The Ketogenic Diet, or keto diet for short, is a low-carb anti-inflammatory diet that originated as a means to treat epilepsy.
However, its health benefits, including weight loss, have popularized the diet for people of all health profiles.
To comprehend the keto diet, it’s necessary to understand some facts about carbohydrates, processed foods, and the importance of maintaining a ratio of fats to proteins to carbs in terms of calories consumed.
Once you understand how the diet works, identify which foods make up a diet that will put your body into a state of ketosis, and create a meal plan, you will find a keto diet food list easy and enjoyable to follow.
Below we cover what to eat on a keto diet, followed by what not to eat, and wrap up with a few frequently asked questions.
1. Grass-fed meat
Grass-fed protein consists entirely of fats and proteins. Compared to grain-fed meats, grass-fed options offer higher amounts of nutrients, amino acids, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Veggie burgers and other plant-based meat alternatives can consist of vegetables, legumes, grains, preservatives, and processed ingredients. For this reason, they should be considered separately from meat as grass-fed or otherwise.
Here is a list of grass-fed meat options that not only qualify as ketogenic options.
- Game meat such as venison, bison, rabbit, etc.
The recommended protein amount for the ketogenic diet, regardless of food category, follows a ratio that is as follows.
- (High fat)70 to 85 percent of total daily calories from fat
- (Moderate protein)10 to 20 percent of total daily calories from protein
- (Low carbohydrate)5 to 7 percent of total daily calories from carbohydrates
2. Wild-caught fish and seafood
Wild-caught fish and seafood provide healthy keto diet food when prepared and consumed by themselves.
Most wild-caught seafood offers a healthy source of many vitamins and nutrients. In addition, wild-caught fish and seafood are rich in a few vitamins and nutrients listed below.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA)
- B-complex vitamins (B1, B3, biotin, B12, etc.)
Farm-rase seafood presents a number of problems to those following a ketogenic diet. We’ll go into this more below.
However, wild-caught seafood is preferable to farm-raised seafood for a few more apparent reasons, such as being more satiating due to richer flavors and offering a more nutrient-dense food source.
Seafood is an excellent source of protein for those on the keto diet, but be sure to compensate for the high amounts of protein with some source of fat. Most seafood, such as the popular choices listed below, are high in protein but low in fats.
- Salmon (higher oil content)
- Other lean or fatty fish
3. Pastured pork and poultry
Pastured pork and poultry, which also means grass-fed meat, offers superior health benefits to factory farming due to the higher quality and nutrient density of the protein yielded.
4. Organic eggs
Organic Eggs are a staple of the ketogenic diet because they are high in fats and protein while containing minimal carbohydrates.
Whole large organic eggs are very rich in minerals and vitamins, compared to non-organic eggs, and are a source of healthy fats. The main vitamins and minerals are as follows.
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B5
Eggs are famous in the keto food diet because they are rich in nutrients. They include trace amounts of nutrients, over 70 essential body minerals, and vitamins. Here is a list of nutrients found in eggs.
- Vitamin E
- Many others
A large whole organic egg provides 6 percent of one’s DRI. For protein, a large egg provides 6.29 grams of protein. Calculate RDA by including your body weight.
5. Healthy fats
Healthy fats, including oils, are composed of fatty acids and vital ketones. Pure fats and oils do not contain carbohydrates. Virgin oils such as virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil offer a wide range of health benefits. They are superior to hydrogenated oils, which contain trans-fatty acids that can raise potentially harmful Low-density lipoproteins (LDL).
Additionally, avocado oil poses a healthier cooking alternative to olive oil that undergoes a chemical change into a trans-fat once it reaches a higher temperature.
Healthy fats and oils include the following.
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Bacon grease
- Sesame oil
6. Non-starchy vegetables and mushrooms
The ketogenic diet includes a great many vegetables. However, all vegetables contain some carbohydrates. It’s essential to understand which vegetables can be eaten by themselves and which require the addition of fat or protein to reach a ratio of calories that meets keto requirements.
Vegetables are nutrient-dense in terms of their ratio of calories to nutrients. As a result, your body can quickly break them down and receive essential materials. Vegetables are a good source of the following.
Be sure to look to net carbs and not total carbs. Simply subtract the fiber from the total carbs in grams to calculate this correctly.
Here is a list of what vegetables are suitable for a keto food diet.
- Arugula – 0.8 net carbs (serving size two cups)
- Asparagus – 1.9 net carbs (serving size seven medium spears)
- Bamboo Shoots – 2.25 net carbs (serving size 1/4 cup)
- Bell Pepper – 3.3 net carbs (serving size 1/2 large bell pepper)
- Bok Choy – 0.8 net carbs (serving size one cup)
- Broccoli – 4 net carbs (serving size one cup)
- Brussel Sprouts – 4.6 net carbs (serving size one cup)
- Cabbage – 4.5 net carbs (serving size two cups)
- Carrots – 4.9 net carbs (serving size one large carrot)
- Cauliflower – 3.2 net carbs (serving size one cup)
- Celery – 1.4 net carbs (serving size one cup)
- Cucumber – 2.3 net carbs (serving size one small whole cucumber)
- Eggplant – 2.3 net carbs (serving size one cup)
- Green Beans – 4 net carbs (serving size 1/2 cup)
- Jalapeno – 0.5 net carbs (serving size one pepper)
- Kale – 0.1 net carbs (serving size two cups)
- Kohlrabi – 3.5 net carbs (serving size one cup)
- Leek – 2.75 net carbs (serving size 1/4 whole leek)
- Mushrooms – 2 net carbs (serving size one cup)
- Mustard Greens – 1.6 net carbs (serving size two cups)
- Okra – 4 net carbs (serving size eight pods)
- Onion – 2.15 net carbs (serving size 1/4 medium onion)
- Radish – 1.6 net carbs (serving size twenty medium radishes)
- Snow Peas – 4.9 net carbs (serving size one cup)
- Spinach – 0.9 net carbs (serving size two cups)
- Swiss Chard – 1.5 net carbs (serving size two cups)
- Tomato – 2 net carbs (serving size 1/2 cup)
- Turnip – 2.8 net carbs (serving size one small turnip)
- Watercress – 0.6 net carbs (serving size two cups)
- Zucchini – 4 net carbs (serving size one medium zucchini)
Different forms of lettuce and greens are also keto-friendly. Root vegetables like carrots, beetroot, rutabaga, parsnips, and artichokes are often found in keto recipes but must include additional fat and protein added from other ingredients.
- Dietary Fiber
Fruits, like vegetables, are nutrient-dense and are low in calories. They contain many healthy vitamins and nutrients, such as those listed below.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Dietary fiber
- Insoluble fiber
Fructose is the most common form of sugar found in most fruits, honey, and agave nectar. Being a sugar, fructose is also a carbohydrate and should generally be avoided to keep one’s body in a state of ketosis.
That said, berries can be consumed in small quantities as a light dessert to a keto meal. Here is a list of berries that can be enjoyed in small servings.
- Raspberries – 3.67 carbs, 0.37 protein (serving size 1/4 cup)
- Blackberries – 3.46 carbs, 0.5 protein (serving size 1/4 cup)
- Strawberries – 1.38 carbs, 0.12 protein (serving size one large strawberry)
- Blueberries – 1.97 carbs, 0.1 protein (servicing size ten blueberries)
Another fruit, but one that is very commonly used on the ketogenic diet, is the avocado. It’s often mistaken as a vegetable but is a fruit, although it does not contain fructose or carbohydrates and is rich in healthy fats and other vitamins and minerals.
A single avocado offers 29.47 grams of fat, 4.02 grams of protein, and 3.65 grams of carbohydrates and contains the following nutrients.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
8. Beverages and Condiments
Beverages that can be consumed on the ketogenic are the following.
- Tea (black and herbal)
- Water (with or without lemon)
- Mineral water
- Wine (in small amounts)
- Zero-sugar soft drinks
Drinking large quantities of water is essential to those on a keto diet. This is especially true in the early stages when one’s body is transitioning into a state of ketosis.
9. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is a superfood. Dark chocolate may be enjoyed in small servings on the keto diet when consumed unsweetened or with no-calorie sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit.
Here are the nutrients found in dark chocolate.
- Vitamin K
10. Cocoa powder
Cocoa powder is used in the making of various ketogenic dishes.
Nutrients include the following.
Cocoa powder offers 0.74g of fat, 1.06g of protein, and 1.13g of net carb.
11. Shirataki noodles
Shirataki noodles are a popular alternative to pasta, rice noodles, and other carbohydrate-rich noodle products.
They contain 0.5g of fat, 1g of protein, and 1g of net carbohydrates in terms of nutrition.
For health benefits, Shirataki noodles include glucomannan, which requires little work in terms of digestion and behaves like dietary fiber in one’s system.
12. Low carb dairy
Milk and many other dairy products contain a large ratio of carbohydrates and are not part of a keto food plan. However, many dairy products do qualify as ketogenic.
Keto options include the following.
- Real butter – 11.52g fat, 0.12g protein, 0.01g net carb (serving size one tablespoon)
- Heavy cream (40% fat or more) – 5.51g fat, 0.31g protein, 0.42g net carb (serving size one tablespoon)
- Sour cream – 3.02g fat, 0.46g protein, 0.61g net carb (serving size 1 tablespoon)
- Greek yogurt – 11.03g fat, 4.87g protein, 6.05g net carb (serving size 1/2 cup)
- High-fat cheese – approximately 9g fat, 5g protein, 1g or less of net carb (servicing size one ounce)
Dairy products offer many healthy nutrients, such as those listed below.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Pantothenic Acid
When in ketosis, the early stages result in fat cells being broken down and shed. That means a significant portion of both water and nutrients exit your system.
Water, mineral water, and electrolytes are essential to consume regularly to stay hydrated.
What can’t you eat on the keto diet?
Grains are high in carbohydrates. So even healthy grains such as quinoa will stop your system from going into ketosis.
Almond flour, coconut flour, xanthan gum, and other low-carb flours are often used in ketogenic recipes to replace grains such as bread crumbs and all-purpose flours.
Whether made from wheat, eggs, or rice, pasta always contains high amounts of carbohydrates. For this reason, pasta is not a ketogenic option.
Shirataki noodles and zucchini spirals are popular ketogenic substitutes for pasta.
3. Starchy vegetables
Starchy such as potatoes, radishes, yams, sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables tend to be high in complex carbohydrates. While these vegetables offer many health benefits, they are not part of a ketogenic diet.
Occasionally, root vegetables such as carrots are used in small quantities for different keto recipes.
4. High-sugar fruits
High-sugar fruits, which contain high amounts of fructose, are the most detrimental food category in ending a state of ketosis.
For those seeking fruit alternatives, berries in small quantities and accompanying a high in fats can be enjoyed.
5. Sweetened yogurt
Sweetened yogurt, such as the popular flavored yogurts found in many grocery stores, contains high amounts of sugar and should be avoided.
Additionally, sugar-free yogurt contains high amounts of carbohydrates that come from milk.
A popular alternative to yogurt is sour cream.
Sodas that contain sugar, high-fructose corny syrup, and aspartame (often found in diet sodas) are all high in carbohydrates and should be avoided when following a ketogenic diet.
Stevia-sweetened sodas are popular in some areas and offer a keto solution to those craving sodas. Additionally, one of the best alternatives is to make soda using mineral water and stevia as a sweetener.
7. Fruit juices
All fruit juices are high in fructose and not ketogenic. On occasion, the one exception that may be enjoyed sparingly is coconut water.
Coconut sugar’s chemical makeup is different from other fruits and more conducive to the ketogenic diet.
8. Honey, syrup, or sugar in any form
The ketogenic diet states that carbohydrates make up five percent of one’s daily caloric intake. At first, it might seem that a bit of sugar, honey, or syrup is suitable. However, sugar should always be avoided on the keto diet.
The small amounts of carbohydrates gained on a keto diet should come from vegetables and other foods.
Chips made from potatoes or grains are not part of a keto diet.
A popular solution for those craving crunchy chips is to fry zucchini into vegetable chips or bake cheese until its texture becomes crunchy.
Crackers, like chips, are made from grains and often contain sugar, so they are not keto-friendly.
Also, like chips, there are some recipes for crackers being made from cheese.
11. Baked goods, including gluten-free
Many gluten-free baked goods and baking flours are not ketogenic because they contain carbohydrates.
However, a growing assort of baking ingredients is available to create traditional recipes like cookies, cake, and bread.
The following flours are keto-friendly.
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Xanthum gum
- Psyllium husk
- Confection stevia
- Black sesame seed
12. Corn products
Corn does not fit into a keto diet because it contains high carbohydrates as corn is considered a grain.
Corn products, such as tortillas, can be substituted in several ways, such as using egg, fats, and keto-friendly flours.
13. Seed oils
Olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, and other oils are safe to consume on the keto diet.
Seed oils and vegetable oils are highly processed and are not well-known for their effects on the body.
For this reason, seed and vegetable oils should be avoided on any diet.
14. Sugary snacks
Sugary snacks, as the name implies, contain sugar. The main contributor of calories in most processed sweets in the United States is high-fructose corn syrup. Also found in honey and agave nectar, fructose is sugar and not part of a ketogenic diet.
15. Factory-farmed fish
While some exceptions exist, factory-farmed fish are generally less healthy than wild-caught fish.
Animals that do not follow a natural diet and life cycle can impart reduced health benefits.
16. Factory-farmed pork
Factory-farmed pork is suitable for a ketogenic diet due to its fats, proteins, and carbohydrates ratio.
However, pastured and grass-fed pork is always superior to other factory-farmed meats, especially when on the keto diet.
The ketogenic diet restricts eating many healthy foods. That means that the highest quality, most nutrient-dense choices of foods should be sought to ensure the optimal amount of vitamins and minerals.
17. Processed food
Many processed foods qualify as ketogenic, but it can be difficult to distinguish which ones do. Contrary to popular belief, not all ingredients are listed on labels. Chemical-based ingredients, such as dextrose, can also derail your system once it’s in ketosis.
Processed foods offer inadequate nutrition and flavor in comparison to whole-natural foods.
How many calories can you eat while on a keto diet?
You can eat as many calories as you like on a ketogenic diet, but how much you should eat is determined by your intentions.
One thousand five hundred calories are the recommended amount of daily caloric intake when actively working to lose weight. However, the daily amount of calories recommended for the average person not interested in lowering their caloric intake is 2000.
How many percent of daily fat intake do you need doing a keto diet?
On the ketogenic diet, daily fat intake should be at least 70 percent and up to 85 percent of total calories consumed to achieve and stay in ketosis.
How many percent of daily protein do you need doing the keto diet?
10 to 25 percent of your daily calories consumed should come from protein. A higher protein percentage will change the ratio of proteins to fat and cause your body to transition into glucosis instead of ketosis.
Is the keto diet food list expensive?
While most people will agree that the keto diet is more expensive, it’s not necessarily true for the experienced shopper.
Higher quality foods such as wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, and organic raw nuts can cost more if you purchase them from big-name grocers. Advertising, shorter shelf-life, and USDA certifications all drastically raise costs for the producer, which is imparted to you.
Attending farmer’s markets, visiting fish markets near the sourced body of water, and going directly to the producer allows for opportunities to save considerable costs.
Finally, strictly adhering to a ketogenic diet is done much more effectively by buying your ingredients and preparing meals yourself. When you factor in the price of travel, the meal itself, and service costs, eating out less saves considerable amounts of money.