levels like glucose. In order to stay in ketosis, our bodies should be deprived of any type of carbohydrate.
Other than the fruits mentioned as keto-friendly, all other fruits should be avoided. Fruits are high-carb, and though healthy and delicious, they stop ketosis. Nature was too good to us, there’s something for everyone, even keto dieters.
Gluten-free Baked Goods
Gluten-free products have higher carb counts and lower fiber content compared to traditional baked products. Keep in mind, gluten-free does not mean carb free.
Condiments like ketchup, barbeque sauce, and chili sauce should be avoided because they contain flavorings.
What Kind Of Bread Is Keto-Friendly?
Because bread is high in carbohydrates, we need to get creative to ensure we are religiously following our keto diet. Cloud bread is the perfect alternative to regular bread. It is high in protein and can also be a replacement for muffins. This can be a breakfast addition to your keto recipes.
Cloud Bread Recipe
This is as simple as it can get, but feel free to modify this recipe to suit your taste.
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces of cream cheese
Line the baking sheet with greased parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 300 °F.
Break your eggs and separate the yolk and the egg white.
In a bowl whisk your egg whites until they form stiff, foamy mounds
In another bowl, add salt and cream cheese to your yolks
Fold the egg white into the rest of the ingredients. You should take extra care not to knock the air from the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into bun-sized dollops on the sheet and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.
Serve with a hot beverage.
With keto, as long as you are balancing your macros, you are one step in the right direction. What works for me, may not work for you! So if you try your best friend’s favorite keto recipe and it doesn’t tickle your jolly, don’t give up. Keto dieting is all about exploration until you find what works for you.
Before going keto, speak to your dietitian to ensure that you are healthy and keto is safe for you. If you’re on hypertensive medication or are diabetic, ensure your keto diet is being monitored by your physician.
When you’re starting off, try to stick to the foods written in this article as keto diet foods. Then once you get the hang of it, you can diversify your diet. Moreover, monitoring your carbs once you settle into keto dieting as it becomes more restrictive.
If you need any clarification on whether a specific food is keto, drop it in the comment section and we will help you out. Also, share the recipes for your favorite keto food with us help other keto dieters diversify their meals. Go Keto!