What to Eat on a Keto Diet?
Here are typical foods to enjoy on a ketogenic diet. The numbers are net carbs per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of food. To remain in ketosis, lower is generally better:
What’s the most important thing to do to reach ketosis? Avoid eating too many carbs. You’ll likely need to keep carb intake under 50 grams of net carbs per day, ideally below 20 grams.
The fewer the carbs, the more effective the diet appears to be for reaching ketosis, losing weight or improving type 2 diabetes.
Counting carbs can be helpful at first. But if you stick to recommended foods and recipes you can stay keto even without counting.
Here are the foods that you can eat on a ketogenic diet:
Meat – Unprocessed meats are low carb and keto-friendly, and organic and grass-fed meat might be even healthier. But remember that keto is a higher-fat diet, not high in protein, so you don’t need huge amounts of meat. Excess protein (over 2.0 g per kg of reference body weight; see this chart to determine your own protein targets) can be converted to glucose, which could make it harder for some people to get into ketosis, especially when starting out and with high levels of insulin resistance.
Note that processed meats, like sausages, cold cuts and meatballs often contain added carbs. Bacon is definitely keto though. When in doubt look at the ingredients, aim for under 5% carbs.
- Fish and seafood – These are all good, especially fatty fish like salmon. If you have concerns about mercury or other toxins, consider eating more of the smaller fish like sardines, mackerel and herring. If you can find wild-caught fish, that’s probably the best. Avoid breading, as it contains carbs.
- Eggs – Eat them any way you want, e.g. boiled, fried in butter, scrambled or as omelets.
Natural fat, high-fat sauces – Most of the calories on a keto diet should come from fat. You will likely get much of it from natural sources like meat, fish, eggs, and other sources. But also use fat in cooking, like butter or coconut oil, and feel free to add plenty of olive oil to salads and vegetables. You can also eat delicious high-fat sauces, including Bearnaise sauce, garlic butter, and others.
Remember, fat helps you feel full and adds flavor to food. Don’t use more than you want or need, but don’t fear fat.
- Vegetables growing above ground. Fresh or frozen – either is fine. Choose vegetables growing above ground, especially leafy and green items. Favorites include cauliflower, cabbage, avocado, broccoli and zucchini.
High-fat dairy – Butter is good, high-fat cheese is fine, and heavy cream is great for cooking.
Avoid drinking milk as the milk sugar quickly adds up (one glass = 15 grams of carbs), but you can use it sparingly in your coffee. What does “sparingly” mean? That depends on how many cups per day you drink! We recommend one cup with just a “splash,” about a tablespoon max. But even better is to do away with the milk completely.
Definitely avoid caffée latte (18 grams of carbs). Also avoid low-fat yogurts, especially as they often contain lots of added sugars.
Finally, be aware that regularly snacking on cheese when you’re not hungry is a common mistake that can slow weight loss.
Nuts – Can be had in moderation, but be careful when using nuts as snacks, as it’s very easy to eat far more than you need to feel satisfied. Also be aware that cashews are relatively high carb, choose macadamia or pecan nuts instead.
How much is too much? That depends on your weight loss progress and the rest of your carb intake. As a general rule, try to limit nut intake to less than 1/2 cup per day (around 50 grams). Be careful with peanut butter, a modest serving of 2 tablespoons will add about 4 grams of net carbs.
- Berries – A moderate amount is OK on keto, perhaps with real whipping cream, a popular keto dessert.
Here is a list of what you can drink on a ketogenic diet:
- Water – The #1 option. Have it flat, with ice, or sparkling. Sip it hot like a tea, or add natural flavouring like sliced cucumbers, lemons, or limes. If you experience headaches or symptoms of “keto flu“, add a few shakes of salt to your water.
- Coffee – No sugar. A small amount of milk or cream is fine. For extra energy from fat, stir in butter and coconut oil for “Bulletproof coffee.” Note, if weight loss stalls, cut back on the cream or fat in your coffee.
- Tea – Whether black, green, Orange Pekoe, mint, or herbal — feel free to drink most teas. Don’t add sugar.
- Bone broth – Hydrating, satisfying, full of nutrients and electrolytes — and simple to make! — homemade bone broth can be a great beverage to sip on the keto diet. Stir in a pat of butter for some extra energy.
- Wine – The occasional glass of wine.
On a keto diet, you can still enjoy a delicious drink or two on special occasions. Even though many alcoholic drinks contain a lot of sugar, there are still some great keto options, with little or no sugar or carbs.
Here’s our list of the top 5 keto alcoholic drinks:
- Champagne or sparkling wine (extra dry or brut) – one glass contains about 2 grams of net carbs.
- Dry wine, red or white – one glass contains about 2 grams of net carbs.
- Vodka, club soda, and lemon or lime – one tall drink contains 0 grams of carbs.
- Whiskey – one drink contains 0 grams of carbs.
- Dry martini – one cocktail contains 0 grams of carbs.
A word of caution
When eating a keto diet, some people get intoxicated from significantly less alcohol. So be careful the first time you drink alcohol on keto. You may only need half as many drinks as usual to enjoy yourself. So keto may save you money at the bar.
The reasons for this common experience are not fully known. Possibly the liver is busy producing ketones or glucose, and thus has less capacity to burn alcohol.
This is great if you are looking to maximize alcohol’s intoxicating impact. On the other hand, your hangover could be worse.
Be very careful doing anything where impairment could increase the risk of accidents or injury. Never drink and drive.
Furthermore, if you are using a keto diet to treat metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease, be aware that alcohol can have a negative effect on liver health. Excessive alcohol acts as a liver toxin.
If you drink hard liquor, this is how many grams of carbs are in a typical drink.
Whiskey, vodka, brandy, gin, tequila, and other pure alcohols have zero carbs and so are fine on a low-carb diet. Do not add juice, soft drinks, or other sweeteners like sweet cream. Adding tonic to zero-carb gin boosts its carbs to 16 grams per serving! Have vodka, soda water and lime instead for a no-carb summer drink.
Alternatively, if you insist, use diet tonic (with artificial sweeteners) for a zero-carb gin & tonic, though we generally recommend avoiding sweeteners.
Think vodka and orange juice is a healthy choice? That gives you a whopping 28 grams of carbs, almost as bad as a rum & coke for 39 grams.
Beer: Liquid bread
Full of rapidly absorbed carbs. But there are a few lower-carb beers, such as:
- Michelob ULTRA (2.6 Carbs)
- Coors Light (5 Carbs)
- Bud Light (5 Carbs)
* grams of carbs in one 12 oz. bottle of beer (355 ml)
For special occasions
You decide when the time is right. Your weight loss could slow down a bit.
Vegetable growing under ground – Try to avoid vegetables growing underground they have a higher carb intake.
Vegetables are a tasty way to eat good fat on keto. Fry them in butter and pour plenty of olive oil on your salad. Some even think of vegetables as a fat-delivery system. They also add more variety, flavor and color to your keto meals.
Many people end up eating more vegetables than before when starting keto, as veggies replace the pasta, rice, potatoes, and other starches. It’s even possible to eat a vegetarian or vegan keto diet.
Fruit – Very sweet, lots of sugar. Eat once in a while perhaps. Treat fruit as a natural form of candy.
Dark chocolate – A square of dark chocolate, with cocoa above 70%, can often hit the spot. Try some 85% gourmet chocolate shaved over whipped cream and berries.
Foods to avoid
Here are the foods that you should avoid on a ketogenic diet:
Sugar – This is the big no-no. Cut out all soft drinks, fruit juice, sport drinks and “vitamin water” (these are all basically sugar water). Avoid sweets, candy, cakes, cookies, chocolate bars, donuts, frozen treats and breakfast cereals.
Starch – Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes (including sweet potatoes), French fries, potato chips, porridge, muesli and so on. Avoid wholegrain products as well.
Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are high in carbs too. Small amounts of certain root vegetables (other than potatoes and sweet potatoes) may be OK, but be careful as the carbs can quickly add up.
Note that there are many good potential replacements for these foods, that work on a keto diet. Here are a few of them:
- Keto breads
- Keto “pasta”
- Keto “rice”
- Keto porridge
- Margarine – It’s industrially produced imitated butter with a very high content of omega-6 fat. It has no obvious health benefits, and many people feel that it tastes worse than butter.
How low carb is a keto diet?
A keto diet is an extremely strict low-carb diet, containing less than 20 grams of net carbs per day.
Here are three examples of low-carb meals, based on how many carbs you aim to eat in a day. Note that only the left plate is reliably ketogenic for everyone: