Foods to Eat on the Keto Diet

Heard about the keto diet and want to give it a try?

The keto diet or ketogenic diet is a variation on the classic strict low-carb diet. It’s also quite close to the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, and the paleo diet

Foods to Eat on Keto

There a wide variety of foods that can be consumed on the keto diet, although the emphasis is on eating foods that are high in protein and/or high in fat with limited intake of carbohydrates. Of course, the more varied your diet, the broader your nutrient intake, which can help prevent deficiencies. Fortunately, most low-carb vegetables are acceptable on keto, and, depending how strict you’re being, some low-carb fruits are okay too.

Below, will explain what foods you can and can't eat on the keto diet, but first, let's quickly go over how this diet actually works to help you lose weight.

How Does the Keto Diet Work?

In order to explain how the keto diet works to help you lose weight, we need to clarify how the body uses energy.

There are two basic fuels that can “operate” your body:

  • Sugar: from high-carb foods like bread, donuts, cakes, cookies, pasta, rice, and, potatoes
  • Stored Fat 

Your body will always try to use sugar for fuel first. This means that if you're eating a diet that's high in foods like doughnuts, cookies, pasta, potatoes, and breads, your body will use the glucose (sugar) from these foods first and foremost for energy — and you’ll never experience weight loss.

If there isn’t any sugar in your system, however, your body has to resort to the other option for fuel: Fat.

When the body runs out of sugar and has to resort to fat for energy, it is put into a state called ketosis. During this state, stored fat is broken down, and the liver produces molecules called ketones, which are then used as fuel for the body.  

The keto diet emphasizes fat- and protein-rich foods so that the body will be in the state of ketosis all the time and effectively burning fat all the time.

What Foods Should Be Consumed on the Keto Diet?

Chart of Foods to Eat on Keto

One thing to note about the keto diet is that its guidelines and food lists aren’t “set in stone.” With the Atkins Diet or the South Beach Diet, for example, there are set rules and guidelines that must be followed. The keto diet, on the other hand, is more of a style of eating. That is, there are several ways you can do keto. 

Still, there are certainly “do” and “don’t” foods on keto. Below, we’ll list and discuss the foods that are best for keto if you’re doing a fairly strict version of the diet. We’ll also include recipes in each section to help you start integrating these keto-friendly foods into your lifestyle.

Following these recommendations will almost certainly help you burn fat, lose weight, and increase your energy.

Best Keto Diet Foods by Category

Meat

Without a doubt, meat is at the core of the keto diet. It’s the perfect keto food because it’s naturally high in protein and fat. Plus, nearly all meats have zero carbs. 

Combined, these benefits keep you fuller for longer and help speed up your metabolism. Meat gives you the energy you need to get through your day without making you feel sluggish or drained over time. Additionally, meats contain essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is especially essential for bone and muscle health.

Keto-Friendly Meats

Best

  • Beef: Steak, veal, ground beef, roast
  • Pork: Ham, bacon, ground pork, pork loin, pork, chops, tenderloin
  • Poultry: Chicken, turkey, duck, wild game
  • Goat & Lamb
  • Organ Meats: Kidney, liver, heart, tongue, offal

Acceptable

  • Bologna
  • Mortadella

Carb & Fat Content of Popular Meats

Beef Steak, 3 oz. (lean and fat eaten)

  • Net Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: 9.3 grams

Chicken Breast, 4 oz. (boneless, skinless)

  • Net Carbs: 3 grams
  • Fat: 3.5 grams

Bacon, 2 pan-fried slices

  • Net Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: 9 grams

Pepperoni, 4 slices

  • Net Carbs: 1 gram
  • Fat: 3.7 grams

Meat-Based Keto Recipes

1. Grilled Chicken With Avocado Salsa (Gimme Delicious)

2. Garlic Butter Steak (Life Made Keto)

3. Keto Sheet Pan Pizza (Delish)

4. Keto Bacon Egg and Cheese Bites (Maebells)

5. Leftover Turkey Casserole (That Low Carb Life)

Fish & Seafood

Like meat, fish and seafood are both keto-friendly as well. Both are high in protein, relatively high-fat, contain just a few (if any) grams of carbs, and provide numerous nutrients. Various types of fish, especially, provide excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which means they promote a healthy brain and heart. Fish also contain vitamins like potassium, vitamin B, and selenium.

Keep in mind that, although certainly low in carbs, shellfish is not quite as keto-friendly as fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines.

Keto-Friendly Fish and Seafood

Best

  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Tuna
  • Haddock
  • Halibut
  • Sardines
  • Flounder
  • Mackerel

Acceptable

  • Shrimp
  • Scallops
  • Lobster
  • Clams
  • Mussels

Carb & Fat Content of Popular Fish and Seafoods

Salmon, 3 oz. portion

  • Net Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: 5.4 grams

Tuna, 6.5 oz. can packed in water and drained

  • Net Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: 1.6 grams

Shrimp, 8 large shrimp, cooked with moist heat

  • Net Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: .5 grams

Fish- and Seafood-Based Keto Recipes

1. Keto Salmon Cakes (Hey Keto Mama)

2. Keto Tuna Salad (Diabetes Strong)

3. Walnut Crusted Salmon (The Healthy Foodie)

4. Baked Cod (Savory Tooth Low Carb Recipes)

5. Low Carb White Fish Pomodoro (A Spicy Perspective)

Egg & Dairy Products

Eggs are certainly a fitting food for the keto meal plan. This is because they have zero carbs and are high-protein. 

For those who don’t require dairy-free keto foods, dairy products such as grass-fed butter, various cheeses, and heavy cream can be great on the keto diet too. Dairy products should be consumed “full fat,” meaning you should opt for whole milk over 2% or 1% and full-fat cheese over low-fat cheeses.

Keto-Friendly Egg and Dairy Foods

Best

  • Eggs
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Heavy cream
  • Provolone cheese
  • Gouda cheese
  • Colby cheese
  • Swiss cheese
  • Soft cheeses: Cream cheese, goat cheese, blue cheese gouda, brie, buffalo mozzarella, camembert

Acceptable

  • Whole milk
  • Sour cream
  • Mascarpone and ricotta cheeses
  • Cottage cheese
  • Hard cheeses: Havarti, feta, pepper jack, parmesan, mozzarella
  • Greek yogurt

Carb & Fat Content of Eggs and Popular Dairy Foods

Egg, 1 egg 

  • Net Carbs: .5 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams

Provolone cheese, 1 cubic inch

  • Net Carbs: .4 grams
  • Fat: 4.5 grams

Unsweetened Greek yogurt

  • Net Carbs: 7.3 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Egg- and Dairy-Based Keto Recipes

1. Keto Breakfast Burrito (Ditch the Carbs)

2. Basic Keto Cheese Crisps (All Recipes)

3. Keto Egg Cups (Life Made Keto)

4. Bulletproof Coffee Recipe With MCT Oil (Wholesome Yum)

5. Keto 4 Ingredient Ice Cream (Chocolate Covered Katie)

Nuts

Nuts are among the healthiest types of foods to enjoy on the keto diet, and they’re especially satisfying as a keto-friendly on-the-go snack. Just grab a small bag of almonds or a handful of nut trail mix, and you’ll be as full as you would be eating a sandwich. Nuts provide a plethora of nutrients. Pecans, for example, can lower your insulin levels, making them great for blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. Chia seeds have anti-inflammatory benefits. And macadamia nuts improve healthy HDL cholesterol level. 

When it comes to keto, however, remember to avoid certain nuts such as cashews. Other nuts are much better for any type of low-carb diet.

Naturally, a variety of nuts can also be made into nut butters, which are perfect for spreading onto keto bread, spreading onto celery, or eating alone. Nut butters without added sugar even contain MCT oil and probiotics, both of which provide energy and help support the metabolism.

Keto-Friendly Nuts

Best

  • Pecans
  • Seeds: Chia seeds, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Nut butters (Macadamia nut butter, 

Acceptable

  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pine nuts

Carb & Fat Content of Popular Nuts

Pecans, 19 halves (1 oz.)

  • Net Carbs: 3.9 grams
  • Fat: 20.4 grams

Flaxseed, 1 Tbsp., whole seeds

  • Net Carbs: 3 grams
  • Fat: 4.3 grams

Almonds, 23 almonds (1 oz.)

  • Net Carbs: 6 grams
  • Fat: 14 grams

Nut-Based Keto Recipes

1. Vegan Keto Walnut Chili (Abbey’s Kitchen)

2. Keto Nut Bar (Aussie Keto Queen)

3. Keto Chocolate Covered Almonds (The Keto Summit)

4. 3-Ingredient Keto Almond Butter Cups (The Big Man’s World)

5. Easy Almond Butter Fat Bombs (Hey Keto Mama)

Produce

When it comes to produce, you have plenty of options, all of which make great complements to other main dish keto foods like meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. Still, it’s not a free-for-all. In the category of produce, veggies are always going to be better than fruits (which can contain quite a number of carbs), and non-starchy vegetables will always be better than other veggies like leafy greens. 

As you likely already know, these veggies and keto-friendly fruits pack a lot of punch where nutrients and vitamins are concerned. From leafy greens (a keto favorite), you’ll get large amounts of calcium, iron, and folate — plus vitamins A, C, and K. From other vegetables like mushrooms, you’ll get niacin and riboflavin. And asparagus is great for chromium, folate, and vitamins A, C, E, and K.

Keto-Friendly Produce

Best

  • Leafy greens: Kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard leaves, Swiss chard
  • Romaine lettuce, watercress, Boston lettuce, and field greens
  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Radishes
  • Eggplant
  • Avocados
  • Celery
  • Herbs: Basil, cilantro, parsley

Acceptable

  • Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Avocado
  • Green beans
  • Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes

Carb & Fat Content of Popular Produce

Spinach, 3 cups, loosely packed

  • Net Carbs: 3 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Avocado, ½ cup, sliced

  • Net Carbs: 6.3 grams
  • Fat: 10.7 grams

Strawberries, 1 cup, halved

  • Net Carbs: 11.7 grams
  • Fat: .5 grams

Produce-Based Keto Recipes

1. Low-Carb Ginger Garlic Vegetable Stir Fry (Stay Snatched)

2. Keto Oven Roasted Vegetables (Wholesome Yum)

3. Zucchini and Parmesan Bake (Ditch the Carbs)

4. Low Carb Keto Roast Chicken Soup (Sugar Free Londoner)

5. Easy Keto Vegetable Ratatouille Recipe (The Keto Summit)

Beverages

Various beverages are totally okay on the ketogenic diet — most notably, still and sparkling water, tea and coffee, and diet sodas. Of course, diet sodas aren’t recommended on any type of healthy diet, so if you can, stick to water. 

If you’re interested in an alcoholic beverage, spirits are your best bet all around. Just don’t mix your gin, whiskey, vodka, or tequila with carb-laden mixers (even tonic water is full with carbs). Wine is acceptable on keto, but whatever you do, steer clear of beers. Other than a few, special low-carb options, beers tend to have the most carbs of any alcoholic beverage.

Keto-Friendly Beverages

Best

  • Still water
  • Sparkling water
  • Green and black teas
  • Coffee
  • Diet sodas
  • Spirits: Whiskey, vodka, tequila, brandy, gin

Acceptable

  • Whole milk
  • Coconut water
  • Vegetable juice
  • Unsweetened nut milks
  • Unsweetened dry wines

Carb & Fat Content of Popular Beverages

Coffee, 1 cup (8 oz.) black

  • Net Carbs: .8 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Whiskey, 1 shot (1.5 oz.)

  • Net Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Almond milk, 1 cup, unsweetened

  • Net Carbs: 1.4 grams
  • Fat: 2.7 grams

Keto Beverage Recipes

1. Gin Fizz, The Ultimate Low-Carb Cocktail (Keto Diet)

2. Keto Infused Iced Tea (Low Carb No Carb)

3. Keto Berry Smoothie Recipe (Ketogasm)

4. Low Carb Strawberry Lemonade Mojitos (I Breathe I’m Hungry)

5. Keto Turmeric Milkshake (Ditch the Carbs)

Spices, Condiments & Sweeteners

In this category, we have those small ingredients that are present in so many recipes and meals, but that often go under the radar when it comes to nutritional content. 

Best in the group are healthy fats like canola and olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. While most dried herbs and spices are low-carb, some are more keto-friendly than others as you’ll see below. For sweeteners, not too many are totally keto-friendly; however, in a pinch, we’ve provided some options.

Keto-Friendly Spices, Condiments, and Sweeteners

Best

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Vinegars: Cider, white, and wine vinegar
  • Broth and bouillon
  • Stevia
  • Dried herbs and spices: Black pepper, mint, basil, cloves, coriander, ginger powder, tarragon, garam masala, cinnamon

Acceptable

  • Ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, mayonnaise (optimally, sugar-free)
  • Soy sauce and tamari sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Monk fruit
  • Dried herbs and spices: Ground cumin, oregano, paprika, onion and garlic powders, cayenne, turmeric, chili powder, curry powder

Carb & Fat Content of Popular Spices, Condiments, and Sweeteners

Olive oil, 1 Tbsp.

  • Net Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: 13.5 grams

Stevia, 1 pack (2 grams)

  • Net Carbs: 2 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Sugar-free ketchup, 1 Tbsp.

  • Net Carbs: 4 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Keto Recipes With Spices, Condiments, and Sweeteners

1. Low-Carb Taco Seasoning (Low Carb Maven)

2. Keto Barbecue Seasoning (I Breathe I’m Hungry)

3. Homemade Sugar-Free Ketchup Recipe (Low Carb Yum)

4. Zero Carb Homeowner Keto Mayonnaise (Soccer Mom Blog)

5. Low Carb Sweetener Blend (Keto Cake Walk)

 

 

Interested in keto snack ideas? We've listed 120+ options!


Written by: Natalie Butler, RDN, LD. & SuperFat Staff
Published:  July 12, 2019
Updated:  January 22, 2020

Next: What Foods to Avoid on Keto


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 


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