This Food With Ketones blog is designed to help you with the questions about what ketogenic eating is, and how to start. It’s for people who are new to the idea of eating a high fat, low carb diet.
Food With Ketones
You don’t have to worry about trying to fill up on veggies on a ketogenic diet, but plan on getting most of your carbs from this source because you need the living enzymes the vegetables provide. Pick and choose carefully. Stick to vegetables that grow above the ground; root vegetables are high in starch and carbohydrates and often come with a high glycemic index.
Spinach and lettuce are two of the lowest-carb vegetables out there. Avocados are a great source of fat as well as being low in carbs. Other good choices include:
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
Fill Your Sweet Tooth
Lest you be turned off by the thought of all-savory flavor profiles that don’t include sweets, think again. Create confections, from pancakes with berries to birthday cakes, by using keto-friendly sweeteners and baking goods.
Sweeteners: Stevia and erythritol have zero grams of carbs. The two are combined in the product Truvia. Although they have zero carbs, there are not sufficient studies to know whether they affect insulin, glucose or any other part of metabolism that could derail a keto diet plan.
Flours: Almond flour adds a nutty taste and has a grainier texture. You’ll need a binding agent to hold it together in your confections. Coconut flour has some binding capabilities of its own and adds a somewhat sweet tropical taste.
Binding agents: Eggs work well in most keto recipes, but you can also opt for psyllium husk powder if you want something with less protein. It is high in fiber, so up your water intake to avoid constipation or intestinal blockage.
Flavorings: Full-fat dairy products such as butter, heavy whipping cream and cream cheese add richness to any dessert or confection. Dark chocolate, preferably sugar-free, and berries are the way to go; both have carbs, so they’re best used as garnishes rather than the main flavor profile.
Scrumptious Keto Snacks
Eating when hungry is a crucial aspect of the keto diet plan. However, you don’t have to cook up meat or another big meal every time your stomach growls if you have keto-friendly snacks on hand.
Hard-cooked eggs have less than 1 gram of carbohydrates. They’re also easy to prepare ahead of time and have on hand for any snack attack. Avocado, cheese, sliced meat or filler-free cold cuts, olives and nuts are other easy options.
For game day, you can create many delicious finger foods that don’t divert from your diet. Put tuna, egg salad or other carb-friendly ingredients on a romaine lettuce leaf; make wraps with iceberg lettuce leaves; top sesame crackers with sliced veggies; spread or bake up some red pepper boats topped with cheese and chorizo.
Keto Food Guide: What to Eat and What to Avoid
hen you’re new to the Keto diet, the grocery store can feel like enemy territory, with hidden carbs everywhere just waiting to make their way into your cart and throw you out of ketosis.
If you’ve read our Ultimate Guide to the Keto Diet, then you already know the basics: limit carbs, get adequate protein, eat plenty of healthy fats, and avoid processed junk.
But what does that look like in practice?
Rest assured that after a few weeks, this will all seem like second nature. But in the meantime, we’ve put together this printable Keto food list to save you hours of staring at labels on your next shopping trip.
And remember — if you do come across an item in the grocery store that you’re unsure of, we’ve got you covered. Just open the Carb Manager app on your mobile device, and use our barcode scanner to quickly determine the “Keto grade” for any food item.
Note: Carb Manager recommends buying the highest quality food that you can aﬀord. Key words being “that you can aﬀord.” Local, organic produce, grass-fed and/or cage-free meats, and wild-caught seafood are ideal. But if your budget is tight, you can still succeed and thrive on Keto. Be sure to check out the “Eating Keto on a Budget” section of our Ultimate Guide to Keto for tips and suggestions. Above all, do what’s best for your own personal goals and budget.
Foods to Eat
Keto is a high fat, moderate protein, very low-carb diet, with a macros target of about 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbs (70:25:5).
Examples of foods that you’ll eat in abundance on the Keto diet:
- Fish and seafood
- Low-carb veggies
- Low carb dairy; Cheese, plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese etc
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy oils
- Unsweetened coﬀee and tea
Examples of foods that are allowed in moderation:
- Dark chocolate and cocoa powder (90%+ cacao)
- Non-glycemic sweeteners
Let’s go ahead and explore the main Keto food categories in more detail.
Meat & Eggs
The idea that Keto is an “all meat” diet is a popular misconception. While the idea that over-consuming protein will kick you out of ketosis is no longer supported by current research, Keto dieters should strive to maintain a balance between meat, vegetables, and other foods to maximize nutritional variety. Most individuals following Keto should aim to eat a fairly “normal” amount of meat, and to choose meats that are higher in fat to help with hitting your fat macro target.
Examples of Keto-friendly meat and egg options:
- Wild Game
- Organ meats
- Deli meats in moderation (Sliced chicken, corned beef, ham, pancetta, pastrami, prosciutto, roast beef, speck, and turkey, etc.)
- Cured meats in moderation (Sliced chorizo, pepperoni, salami, and soppressata)
Note: Some types of processed meats like ham, bacon, some deli meats, as well as some cured meats, may contain sugar or fillers which can pack on the carb count and render them non-Keto friendly.
Fish and Shellfish
Fatty fish and other seafood is an ideal source of both protein and fat. Note that some seafood, particularly shellfish, can contain a significant number carbs.
Examples of Keto-friendly options:
- Clams & Oysters (In moderation)
- Wild salmon
Cheese and Other Dairy
This category can be an excellent source of healthy fats. Be cautious about eating large amounts of dairy until you’re sure that your body can handle it; many people are sensitive and run into issues with inflammation. You’ll notice that milk is NOT included in this list, as it’s relatively high in carbs due to it’s naturally occurring sugar content, and should be consumed very sparingly.
Examples of Keto-friendly dairy options:
- Bleu cheese
- Cottage cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Cream cheese
- Goat cheese
- Goat cheese
- Plain greek yogurt
- Swiss cheese
- Parmesan cheese
While most of your fat calories will come from elsewhere in your diet, cooking with liberal quantities of healthy oils can really help to boost your daily fat macros ratio. Healthy oils can also be used to bump up the fat content of dishes that might otherwise be lacking in that area. Asparagus sauteed in avocado oil? Salad drizzled in olive oil? Yes, please!
Examples of Keto-friendly fats and oils:
- Butter, preferably from grass-fed sources
- Coconut cream
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
- Olive oil
- Walnut oil
- Sesame oil
- Cacao butter
- Lard from pasture-raised sources
Seeds and Nuts
This category is packed with protein and healthy fats, and many options are very low carb. Use for topping salads, incorporate into recipes, or eat on their own as a healthy snack.
Examples of Keto-friendly options:
- Chia seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Hemp seeds
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Flours or butters made from any of these sources
Contrary to the version of Keto that’s often portrayed in the media, the diet (when followed properly) actually skews more toward vegetables sauteed in healthy fats than it does endless piles of bacon. Veggies prepared with a healthy oil should be the backbone of your Ketogenic diet.
Although there are numerous exceptions, a good rule of thumb is to choose vegetables that grow above ground, and to avoid starchy root vegetables. Use the food database in the Carb Manager app to check net carbs for foods that you’re not familiar with.
Examples of Keto-friendly vegetable options:
- Bitter greens
- Bok choy
- Summer squash
- Brussel sprouts
- Green Beans
- Green and red peppers
- Tomatoes (In moderation)
- Certain mushrooms
Most fruits are sugar-bombs, and are strictly oﬀ limits on the Keto diet. But that doesn’t mean you have to swear oﬀ of all fruits forever!
These fruits are fairly low in carbs, and are acceptable in moderation:
- Cranberries (unprocessed, unsweetened)
Individuals following Keto should drink an abundance of water to keep themselves hydrated and flush out toxins. Alcohol (even Keto-friendly options) should be kept to a minimum.
Examples of Keto-friendly beverage options:
- Lemon water
- Black coﬀee
- Unsweetened tea
- Bone broth
- Mineral water
While sugar is strictly forbidden on a Ketogenic diet, it’s possible to satisfy your sweet tooth while remaining in ketosis with non-glycemic alternatives.
Examples of Keto-friendly sweeteners:
- Monk fruit sweetener
Foods not to Eat
You probably already know that you should avoid high-carb foods while following the Keto diet. But did you know that unhealthy fats and “processed foods” are also restricted if you’re doing “clean Keto”? While these foods might not knock you out of ketosis, they can contribute to inflammation and other health issues, which defeats the purpose of losing weight and taking control of your health.
Examples of foods that you should avoid altogether on the Keto diet:
- Starchy vegetables
- High-sugar fruits
- Sweetened yogurt
- Soda and fruit juices
- Honey, syrup, or sugar in any form
- Chips and crackers
- Baked goods, including gluten-free
- Corn products
- Seed oils
- Sugary snacks
With that basic list in place, let’s go ahead and explore the main categories of “foods to avoid” in more detail.
Grain-based foods tend to be very high in carbs. This includes many “gluten-free” substitutes, which are made with non-wheat grains or other high-carb alternatives.
- Flour and corn tortillas
- White bread
- Rye bread
- Wheat bread
- Sourdough bread
- Sandwich Wraps
While low-carb vegetables should be a staple of your healthy Ketogenic diet, many vegetables are surprisingly high in carbs and should be avoided. As mentioned above, most root veggies are loaded with carbs and are “oﬀ-limits”.
Examples of vegetables to avoid:
- Sweet potatoes
- Cassava (also known as Yuca)
Leguminous foods like peas and beans are usually high in protein and other essential nutrients. Unfortunately, they are also very high in carbs, and should be avoided when following a Ketogenic diet.
Examples of legumes to avoid:
- Baked beans
- Pinto beans
- Lima beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Black beans
- Green peas
- Cannellini beans
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Great Northern beans
- Navy beans
Despite their healthy reputation, fruits are loaded with carbs. A single small apple contains enough carbs to knock most people out of ketosis! Most fruits should be avoided completely by those following a Ketogenic diet.
Examples of fruits to avoid are:
Complete Keto Diet Food List: What You Can and Cannot Eat If You’re on a Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein and very low-carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, but on a strict ketogenic diet, less than 5 percent of energy intake is from carbohydrates (learn more in our beginner’s guide for the ketogenic diet). The reduction of carbohydrates puts the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis is when the body starts breaking down stored fat into molecules called ketone bodies to use for energy, in the absence of circulating blood sugar from food. Once the body reaches ketosis, most cells will use ketone bodies to generate energy until you start eating carbohydrates again.
Traditionally, the ketogenic diet was only used in clinical settings to reduce seizures in children with epilepsy. “Now there is a lot of interest in the diet’s effectiveness in helping with other neurological conditions, cancer, diabetes, PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome], obesity, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease,” says Emily Stone, M.S., R.D. People also eat keto to lose weight .
Even if you know that you need to eat a very low-carb, high-fat, moderate protein diet—it can be confusing to know which foods to eat. Here’s our guide to foods you can eat, foods you should avoid and foods you can sometimes have when you’re following a ketogenic diet.
Foods You Can Eat on the Ketogenic Diet
Here is a list of all the low-carb, keto-friendly foods that are appropriate to eat when you’re following keto.
- Fish and seafood
- Low-carb veggies
- Nuts, seeds and healthful oils
- Plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
- Unsweetened coffee and tea
- Dark chocolate and cocoa powder
Fish and Seafood
Fish is rich in B vitamins, potassium and selenium; it’s also protein-rich and carb-free. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, albacore tuna and other fatty fish boast high levels of omega-3 fats, which have been found to lower blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity. Frequent fish intake has been linked to a decreased risk of chronic disease as well as improved mental health. Aim to consume at least two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish weekly.
Nonstarchy vegetables are low in calories and carbs, but high in many nutrients, including vitamin C and several minerals. They also contain antioxidants that help protect against cell-damaging free radicals. Aim for nonstarchy vegetables with less than 8 g of net carbs per cup. Net carbs are total carbohydrates minus fiber. Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, bell peppers, zucchini and spinach fit the bill.
Cheese has zero carbohydrates and is high in fat, making it a great fit for the ketogenic diet. It’s also rich in protein and calcium. But, a 1-ounce slice of cheese delivers about 30 percent of the daily value for saturated fat, so if you’re worried about heart disease consider portions when noshing on cheese.
Plain Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese
Yogurt and cottage cheese are high in protein and calcium-rich. Five ounces of plain Greek yogurt provides just 5 g of carbohydrates and 12 grams of protein. The same amount of cottage cheese also has 5 grams of carbohydrates with 18 grams of protein. Studies have shown that both calcium and protein can reduce appetite and promote fullness. Higher-fat yogurts and cottage cheese help keep you full for longer, and full-fat products would be part of the ketogenic diet.
Choose heart-healthy fats like avocados, which are high in monounsaturated fat and potassium, a mineral many Americans are lacking. Half of a medium avocado contains 9 grams of total carbohydrates, 7 grams of which are fiber. Swapping animal fats for plant fats like avocados can help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Meat and Poultry
Meat is a source of lean protein and is considered a staple on the ketogenic diet. Fresh meat and poultry contain no carbohydrates and are rich in B vitamins and several minerals, including potassium, selenium and zinc. While processed meats, like bacon and sausage, are allowed on keto, they aren’t the best for your heart and may raise your risk of certain types of cancer if you eat too much. Choose chicken, fish and beef more often and limit processed meats.
Eggs are high in protein, B vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Two eggs contain zero carbohydrates and 12 grams of protein. Eggs have been shown to trigger hormones that increase feelings of fullness and keep blood sugar levels stable, and they also contain antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect eye health.
Nuts, Seeds and Healthy Oils
Nuts and seeds are full of healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, fiber and protein. They also are very low in net carbs. Olive oil and coconut oil are the two oils recommended on the keto diet. Olive oil is high in oleic acid and is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat but contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can increase ketone production. MCTs may increase metabolic rate and promote the loss of weight and belly fat too. Measure portion sizes when consuming any type of healthy fat.
Carb counts for 1 oz. (28 g) of nuts and seeds (net carbohydrate equals total carbs minus fiber):
- Almonds: 3 g net carbs (6 g total carbs)
- Brazil nuts: 1 g net carbs (3 g total carbs)
- Cashews: 8 g net carbs (9 g total carbs)
- Macadamia nuts: 2 g net carbs (4 g total carbs)
- Pecans: 1 g net carbs (4 g total carbs)
- Pistachios: 5 g net carbs (8 g total carbs)
- Walnuts: 2 g net carbs (4 g total carbs)
- Chia seeds: 2 g net carbs (12 g total carbs)
- Flaxseeds: 0 g net carbs (8 g total carbs)
- Pumpkin seeds: 2 g net carbs (4 g total carbs)
- Sesame seeds: 4 g net carbs (7 g total carbs)
Berries are rich in antioxidants that reduce inflammation and protect against disease. They are low in carbs and high in fiber.
Carb counts for 1/2 cup of some berries:
- Blackberries: 3 g net carbs (7 g total carbs)
- Blueberries: 9 g net carbs (11 g total carbs)
- Raspberries: 3 g net carbs (7 g total carbs)
- Strawberries: 3 g net carbs (6 g total carbs)
Unsweetened Coffee and Tea
Plain coffee and tea contain zero grams of carbohydrates, fat or protein, so they are A-OK on the keto diet. Studies show coffee lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Tea is rich in antioxidants and has less caffeine than coffee; drinking tea may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, help with weight loss and boost your immune system.
Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder
Check the label on these, as the amount of carbs depends on the type and how much you consume. Cocoa has been called a “superfruit” because it is rich in antioxidants, and dark chocolate contains flavanols, which may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and keeping arteries healthy.
List of Foods You Can’t Eat on the Keto Diet:
- Starchy vegetables and high-sugar fruits
- Sweetened yogurt
- Honey, syrup or sugar in any form
- Chips and crackers
- Baked goods including gluten-free baked goods
Don’t get too discouraged. Dietitians Stone and Laura Dority, M.S., R.D., L.D., with Keto Knowledge LLC, say that no foods are really off-limits on the keto diet. It’s about total carbohydrate intake and how you choose to “spend” your carbs. Generally, you should stay under 20-40 grams of carbohydrates per day. “The exact amount needed to achieve ketosis can vary on the individual, though, with carb prescriptions ranging from 10 to 60 grams per day. This total is for net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber),” says Stone.
Dority adds, “Individuals who are really active can eat more carbs (maybe more at the 40-gram level) than someone who is sedentary.”
High-Carb Foods That Most People Avoid on the Keto Diet
Cereal, crackers, rice, pasta, bread and beer are high in carbohydrates. Even whole-wheat pasta and the new bean-based pastas are high in carbs. Consider alternatives like spiralized vegetables or shirataki noodles, which are healthier low-carb options. Sugary breakfast cereals and healthy whole-grain cereals are high in carbohydrates too and should be avoided or minimized. “A slice of bread is 11 grams of carbs on average so technically you could have one slice a day maybe but that’s spending all your carbs on pretty poor nutrition so I wouldn’t recommend it when for the same carbs you could have A LOT of veggies,” says Dority.
Beer can be enjoyed in moderation on a low-carb diet. Dry wine and spirits are better options but all alcohol should be very limited.
Starchy vegetables and high-sugar fruits
Starchy vegetables contain more digestible carbohydrates than fiber and should be limited on the ketogenic diet. These include corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets. Limit high-sugar fruits too, which spike your blood sugar more quickly than berries and have more carbohydrates (get a full list of low-carb fruits ranked from lowest to highest).
Carb counts for high-sugar fruits:
- Banana (1 medium): 24 g net carbs (27 g total carbs)
- Raisins (1 oz. / 28 g): 21 g net carbs, 22 g total carbs)
- Dates (2 large): 32 g net carbs (36 g total carbs)
- Mango (1 cup, sliced): 22 g net carbs (25 g total carbs)
- Pear (1 medium): 21 g net carbs (27 g total carbs)
Carb counts for starchy vegetables:
- Corn (1 cup): 32 g net carbs (36 g total carbs)
- Potato (1 medium): 33 g net carbs (37 g total carbs)
- Sweet potato (1 medium): 20 g net carbs (24 g total carbs)
- Beets (1 cup, cooked): 14 g net carbs (17 g total carbs)
Stick to plain yogurt to limit added sugars (aka carbohydrates). Greek yogurt is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates compared to regular yogurt.
Fruit juice-natural or not-is high in fast-digesting carbs that spike your blood sugar. Stick to water.
Honey, syrup and sugar in any form
Avoid sugar, honey, maple syrup and other forms of sugar, which are high in carbohydrates and low in nutrients.
Chips and crackers
Avoid chips, crackers and other processed, grain-based snack foods, which are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber.
Gluten-free baked goods
Gluten-free does not equal carb-free. In fact, many gluten-free breads and muffins are as high in carbohydrates as traditional baked goods. They usually lack fiber too.
Foods and Drinks You Can Sometimes Have on the Keto Diet
You can technically have any food on the keto diet if it falls within your daily carbohydrate goal, but these foods fall in the middle between high-carb and low-carb.
Milk is an excellent source of calcium, potassium and several B vitamins. But, 1 cup has 12 grams of sugar (lactose). Choose almond, coconut or another low-carb milk instead.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are high in fiber and protein and are part of a heart-healthy diet but are also high in carbohydrates. They may be included in small amounts on a ketogenic diet. However, it’s often recommended to avoid them altogether.
Pros of the Ketogenic Diet
“There is solid evidence to support use of the ketogenic diet in individuals with epilepsy who have seizures that are drug resistant,” says Dority. In the short term, people who follow the diet report weight loss. Dority says, “There is certainly some good recent research showing promise in disorders such as autism, traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, migraines and Alzheimer’s (to name a few but the list could go on), as well as some great research on ketogenic diets and type 2 diabetes reversal including dramatically reducing insulin needs, fasting blood sugar levels, lowering A1C and obtaining significant weight loss.”
Cons of the Ketogenic Diet
“Like most highly restrictive diets, it is difficult to meet nutritional needs while doing keto,” says Stone. “It often comes with uncomfortable side effects like constipation and the ‘keto flu.’ Also, the long-term health consequences are not well understood.” Learn more about the negative side effects of the keto diet.
The Bottom Line
It’s not a one-size-fits-all prescription, and it’s crucial to work with a dietitian to ensure you’re getting essential nutrients while maintaining ketosis. There’s promising research on the benefits of the ketogenic diet for many conditions, but some people can’t keep it up for the long haul, plus the long-term effects are poorly understood. If you decide to go keto, work with a dietitian to help you create a plan.