Ketogenic diet foods – what to eat
Shopping list | Top 3 mistakes
Are you not sure what to eat on a keto diet? Here you’ll find a quick food list and visual guide, showing you what to eat and avoid on keto. Let’s start with a basic overview:
Here’s what you should not eat on a keto diet – foods full of sugar and starch. As you can see, these foods are much higher in carbs.
Drink water, coffee, tea or the occasional glass of wine. More
Full keto diet food list
- Meat – Unprocessed meats are low carb and keto-friendly, and organic and grass-fed meat is the most healthy of all. But remember that keto is a high-fat diet, not high protein, so you don’t need huge amounts of meat. Excess protein (more than your body needs) is converted to glucose, making it harder to get into ketosis. A normal amount of meat is enough.
Note that processed meats, like sausages, cold cuts and meat balls often contain added carbs. When in doubt look at the ingredients, aim for under 5% carbs. Top recipes
- Fish and seafood – These are all good, excellent even, especially fatty fish like salmon. However, avoid breading, as it contains carbs. If you can find wild-caught fish that’s the very best. Top recipes
- Eggs – Eat them any way, e.g. boiled, fried in butter, scrambled or as omelets, whatever you want. Top keto egg recipes
- Natural fat, high-fat sauces – Most of the calories on a keto diet should come from fat. You’ll likely get much of it from natural sources like meat, fish, eggs etc. But also use fat in cooking, like butter or coconut fat, and add plenty of olive oil to salads etc. You can also eat delicious high-fat sauces including Bearnaise sauce etc., or garlic butter (recipes).
Full guide to keto fats & sauces
Top 10 ways to eat more fat
Remember, don’t fear fat. On keto, fat is your friend. Why saturated fats are fine to eat
- Vegetables growing above ground. Fresh or frozen – either is fine. Choose vegetables growing above ground (here’s why), especially leafy and green items. Favorites include cauliflower, cabbage, avocado, broccoli and zucchini.
Vegetables are a great and 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.
Most people end up eating more vegetables than before when starting keto, as veggies replace the pasta, rice, potatoes etc. Full guide to keto low-carb vegetables
- High-fat dairy – The higher fat the better. Butter is good, high-fat cheese is fine and high-fat yogurts can be had in moderation. Heavy cream is good 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. Definitely avoid caffè latte (18 grams of carbs). Also avoid low-fat yogurts, especially as they often contain lots of added sugars.
- 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 or check out our full keto nuts guide
- Berries – A moderate amount is OK on keto, perhaps with real whipping cream, a popular keto dessert. Full fruits and berries guide
Try to buy organic for the most healthy option. How many eggs can you eat, considering cholesterol? Our advice is no more than 36 eggs, per day. But feel free to eat fewer if you prefer.
Finally, be aware that regularly snacking on cheese when you’re not hungry is a common mistake that can slow weight loss.
- 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 an extra hit of 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.2
- Bone broth – Hydrating, satisfying, chock full of nutrients and electrolytes — and simple to make! — bone broth is a great beverage to sip on the keto diet. Stir in a pat of butter for some extra energy.3
So what does keto food look like when it’s cooked and ready to eat? Feel free to check out our keto recipes for hundreds of examples. Below you’ll find a few popular options.
Shopping lists & meal plans
Alternatively, just use our free 14-day keto meal plan.
You decide when the time is right. Your weight loss could slow down a bit.
- Alcohol: Dry wine (regular red or dry white wine), champagne, whisky, brandy, vodka and cocktails without sugar. Full keto alcohol guide
- Dark chocolate: 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. See our guide to keto treats and snacks.
High-carb foods to avoid
- 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.
Read labels for hidden sugars, especially in sauces, condiments, drinks, dressings and packaged goods. Honey, maple syrup, and agave are also sugars. Ideally try to avoid or limit artificial sweeteners as well. Full keto sweeteners guide
- Starch: Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes (including sweet potatoes), French fries, potato chips, porridge, muesli and so on. Wholegrain products are just less bad.
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.
- Beer: Liquid bread. Full of rapidly absorbed carbs. But there are a few lower-carb beers
- Fruit: Very sweet, lots of sugar. Eat once in a while perhaps. Treat fruit as a natural form of candy. Learn more
- Margarine: It’s industrially produced imitated butter with unnaturally high content of omega-6 fat. It has no health benefits and tastes bad. It’s also statistically linked to asthma, allergies and other inflammatory diseases.
The ketogenic diet has recently become very popular, and many food companies want to cash in by putting a “ketogenic” or “low carb” label on a new product. Be very cautious of special “keto” or “low-carb” products, such as pastas, chocolate bars, energy bars, protein powders, snack foods, cakes, cookies and other “low carb” or “ketogenic” treats. Read all labels carefully for natural low carb ingredients. The fewer ingredients the better.
These packaged products generally do not work well for weight loss and for correcting metabolic issues. They may have hidden carbs not declared on the label, or they may keep you attached to cravings and even addictions to the high-carb foods they attempt to replace.
Analyze the labels. Often you will see that these products are in fact full of additives, chemicals, sweeteners, sugar alcohols. They are in essence a processed junk food with a “keto” label.” And the labels may even lie. A large pasta company was recently fined $8 million for lying about the carb content of their products.
- Don’t replace high carb junk with keto junk. Don’t swap out real sugar for fake sugar. If you want a treat, make a low carb version of a dessert or treat yourself, using our dessert or treat guide. You will likely have more life-long success on the keto diet if you adapt your palate so that you no longer want, need, or crave these sorts of foods.
- Beware of labels that say “net carbs.” That is often a form of creative marketing to hide the true carb content.
See this guide about deceptive keto products.
Eat real food
This leaflet with basic keto advice can be printed for easy reference, or given to curious friends.
How low carb is keto?
Keto is a low-carb diet, not “no carb”. So how much of carbs can you eat in a day?
The answer is that it depends. But as a rough guide stay under 20 grams per day for maximum effect, and everyone who wants some benefits of low-carb eating (like effortless weight loss) should probably aim for at least staying under 100 grams of carbs per day.
Below are three examples of how a low-carb meal can look, depending on how many carbs you eat per day. Learn about how many carbs can be appropriate for you
Keto needs to be high fat
A proper keto low-carb diet always means you get a lot more energy from natural fat (like butter or olive oil, etc.).
The body has two main sources of energy: carbs and fats. Take away most of the carbs and the body switches to burning fat for energy. This can come from your fat stores or the fat in your food.
This is why some smart people call keto diets “LCHF” (low carb, high fat).
How much fat should you eat? As much as you need to feel satisfied. Whatever else the body burns, it will take from your fat stores, as you lose weight. Eat more fat than you need to feel great, and it will slow down your fat loss. Eat too little fat, and you’ll feel tired and hungry.
So how much fat should you eat? As much as you need to feel satisfied and great. Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are satisfied. Then repeat. It’s that simple.
Visual keto guides
Questions and answers
There are many common questions about keto foods, and we’ll do our best to answer them all. Feel free to check out our full keto FAQ, or choose one of the questions below.
Can I eat a vegetarian keto diet?
Yes. Especially if you eat eggs and dairy (lacto-ovo vegetarianism) it’s very easy. Vegan keto is harder to do, but you can certainly eat a lower-carb vegan diet. Learn more and find inspiration here
Can I eat a dairy-free keto diet?
Sure. It’s not even remotely necessary to eat dairy to successfully eat keto, in fact a dairy-free keto diet can be very effective. Learn more and find recipes
Can I drink alcohol on a keto diet?
Yes. But make sure it’s an alcoholic drink that is low in carbs, like wine. Check out our full guide to keto alcoholic drinks
- What can you drink on the keto diet?
- Can I have fruit on a keto diet?
- What’s the difference between low carb and keto?
More keto recipes
The numbers are grams of digestible carbs per 100 grams, i.e. net carbs. ↩
Read labels on some herbal or specialty teas to make sure it does not contain added sugars or sweeteners. Be careful of herbal teas with licorice flavouring, as these have been known to raise blood pressure, lower potassium, or cause erratic heart beats in some people. ↩
Many local butchers and health food stores are now making bone broth for purchase. In a pinch, sip commercial beef stock or chicken stock, choosing organic brands with the most natural, and shortest, list of ingredients. ↩