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Some of the questions we'll answer:
On a keto diet, you want to aim for a low-carb diet breakdown of about 70-80 percent fat, 5-10 percent carbs, and 20-15 percent protein. Some foods are much higher in carbohydrates and may jeopardize your ability to stay in ketosis and restrict weight loss.
Certain foods are rich in nutrients and fiber and may be able to be included in your diet in small enough quantities. However, these foods cannot be consumed liberally and should not be your staple food choices. Careful attention must be paid to serving sizes of these higher carb foods.
Keep reading to learn more about what foods you can incorporate into a ketogenic diet in moderation, and which ones you should avoid to yield the results you want.
Grains You Should Avoid
One agreed-upon truth about the keto diet is that you should avoid these flour-based, carbohydrate-rich foods–even whole grains. Consuming them can prevent ketosis and may increase blood sugar and insulin levels–which promotes body fat storage. To get the results you want, you're going to have to cut out grains. Avoid grains such as:
Remember, you should stay away from breads, pasta, pizza crusts, cookies, or crackers made with any of these grains. Try out a cauliflower pizza crust or zoodles if you want a keto-friendly alternative!
Beans and Legumes to Avoid
While beans are legumes are chock full of nutrients and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and folate, most are fairly starchy with too many carbs. For example, one serving of black beans contains 41 grams of total grams of carbs and 26 grams of net carbs. Chickpeas have a whopping 45 grams of total carbs and 32 grams net carbs! Cut out the following from your diet:
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
- White beans
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
- Lima beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Fava beans
Carb counts for one cup of cooked beans:
- Black beans: 40.8 grams
- Pinto beans: 44.8 grams
- Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas): 45 grams
- Kidney beans: 40.4 grams
- Red beans: 120 grams
Lower-carb bean alternatives:
Because calculating net carbs can be confusing, and because making a mistake can ruin ketosis, many people on the keto diet avoid beans altogether. Quitting beans "cold turkey" can be tough, though, as beans play such an important role in cuisine. Fortunately, you can incorporate several low-carb bean alternatives into your keto diet plan.
- Beanless refried beans (check out this keto recipe) create the taste and texture of refried beans without the beans or the carbs. This dish uses eggplant or zucchini, bacon and spices – top with optional cheese or sour cream for an authentic south-of-the-border flavor.
- Peas are legumes, most peas contain about half the carbohydrates as beans. A cup of green peas contains only 21 grams of carbs, for example. Green peas are also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K and protein. Peas work well as bean replacements in chili, salads and curry, but due to their distinct flavor, peas may not work well in many other bean-based dishes.
- Lentils are also legumes with a total carb count of 40 grams, but they contain 16 grams of fiber, which brings the net carbohydrates down to manageable levels.
- Enoki mushrooms resemble bean sprouts and have a texture similar to cooked beans, making them a great substitute for beans. One cup of sliced enoki mushrooms has only 24 calories and a mere 5 grams of carbs. Enoki mushrooms are also a great source of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins. Enoki mushrooms are available fresh and canned, which make them easy to add to soups, salads and many other dishes.
- Nuts - Try buttery macadamia nuts, protein-rich almonds, or sweet pecans, which are chock full heart healthy vitamins but light on the carbohydrates.
- Other vegetables - A number of vegetables can mimic the taste and texture of beans without the burden of high carbohydrates. Try diced mushrooms, chopped zucchini or riced cauliflower as bean replacements.
Dairy Products to Avoid
While you don't have to avoid all dairy on a keto diet, you should be strict about limiting:
- Low-fat milk–stick to two percent or above, and don't drink more than one serving per day. Even better, opt for full-fat, raw milk. Heavy cream is also permitted.
- Shredded cheese–sometimes it contains potato starch to keep the shreds separate. Stick with slices or block cheese. Always choose whole milk, high-fat cheese rather than reduced-fat or fat-free cheese.
- Fat-free butter alternatives
- Low-fat whipped cream
- Low-fat cream cheese
- Ice cream
Fruits to Avoid
Like beans, fruit has a lot of benefits–but they also have a lot of naturally occurring sugars, and therefore, carbs. Steer clear of fruits such as:
- Honeydew melon
- Fruit juices
- Dried fruit
Some fruits can be enjoyed sparingly. Add fruits with a lower sugar content into your meal plan, such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries.
Starchy Vegetables to Avoid
A good rule of thumb in avoiding starchy, carbohydrate-rich veggies is where they are grown. If a vegetable grows underground, it's a most likely high-carb. Avoid starchy veggies such as:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Cherry tomatoes
Focus on incorporating lots of green, leafy, low-carb vegetables into your diet. Fill up on vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, zucchini, and broccoli.
Sugars to Avoid
In general, sugars are a no-go on a ketogenic diet. However, did you know there are 56 different types of sugar you may encounter on nutrition labels? They are hiding everywhere you look, so you need to be vigilant. Avoid things that list any of the following:
- Cane sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Agave nectar
- Turbinado sugar
- Maple syrup
- Raw sugar
- Palm sugar
- Coconut sugar
If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, you're not out of luck. Try low-carb, healthy sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit in your favorite recipes. Here 75 of the healthiest keto-friendly desserts you can test out at home.
Nuts to Avoid
While nuts are not traditionally viewed as carbohydrates, some types have a higher carb content that may prevent you from consuming less than 30 grams of net carbs per day, so be careful. Read our complete guide to the health benefits (and nutritional analysis) of nuts here.
The good news most nuts are perfectly acceptable on a keto diet–and they're packed with healthy fats that foster ketosis. Remember to eat them in moderation and dole yourself out a serving size before sitting down with an entire bag. The lowest carb nuts are pecans, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and walnuts. Try out our delicious array of nut butters, too! We've also listed the best 14 nuts and seeds for keto dieters over here (the list includes macadamia nuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and more! They're rated by net carb count and fat/protein content for your keto-convenience when tracking macronutrients). Remember, keep the carb intake down, and the fat content up.
Avoid Meat and Fish Farmed in Factories
When possible, choose organic animal meats and seafood that are grass-fed rather than grain-fed–they have more valuable nutrients. You should also avoid processed meats that have a lot of nitrates and additives that add no nutritional value to your diet. In general, avoid:
- Hot dogs
- Packaged sausages
- Canned meat
- Beef jerky and bacon–they are acceptable in limited quantities but have a high sodium content, so eat them in moderation
- Chicken nuggets and fish sticks–unless they are homemade and breaded in coconut flour or another keto-friendly flour alternative
Oils to Avoid
While all oils have plenty of fat which is an important component of a keto diet–your body needs fatty acids to produce energy especially when you aren't eating many carbs. However, they aren't all created equal. You need to consume quality oils made from a healthy food source. Avoid processed or inflammatory oils, including:
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Peanut oil
- Corn oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Sesame oil
The best types of oil for your body are virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil. Plus, they are delicious!
Beverages to Avoid
Like most diets, you should drink a lot of water when following a keto diet. However, if we are trying to limit carbs (and sugars) there are several drinks you should steer clear of, but it can be tricky to know what's acceptable. Avoid the following high-carb beverages:
- Beer–especially heavy beers such as stouts, porters, and ale. It's like drinking liquid bread.
- Most wine, especially sweet wines. Go for a dry red or white if you're having a glass or two.
- Cocktails–many spirits are fairly low in carbs but the mixers can do you in. Avoid mixers such as cranberry or pineapple juice and simple syrup. Club soda is a good zero-calorie, low-carb mixer.
- Flavored liquors
- Fruit and vegetable juices
- Diet sodas–many of the artificial sweeteners upset blood sugar, ketosis, and cause cravings
- Sweetened milk-based drinks, including coffee-based drinks and milkshakes
- Tea drinks with added sugar
Keep in mind, alcohol is ethanol, which your liver will focus on breaking down–and your body doesn't prioritize burning fat during that. So, drinking can seriously slow down weight loss even if you're following a strict keto diet. Check out this informative guide about drinking on a keto diet.
The Bottom Line
Just because a particular food appears healthy, it doesn't mean it's keto-approved. You have to retrain your thinking about the traditional food pyramid if you want to live a keto lifestyle and reap the benefits of this particular diet.
In general, avoid grains, starchy vegetables that grow in the ground, beans and legumes, processed oils, and fruits high in sugar. Limit alcohol and stay away from carb-heavy beers, wines, and mixers, and other sugary beverages. Focus on low-carb foods such as organic meats and seafood, green, leafy greens, water, low-carb nuts, soda, artificial sweeteners, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
If you're also looking for a keto diet food list - for what you should consume on keto - look no further than right here!
Written by: Natalie Butler, RDN, LD. & Jess Pingrey
Published: July 12, 2019
Updated: December 27, 2019
Jump to Another Section of the Beginner's Guide to the Keto Diet
1. What is Keto? | 2. Keto Health Benefits | 3. Keto Health Risks | 4. Keto Nutritional Macro Calculations | 5. Foods to Eat on Keto | 6. Foods to Avoid on Keto | 7. Keto Supplements | 8. Free Keto Meal Plan | 9. Get Started on Keto | 10. Keto Recipe Book
Looking for a delicious and nutritious keto-friendly snack?
Try our SuperFat nut butters!