Every dietary protocol has its best practices, the standard "do's" and "dont's." From the ideal foods to eat or avoid to other dietary hacks, there's always a way to maximize a diet.
For starters, foods exist along the glycemic spectrum, ranging from high to low. We, of course, advise gravitating toward the lower end of the scale to manage glucose levels and maintain metabolic ketosis as a basic rule of thumb.
We don't believe in demonizing foods but rather look at foods in terms of optimal and suboptimal. Although higher-carb foods can offer a wide variety of nutrients, eating them would not aid in your effort to encourage your body to run on fat and ketones rather than glucose (sugar) because of their significant glycemic load.
Instead, we suggest eating an abundance of low-glycemic foods, plenty of healthy fats, and moderate amounts of premium protein as a dietary framework.
While the avoidance of carbs and sugars remains the preeminent goal on a ketogenic diet, we can rest easy in the knowledge that we have endless food options to use to make unique and delicious meals.
Again, some foods are optimal, and you can eat them without much, if any, restriction. Then other foods may be slightly higher in carbs, like sweet potatoes, that you may opt to include in your meal plan in moderation for one reason or another—possibly during carb-up periods or within a cyclical keto dietary protocol, exclusively.
We'll cover the foods to enjoy without guilt or fear, those to consider consuming mindfully and strategically, as in the case of cyclical keto diets, and then we'll touch on foods we would advise you to avoid altogether.
As we mentioned, there's a wide array of food options to enjoy on a low-carb, high-fat diet, and there's never a need to fall prey to a dietary rut as there's always another recipe you can try to keep things exciting!
Here are some foods to enjoy freely on a ketogenic diet:
- Heavy Cream: Many keto recipes include heavy cream; it adds a luxurious texture to everything and is one of the foods we can indulge in on a low-carb diet.
Cheese (hard and soft varieties, including cream cheese): Whether melted atop pizza, an addition to a sandwich wrap, or the tasty glue that binds lasagna and other savory pies, cheese is a staple ingredient in most keto diets.
Plus, many dairy-free cheese options are available now for those who are lactose intolerant or otherwise opt to pass on dairy varieties. Brands like Myoko's, Violife, Field Roast, Kite Hill, et al. all make the cut when it comes to macros, for sure!
- Yogurt (sugar-free with live active cultures, like CoCoYo): Another gut-boosting option, sugar-free yogurt with living probiotics, is an excellent option to support a healthy gut microbiome. Just make sure you opt for brands without added sugar or have some fun at home and make your own—it's easy!
- Eggs (not dairy but its first cousin): The egg may be the perfect food on a keto diet. You get fat, protein, and satiety in every little pod! You can whip up a quick omelet, breakfast poppers, pancakes, bread, cakes, and more with eggs. They're a super-versatile and affordable staple food to always keep close.
- Beef: From burgers to chili, having some 80/20 ground beef on hand, along with chunked beef for stews, is an excellent option on a keto diet.
- Chicken: One-pot meals filled with succulent chicken legs or baking the whole chicken and using the bones to make a collagen-rich broth to enjoy are all fantastic ways to make and enjoy our favorite bird.
- Turkey: This white meat is delicious year-round, not just at Thanksgiving. Whether paired with grilled asparagus or as the centerpiece of a lettuce-wrap sandwich, turkey is a light yet satisfying meat option to add to your diet.
- Pork: Getting to eat bacon may have been a strong draw when considering going keto. We get it; it's delicious! Feel free to add quality bacon, pork chops, and other pork-derived products to your keto diet for a boost of healthy fat and protein.
- Salami: Perfect for a bountiful charcuterie board or a quick snack with a side of cream cheese and cucumbers. Salami is an excellent option to have for a quick and easy meal in moments.
- Prosciutto/Ham: Whether you prefer more delicate and fatty prosciutto or a style more customary in Northern America, ham is a flavorful addition to any meal.
- Salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to brain health and worth adding to your meal plan. Plus, you can find affordable canned salmon options, often on sale, at your local grocery store.
- Tuna: Make a quick salad or sear some fillets and pair them with a variety of roasted veggies for a simple and light meal option.
- Mackerel: Fish cakes of all kinds are an effortless centerpiece to refreshing spring and summer meals, and mackerel is an excellent fatty fish option to use when making fish cakes. Give them a try; you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.
- Sardines: These omega-3-rich fish are a fantastic option on keto as they help with satiety and support healthy brain function.
- Shrimp: Who doesn't love a platter of buttered, fried, or baked shrimp? We know we're fans of prawns, and you're in luck if you are too and are eating a keto diet. Shrimp provides amazing macros for anyone keeping carbs low and it’s useful in so many recipes!
- Cod: This is an excellent option if you're looking for a light white fish option. This fish is ideal for frying and sauteing and works well with virtually all veggies.
Lobster: Go for some sweet and succulent lobster on days when you want to splurge a bit.
And you can take lobster to their heights of deliciousness with the aid of an easy homemade garlic butter sauce with herbs and chives—yummy!
- Crab: Whether you opt for a hearty crab boil with butter sauce and hard-boiled eggs, decide to fry up a delicate and buttery cake, or desire the satisfaction of sipping on a creamy bisque, crab is the perfect centerpiece ingredient for so many keto-friendly recipes.
Asparagus: These stalks had come a long way from the days in the cafeteria when they were likely limp, soggy, and unappealing.
Roast your asparagus, drizzle with grass-fed butter and hit with a splash of lemon juice and sprinkling of coarse sea salt to bring the dish to life.
- Broccoli: These cruciferous gems are packed with nutrition and tasty too! Steam some florets and top it with a luxurious cheese sauce or toss some stalks into a stir-fry for added texture.
- Brussels sprouts: We love to highlight this vegetable whenever possible because it doesn't get enough credit. Brussel's sprouts are a delightful treat, especially when roasted in grass-fed butter with a hit of sea salt and seasonings.
- Cauliflower: This chameleon ingredient appears to be able to become almost anything! You miss mashed potatoes; it's got you. You are looking for a base for a wicked keto pizza crust; it's got you. In need of a grain-free rice alternative? There it is, again performing like a champ! Cauliflower is a magical and versatile ingredient that you'll likely find yourself using in a diverse range of applications on keto. It's delicious, enjoy!
- Watercress: We often hear advice to eat dark leafy greens, and when you listen to this, you may think of your garden-variety lettuce, spinach, or kale—and those are all excellent selections, as well—but watercress is a powerhouse microgreen to add to your radar as it is pleasant to the palate and highly nutritious.
- Spinach: We still love good old spinach; it's terrific in salads, sautees, and stews and makes a perfect addition to a fluffy omelet.
- Kale: Dark leafy greens are always an excellent dietary option. In addition to cooking these robust leaves, you can also use a simple cheese sauce to coat chopped pieces and dehydrate them to create amazing chips for snacking or in place of croutons.
- Zucchini: Like cauliflower, zucchini is a versatile veggie that stands in place of higher-glycemic vegetables quite well. Its hearty texture makes it a perfect substitute for noodles, and it makes for a fantastic base for a low-carb breakfast hash.
Spaghetti squash: Zucchini can make fantastic noodles, but you could also go the spaghetti squash route; it’s a fabulous option, as well.
Sear some sausage, add in a sauce of your choice and combine with cooked spaghetti squash for a savory meal you'll love!
Cucumber: These crisp and refreshing vegetables are a beautiful addition to any keto meal plan, especially so as we move into the warmer months, where hydration becomes even more essential.
Toss together a quick salad, process a batch of delicious pickles, or make some relish to enjoy throughout the year with these delightful veggies; they're a fantastic addition to any low-carb meal plan.
- Bell peppers: Peppers add a unique flavor and texture to dishes and elevate the most straightforward recipes. Process some peppers during meal prep during the week and store them so you can get to the cooking and eating portions of mealtime faster.
- Onions: Onions are a little higher in carbs than, say, cucumber, but they are permissible on a keto diet when consumed in moderation.
- Swiss chard: The simple addition of beautifully cooked greens can enhance any meal, and Swiss chard is easy to make in minutes in large batches to enjoy throughout the week.
- Olives: We love its oil, but this stone fruit is buttery, salty, and delicious on its own. Plus, olives are a perfect keto snack and addition to any good charcuterie platter; it brings a unique zing to a meal.
- Mushrooms: There are many varieties to enjoy with different textures, and mushrooms are a perfect ingredient to use in place of meat on keto if that's something that interests you.
- Bok choy: Steam these succulent stalks and add your favorite fatty sauce for a perfect low-carb veggie side.
- Radish: These lightly spicy vegetables can be a perfect stand-in for potatoes, such as in one of our favorite comfort food recipes, Ridiculously Loaded Keto Radishes.
- Avocado: Add this fatty fruit to as many dishes as you can—the fruit aids in supporting healthy brain function and provides anti-inflammatory benefits, too.
- Tomatoes: Your lovely spring and summer salads will likely include some plum or grape tomatoes, they brighten any dish. Plus, you can make your sauces, paste, or any other tomato product with fresh tomatoes with the aid of a handy YouTube video or two. It's a fun project to do with the family!
- Blueberries: Perfect sprinkled generously on fluffy pancakes or reduced into a keto-friendly syrup can complement your fast-breaking with an offering reminiscent of childhood.
- Strawberries: Grab some strawberries and give our 60-second Konscious Keto Strawberry Shortcake a try; it's a quick and satisfying treat!
- Raspberries: Make some fresh or frozen raspberries into a chunky jam bursting with bold flavors. You can use jam on more than morning cakes. Pair it with meat, chicken, or fish as desired.
- Blackberries: Whip up some homemade cream and add atop a bunch of blackberries for a quick and easy snack.
- Lemon: There is nothing that this fruit doesn't improve. Adding a splash of lemon to sauces, atop fruits, or blended in a smoothie elevates the taste to another level. Plus, lemon helps alkalize the body and aids in regulating pH balance.
- Coconut: Whether it's the milk, oil, or meat, the coconut offers so much in the way of uses and imparts a unique and fantastic flavor to foods and beverages.
Butter (preferably grass-fed): We regret that butter garnered a bad rep for a time in the US. Premium, fresh butter is perfectly healthy, and its taste is like no other. Plus, it's far superior to the partially-hydrogenated options the food industry touted heavily in the 90s.
Go with the best quality grass-fed butter you can find, and try to divorce from the old thinking that eating fat makes you fat as you enjoy it.
- MCT Oil: Adding this oil to drinks, such as coffees and smoothies, or sipping it straight is helpful if you need a boost of energy. Medium-chain triglyceride oil also helps sharpen cognitive function. It's a great supplement to maintain even after you've lost excess weight on keto.
- Avocado oil: Ditch low-grade oils like canola and trade them for premium avocado oil instead. Avocado oil has a neutral taste and a very high smoking point, making it ideal for frying and many other culinary applications.
- Olive oil: This delicious, heart-healthy oil is perfect for drizzling over all your favorite salads, along with a bit of vinegar or lemon juice.
Foods to Avoid on Keto
There are many foods to enjoy on a low-carb, high-fat diet freely, but some food options don't serve you if the goal is to limit carbohydrate and sugar intake.
We understand, if you're having a cheeseburger, you probably want to pair it with fries and serve it on a warm, soft bun. But the addition of potatoes and grain-based buns will interfere with your efforts to coax your body from running on glucose to burning fat and ketones for fuel.
You'll see the challenge of optimal and suboptimal foods co-mingling in many of your favorite recipes. While seared pork is a perfect addition to a meal on keto, adding fried rice to that platter changes the glycemic profile completely.
So, it's wise to remain aware of the high-glycemic foods to avoid and identify ingredient alternatives that provide you with all the flavor and texture of its starchy counterparts with a fraction of the net carbs.
No worries, with a bit of consideration and coordination, you can enjoy the best of all worlds—you'll get to feast on delicious meals, lose weight, and feel great one bite at a time.
Food is a powerful tool, so much that the hailed father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, advised us to let it be our medicine.
As much as healthy and nutrient-dense food can help support healthy body function, a diet of high-calorie but nutrient-deficient foods won't likely produce your desired results.
Here are some foods to avoid on keto to keep energy levels high and weight loss streamlined:
- Margarine: This product may not spike your blood sugar, but it is associated with other potential adverse health outcomes and is best to avoid.
- Hydrogenated fats or trans fatty acids: Highly processed fats, like shortening, often aren't correctly assimilated by the body and can lead to metabolic dysfunction. It's better to go with butter.
Processed meats: Some highly-processed meats like deli meats, some brands of bacon, and other canned meats may contain nitrates and nitrites linked with an increased risk of cancer.
It's best to go for organic and premium meats to avoid toxic additives and preservatives that may cause lasting health effects. Opt for uncured, nitrate free bacon and deli meats when possible.
More Foods to Avoid on Keto
While there are loads of foods to enjoy freely on keto, there are others that are best avoided. Here are some foods to limit or eliminate on a low-carb, high-fat diet:
Grains & Starch
- All-purpose flour
- Wheat flour
- Green peas
- Sweet potato
Plus, there are many additional "yes" and "no" foods to consider on a ketogenic diet. Here are the most common to swap for low-carb alternatives so you can enjoy the foods you love without the guilt:
Flour: All-purpose, wheat, bread, and cake flour play a significant role in the lives of every enthusiastic home baker.
Fortunately for us, grains don't dominate the world of baking as they once did. Various other flour options to enjoy that won't impact glucose yet deliver the moistest, fluffy, and delicious baked goods are easily accessible in stores and online.
Consider almond, coconut, and lupin flour, along with other ingredients like psyllium husk and xanthan gum, to use when baking to curb carbs while creating the familiar textures we crave.
Plus, several baking blends have emerged on the scene in recent years that combine low-carb ingredients in different ways to produce unique bases for baked goods.
Also, you can combine ingredients like almond flour, coconut flour, and xanthan gum to create a handy keto flour blend at home. A quick online search will provide several variations to try to determine which you prefer.
Swap Out the Sugar
We're sure this section and our advice regarding omitting sugar, starch, and carbs from your diet should be no surprise.
Cane sugar, or sugar by any other name—and there are many—is a no-go on keto. However, there's no need to fret over giving up sweets. You can make sensible swaps to add keto-friendly sugar replacements to your arsenal to expand your culinary possibilities exponentially.
We know how essential sweet treats are to most people's lives; we're most people! And as avid foodies we love sharing our favorite keto desserts with you to make your low-carb journey as enjoyable as possible.
Our love of confections led us to share a recent article about the many names of sugar to inform you guys of words to be wary of on food labels. And we also shared many sugar alternatives to try that can stand in 1:1 for traditional sugar in recipes.
Here are some of our favorite sweet treats you may want to sample using any of the fabulous sugar replacements outlined in our dedicated article on ideal keto sweeteners:
- Strawberry Ricotta Pancakes
- Super Creamy Strawberry Fat Bombs
- Keto Almond Cake Fat Bomb
- Keto Cheesecake Fat Bomb
- Konscious Keto Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
- Keto Chocolate Soufflé
- Keto Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing
- Mini Keto Velvet Cheesecake
- Keto Apple Spiced Donuts
- Avocado Keto Chocolate Pudding
- Keto Pumpkin Pie
- Keto Sugar Cookies
The ketogenic diet stands on a defined framework: omit sugars and increase healthy fats.
There are, of course, gray areas within that paradigm as we can choose foods that are low carb, but void of nutrition, which is less than ideal. Living a healthy keto lifestyle is about minding micronutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, etc.) at least as much as macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein, etc.).
You'll notice specific topics raised frequently within the keto community related to best practices and advisable foods, and you'll need to consider your preferences and current health to construct a low-carb life plan that's best suited for you with those guidelines in mind.
However, the following articles are excellent starting points to begin living low-carb or to return to keto after a dietary setback:
- Keto-friendly Foods to Boost the Immunity System: The strength of our immune system is more important than ever, and we can use the foods we eat to position ourselves to ward off harmful pathogens and diseases.
- Inflammatory Foods on a Keto Diet: Foods can provide a low carb count but still contain ingredients that trigger an inflammatory response. Here's a piece dedicated to foods to avoid.
- No-carb Foods: Zero-Carb Foods for Your Keto Diet: Your appetite will adjust as your body begins to run on fat and ketones for fuel. However, it's still wise to fill your meal plan with zero and low-carb foods to ensure satiety while mitigating carb intake. Here's a piece on which foods get you the most for your macros.
Eating in a Mixed Dietary Household: Many of us will experience our keto journey while eating in a household where our loved ones' diets may vary.
Making a low-carb lifestyle sustainable comes down to several key factors, one of which is convenience. It's best to identify as many meals that the entire family will eat and love to avoid needing to cater to several different eating styles each week.
- Keto Foods to Grow, Can, Pickle, Ferment, or Stockpile: Eating fresh whole foods is advisable on keto, but we can take our foods to further heights with pickling and fermentation and then preserve them to enjoy them throughout the years.
- 7 Keto Foods High in Iron: Ketones and fat are a premium energy source, but adequate iron also aids in boosting and maintaining high energy levels consistently.
Plus, we've composed a handy eBook filled with mouth-watering keto comfort food recipes that you won't believe are healthy—although we promise they are!
Aside from banishing sugar from your dietary scope, there are so many healthy food options to enjoy on a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet freely.
Although you may miss sweeter fruits, there is a bevy of berries to enjoy and add to parfaits and other recipes for a bright boost of nutrition without the unwanted excess sugar.
Soft bread, pizza, and pasta may have been staples in your life before committing to a low-carb lifestyle, and there's no need to change your food preferences; you can eat the foods you love with a few swaps and adjustments.
Again, check out our eBook dedicated to comfort foods for a peek into the wide world of decadent dishes we get to add to our keto meal plan on any day of the week.
Also, in addition to eating primarily whole foods, it's crucial to add meals of convenience to your arsenal to make a keto diet realistic long-term.
We know how vital smart and easy cheat meals have been for us, and we've shared our tips related to the best low-carb comfort meals here. Hopefully, these fast and tasty recipes keep you from doing bad things; we know they've helped us more than once!
- Finding Deals and Keto Discounts or Coupons: Some assume that keto is expensive. And don't get us wrong, it will take as much as you give it, but you don't have to break the bank to keep carbs low, check out our post to find out how.
2021 Keto on a Dime: 2020 was a year like no other, and many of us faced new challenges and the making of sacrifices. Reigning in the household budget became imperative, and stretching funds more strategically than ever to maintain quality and mind your budget was paramount.
Fortunately, keto doesn't have to be an expensive lifestyle. You can source foods like eggs, milk and heavy cream, and other foods at discounted prices at big-box or chain stores and also build relationships with local shops, farmers, and community-sponsored agriculture groups (CSAs) to access the freshest foods available while supporting local growers.
Creative Keto Meals in a Jar: Spring and summer are a great time to explore the vast and colorful world of keto meals in a jar.
Stack bright red bell peppers, watercress, and other fixings, along with a hearty dressing, and set yourself up for ease at mealtime; you can shake, pop the lid and eat in seconds!
We will always champion eating loads of dark leafy greens and other nutrient-dense veggies and fruits, but we also understand that not everyone loves salads or even cooked greens—it's a genuine challenge for many.
No worries, we love the ability to get our greens without eating a big bowl of produce, so we formulated a proprietary beverage, our Supreme Greens blend, that offers a broad spectrum of nutrition with a pleasant taste and perfectly smooth texture once blended into your favorite drink base (e.g., plain water, unsweetened coconut or almond milk, etc.).
We're coming out of a unique winter. It's time to lighten up our meals and enjoy fuss-free options that allow us to enjoy the day.
Rich and decadent dishes have their place, but crisp salads with a hearty dose of alkaline dressing, a bright fruit salad, or other prepped meals make mealtime a breeze—easy-peasy.
We don't want to frame particular foods as bad, but to highlight that some foods will not serve you well if your goal is to reduce carb intake and achieve metabolic ketosis, along with all its health benefits, including rapid weight loss.
But again, following a ketogenic diet is not about deprivation or quick fixes, but instead, a lifestyle with guidelines and best practices advice to help you achieve optimal results! Take from our tips what you may, tweak your plan to suit your needs, and stay committed to the process of life-long wellness.
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