Not sure what to eat on a keto diet? Whether you’re a beginner or have been following the ketogenic diet for years, it can be tricky to know which food, drinks and snacks to put on your shopping list. Which is why we’ve taken out the guesswork - here’s a definitive guide to every ingredient that’s included on the high-fat, low carb meal plan.
What foods can you can eat on the keto diet?
The ketogenic diet is based around large intakes of fat, moderate amounts of protein and limited carbohydrates (around 20-30 grams per day). The idea is that the body uses this fat as its primary source of energy, which leads to a build-up of acids called ‘ketones.’ This process is known as ‘ketosis,’ and research shows it can lead to weight loss, mental clarity, stable blood sugar levels and improved mood.
But while the prospect of cutting down on carbs may seem challenging, there are many nutritious foods that fit into this way of eating. These include:
1. Fats and oils
Fats make up the bulk or (70-80 per cent) of the recommended daily calories. Aim for saturated and monounsaturated fats, especially those that come from natural sources such as meat and nuts.
Avocado oil, Brain Octane Oil, cacao butter, cod liver oil, grass-fed butter and ghee, krill oil, MCT oil, pastured bacon fat, pastured egg yolk, pastured lard, pastured marrow, pastured tallow, sunflower lecithin, virgin coconut oil.
Chicken fat, duck and goose fat, grain-fed butter/ghee, olive oil, nut oils.
Although a moderate amount of protein is allowed on the keto diet, it’s important not to overdo it as it can prevent you from reaching ketosis. A good range to aim for is 0.8–grams of protein per kg of body weight.
Collagen peptides, colostrum, dark meats, eggs, fish, gelatin, offal/organ meats, pork, shellfish, whey protein concentrate.
Pastured chicken and turkey, factory-farmed eggs, heated whey/whey protein isolate.
Load up on nutrient-dense, lower-carb veggies, while limiting your consumption of the starchy and root varieties which can be higher in carbs.
Asparagus, avocado, bitter greens, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, chard, collards, cucumbers, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, nori, olives, radish, spinach, summer squash, zucchini.
Artichokes, celery root, eggplant, garlic, green beans, jicama, leeks, okra, onion, parsnip, peppers, pumpkin, rhubarb, sweet potato, tomatillo, tomato, turnip, winter squash.
4. Nuts, seeds and legumes
Nuts and seeds are an excellent keto-approved snack as they are packed with good fats. That said, they can also be high in carbs and protein, so it’s worth keeping tabs on your portion size. (A rough guide is 30gs in one sitting, which is the equivalent of 20 almonds, 15 cashews, 20 hazelnuts or 8 walnuts.)
Raw almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, and walnuts, almond flour, coconut flour, tigernut flour.
Although cow’s milk is rich in heart-heathy omega-3s and saturated fats, it’s too high in sugar and protein to consume on the keto diet. Instead, opt for full-fat, grass-fed, raw, and organic dairy products where possible.
Grass-fed butter, grass-fed colostrum, grass-fed ghee, some cheeses.
Organic grass-fed cream, non-organic grass-fed ghee or butter.
As dehydration is a common side effect of ketosis, drinking plenty of water, electrolytes and other low-calorie fluids is key.
Bone broth, diluted coconut milk, coffee, tea, filtered water (with fresh lemon/lime if preferred), green tea, carbonated water.
Bottled nut milk, herbal tea, yerba mate.
What foods should you avoid?
Apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, watermelon, peaches, melon, pineapple, cherries, pears, lemons, limes, grapefruits, plums, mango, etc.
Grains and Starches:
Wheat, rice, rye, oats, corn, quinoa, barley, millet, bulgur, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, yams, parsnips, beets, turnips
Cereal, bread, pasta, rice, corn, oatmeal, crackers, pizza, popcorn, granola, bagels, muesli, flour.
Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, lentils
Cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, Splenda, aspartame, saccharin, corn syrup.
Lollies, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, tarts, pies, ice cream, cookies, pudding, custard.
Canola oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil.
Beer, cider, sweet wines, sweetened alcoholic drinks.
Juice, smoothies, soda, sweetened tea and coffee.
Skim milk, skim mozzarella, fat-free yoghurt, low cheese and cream cheese.
Sweetened Sauces and Dips:
Ketchup, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, some salad dressings and hot sauces.
Keto diet meal suggestions
Coming up with meal ideas can be the hardest part of being on a diet. Here’s an example day on a plate to get you started:
Breakfast: Bacon and brie frittata
Lunch: Pan-fried Garlic Chicken
Snacks: Cup of Yogurt
Dinner: Beef Burger with keto-friendly buns
Bacon and brie frittata
- 8 slices bacon, chopped
- 8 large eggs
- 1/2cup whipping cream
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2tsp salt
- 1/2tsp pepper
- 120g brie, thinly sliced
- Cook chopped bacon in a saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve 2 tbsp of the bacon grease in the saucepan.
- Whisk eggs, cream, garlic, salt and pepper and about two-thirds of the cooked bacon in a large bowl. Set saucepan on medium-low heat and swirl remaining bacon grease to coat bottom and sides.
- Pour egg mixture into the saucepan and cook until edges crisp up but the centre is still loose about 10 minutes.
- Preheat grill to 180°C and set an oven rack on the second highest setting. Lay slices of brie on top of the frittata. Sprinkle with remaining bacon. Cook until puffed and golden brown, about 5 minutes, watching carefully to make sure it doesn't burn.
- Remove and let cool a few minutes before serving.
Keto hamburger buns
- 1¼ cups (150 g) almond flour
- 5 tbsp (40 g) ground psyllium husk powder
- 2 tsp (10 g) baking powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
- 1¼ cups boiling water
- 3 egg whites
- 1 tbsp (10 g) sesame seeds
- Preheat the oven to 175°C
- Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
- Bring the water to a boil and add it, the vinegar and the egg whites to the bowl while beating with a hand mixer for about 30 seconds. Don't overmix the dough (the consistency should resemble Play-Doh.)
- With moist hands, form the dough into individual pieces of bread, one for each serving. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Be sure to leave enough room on the baking sheet for the buns to double in size.
- Bake on lower rack in oven for 50-60 minutes. They're done when you hear a hollow sound when tapping the bottom of the buns.
Keto diet-approved snacks
When following the keto diet, preparation is key. Here are 12 ready-to-eat snacks that won’t kick you out of ketosis.
- Beef jerky
- String cheese
- Laughing cow cheese
- Macadamia nuts
- Salami slices
- Kale chips
- Cherry tomatoes
- Seaweed snacks
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