Keeping carbohydrate intake low is necessary on a ketogenic diet; we all know that. For some, the trick is learning which foods are most satisfying and filling, as well as low or zero-carb.
Fortunately, the list of zero-carb foods that are perfect for eating on keto is lengthy, and we'll share the best ones to enjoy to maintain ketosis below.
Before we detail all the delicious foods we get to feast on when eating keto, it's wise to outline the difference between low-carb and low net carb foods.
Difference Between Low-Carb and Low Net Carbs
A standard ketogenic diet advises keeping total carbs under 50 grams per day or maintaining net carbs below 25g, which seems like an easy enough deal, but what's the difference between whole and net carbs?
Food contains digestible and indigestible carbohydrates. The total amount of carbs includes indigestible carbs or fiber. Once we subtract the grams of fiber in a food, we determine the net carbs or carb impact we receive if we eat them.
So, for example, if a food contains 20g carbs and 15g of fiber, it has a net carb load of five grams.
Some choose to eat only 25 total carbs a day while others opt to eat 25 net grams of carbs a day; your approach is unique to you and your needs; do what helps you reach your goals.
While cucumbers are low-carb overall, other foods are low in net carbs because their fiber offsets the food's carb impact.
For instance, a 1/4-cup serving of coconut flour contains eight grams of carbohydrates but 10 grams of fiber. While the total carb count is a bit high, the abundance of fiber in the flour makes it low in net carbs and a fantastic option on keto.
Strategies for Keeping Carbs Low
Staying away from refined sugars and carbs is an obvious way to keep carbs limited in your daily diet, but here are some other tips:
Keep an eye on nutritional labels: Foods like sausage and bacon may seem like obvious low-carb foods, and they usually are. But, some food brands add sugar to seemingly keto-friendly foods, which can derail your efforts to maintain ketosis.
Check labels as a general rule for all packaged or processed foods, including meat and dairy, to make sure you're not unknowingly consuming sugar or extra carbs.
Here's what to look for in addition to a food's net carb count:
A food's serving size determines its macronutrients. You may figure you can eat kosher dill pickles with complete abandon because they technically contain zero carbs. But if you eat four servings, you may be consuming more carbs than intended.
Servings per Container:
Before you scarf down a bag of cheesy cauliflower crisps, you will want to check the number of servings in the bag. If there are three servings in a pack of crisps, with two net carbs per serving, you could consume six net carbs unintentionally.
Again, reading labels can be the difference between success and hitting a weight-loss plateau. Hidden sugars in foods, especially packaged or processed foods, are hidden within the label—be careful and diligent about reading ingredients.
Overall ingredients are essential, but make sure to check for the total carbohydrates. Keep an eye on how many total carbs you're eating in a day—especially if you're experiencing a weight-loss plateau.
It may seem like something that goes without saying, but making meals with low-carb or zero-carb foods is essential to keep your macros in check on keto.
Some choose to set their carb macros based on total carbs, and others opt to focus on their intake of net carbs. Everyone's body is different, and you'll need to go through some trial and error to determine your ideal carb macros.
Also, if you're very active, pregnant, or nursing, a higher intake of carbohydrates may be ideal; do what's best per your situation.
No-Carb and Low-Carb Keto Foods
We've covered some of the fundamentals of eating a low-carb, zero-carb, diet, and now it's time to get to the best part, the food! Here are some low-carb and no-carb foods to enjoy on a ketogenic diet:
No-Carb Fats and Oils
Almost everything has traces of carbohydrates, except for your keto-friendly fats and oils, which are, well, purely fat.
Here are some fantastic keto-friendly fat and oil options:
- Avocado oil
- Olive oil (all varieties)
- Coconut oil
- Macadamia oil
- MCT oil
- 100% grass-fed butter
While healthy fats and oils are ideal on a keto diet, there are some oils and fats to avoid due to their chemical processing and trans fats. Here are some less than ideal oils to look out for:
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Peanut oil
Although fats are our friends, those noted above that we advise avoiding are high in omega-6 fatty acids and can be quite inflammatory. As all carbs aren't created equal, the same is true for fats and oils.
Select premium oils with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, to satiate your appetite and promote ketosis.
You can't go wrong with meat on a ketogenic diet. Fresh meat is primarily fat and protein, so it's an ideal option. If you are a meat-eater and on a ketogenic diet, here are some excellent options:
- Organ meats (e.g., tongue, heart, liver, kidney, et al.)
- Hot Dogs
- Corned Beef
- Brisket (sugar-free brine and coating)
- Deli Meat (e.g., turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken, et al.)
What to Watch for in Meat
- Hidden carbohydrates (some companies use sugar in the curing process)
- Quality (opt for organic, grass-fed and grass-finished meat when possible)
The quality of the foods we eat is always important, but this is especially true when it comes to meat and dairy.
Here are a few items to look for when sourcing meat:
- Organic, grass-fed, and grass-finished beef or pork, whenever possible.
- Anti-biotic free
Furthermore, the main issue with non-organic meats is that they tend to contain nitrates and nitrites, both linked to the development of cancer.
Again, check the ingredient label or the product packaging as most companies will make the absence of these questionable ingredients clear.
Most fresh meat will contain zero carbs but keep an eye out for certain meats like liver. Although liver is highly nutritious, liver may provide more carbs than you expect.
Like fresh meat, most seafood is a fantastic category of foods to consume on a ketogenic diet. Here are some zero-carb seafood options that work well on a low-carb, high-fat, diet:
Here are some low-carb seafood options that work well on a ketogenic diet:
Points to Consider with Seafood
Select wild-caught fish grown in freshwater to avoid contaminants like mercury.
Select wild-caught over farm-raised seafood if your budget permits.
Choose canned fish options in BPA-free cans to avoid consuming chemicals that can leach into food. BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical in products that store food and beverages.
- Also, be aware of consuming significant amounts of large fish. Smaller fish in the ocean eat algae, which is a good thing. However, larger fish bioaccumulate whatever the smaller fish eat, which can lead to higher mercury levels in the fish.
High-quality food options are crucial, but being mindful of beverage choices is essential, as well. Here are some ideal drinks to enjoy on keto:
- Still water (plain or naturally-flavored)
- Seltzer (sugar-free, plain or naturally-flavored))
- Keto Coffee (with MCT oil, heavy cream or grass-fed butter)
- Sugar-free soda (Zevia)
Although more sugar-free beverages are available as the popularity of the ketogenic diet grows, beware: all sugar-free drinks aren't the same. Mind the ingredients in the beverages you choose.
For instance, Diet Coke Zero is sugar-free and won't impact ketosis, but it contains the chemically-derived sweetener aspartame—a known carcinogen. Select natural sugar alternatives and stay away from chemically-processed sweeteners like aspartame.
There are several plant-based sugar alternatives to enjoy on a ketogenic diet, free of dangerous chemicals. Here are a few excellent sugar replacements to consider on keto:
- Stevia (liquid or powder form)
- Monk fruit sweetener (liquid or powder form)
- Erythritol (a type of sugar alcohol)
- Xylitol (a different kind of sugar alcohol)
- Swerve (a blend of erythritol and stevia)
Things to Consider When Choosing a Sugar Alternative
Sugar alcohols can make entering ketosis and maintaining a super low-carb diet feasible. But like everything else we've shared, quality is vital.
For instance, maltitol is a sugar alternative found in many sugar-free foods, but it can cause digestive issues. And sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame are in many low-quality processed foods, so beware.
Stick to the higher quality sweeteners we've mentioned to cater to your sweet tooth without the health risks associated with inferior quality sugar alternatives.
Using flavorful seasonings in keto-friendly dishes is a great way to intensify the taste of dishes instantly. Some herbs and spices contain carbs but can work on keto if used in reasonably small amounts.
Here are some no-carb seasonings and spices to work into your repertoire:
- Black pepper
- Chilli powder
What to Watch for in Seasonings
Single spices and herbs, like those mentioned above, are usually fine and won't spike your blood sugar. However, some spice or seasoning blends include sugar, so be sure to read labels.
Choosing sugar-laden sauces and single condiments can quickly kick you out of ketosis.
Here are some condiments to use while keeping it keto:
- Mayonnaise (sugar-free)
- Hot sauces (e.g., sriracha, Frank's Red Hot, etc.—check the label)
Again, similar to seasoning blends, look out for hidden sugars in condiments. Select condiments that have no sugar added, as some companies add sugar to condiments to intensify their flavor.
Remember, always read labels to avoid consuming sugars that compromise ketosis. Also, select condiments with high-quality ingredients.
For instance, avoid mayonnaise with canola oil and instead choose options made with avocado or olive oil to avoid unhealthy trans fats.
Very Low-Carb Foods
The lists above make it clear that there are many no-carb food options to eat on a ketogenic diet. In addition to the noted options, there are also many low-carb food options to enjoy.
Here are some low-carb food options that work well for anyone following a low-carb, high-fat, ketogenic diet:
Very Low-Carb Vegetables:
- Bell Pepper
- Bok Choi
- Swiss Chard
- Bamboo Shoots
Very Low-carb Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a fantastic source of fat and fiber, perfect for a ketogenic diet.
Here are some ideal nut and seed options to eat on a low-carb, high-fat diet:
- Pili Nuts
- Macadamia Nuts
- Hemp Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Brazil Nuts
Very Low-Carb Dairy and Eggs
- Heavy Cream
- Halloumi Cheese
- Havarti Cheese
- Mozzarella Cheese
- Asiago Cheese
- Blue Cheese
- Goat Cheese
- Parmesan Cheese
- Provolone Cheese
- Colby Cheese
We have a lot of food options to eat on keto, many of which are zero-carb or low-carb. It's effortless to fill your keto meal plan with no-carb or low-carb foods; you need to know which options to choose.
We even offer personalized meal plans that can help keep you focused on your goals and on track to achieve them. Take our short and helpful quiz to formulate your customized keto meal plan today, here.
Ketogenic food options are various and abundant. Experiment with the listed ingredients, and explore those we may have overlooked. It's nearly impossible to get bored, even when omitting sugar and carbs from the diet. Have fun trying out all the tasty treats keto has to offer.
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