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What can I eat on a Keto Diet?

by | Aug 26, 2018

On a ketogenic diet, you eat like royalty. In days of old (before the insanity of the low-fat diet craze), a diet that was based on grains and legumes was considered starvation food and only suitable for peasants. While the poor subsisted on rice and beans, the wealthy ate meat that was cooked in fat and topped with fatty sauces, served with a side of vegetables. Welcome to nutritional wealth! 

As you begin your keto diet, the question to ask yourself is “What can I eat on a Keto Diet?” Avoid focusing on what you will be avoiding and celebrate all the delicious foods that are part of a ketogenic way of eating!

What can you eat on a Keto Diet – Keep it simple.

Keto meals do not need to be complicated. At their best, they are often simple and straight forward, full of flavor because they feature satisfying fat, protein and colorful vegetables.

My Basic Keto Meal Template is: 

  • A palm sized portion of protein
  • A handful of non-starchy vegetables
  • At least a couple of spoonfuls of fat

Follow this basic premise but customize it to your preferences, availability and budget, and you’ll be eating keto with no trouble!

For more on how the Basic Keto Meal Template works, read my article that talks all about it!

Here at Advantage Meals, we promote a clean, real food approach to Keto. But everyone is in a different place on the journey, with different backgrounds, goals and needs. You may find that including a few processed foods here and there helps you stick to your goals, and that’s ok.

We even include some processed foods in our No Cook Keto Meal Plan which was designed to be the easiest keto meal plan available for the keto newbie. Stick to whole foods when you can and use processed foods if you need to when first getting started. As you get used to eating Keto, you can upgrade as you go!

Use these lists to help understand what food is good for getting into and staying in ketosis, while supporting your health along the way. Adjust where you need. We’ve got you covered for protein, fat, vegetables and even drinks and sweeteners!

Advantage Meals' Beginners' Guide to the Keto Diet.

Read these articles to master the Keto Diet, or jump around to the ketogenic information that you need today.

Not finding the information you need?  Just ask.

Protein on Keto

On Keto, you will eat the best available meat, seafood and eggs. You get to eat meats which will provide you the protein to maintain (or grow) your muscle mass, along with their delicious and important-for-keto fat.

No lean, dry cuts of meat required! Instead, you are going to be enjoying the fattier, full-flavored (and often less expensive) cuts.

Seek out the highest quality meat (organic, grass-fed, wild-caught) that you can afford. Such meat has more nutrition and is more satiating because of those nutrients.

List of Keto Meat & Other Protein Choices

    • Eggs – For our money (and yours!) eggs are one of the best, most affordable protein choices available. With both protein and fat, ease of use, flexibility, and cost, eggs are a great choice. Free-range is best, with significantly higher vitamin and mineral content than conventional eggs. Bonus points if you buy them from a local farmer at the farmer’s market!
    • Fish – Especially fatty fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, and tuna (fresh or canned), due to their high omega-3 content. Wild-caught is best. Other great sources of omega-3 that are also low in harmful mercury since they are lower on the food chain include sardines, anchovies and kippers, and they are all available very affordably in cans. Leaner fish are fine, too. You’ll just want to make sure you add fat in the form of sauce, cheese, oil, butter, etc. Catfish, tilapia, cod and pollock, to name a few.
    • Shellfish – Shrimp, mussels, crab, lobster, oysters are all on the menu. Dip them in grass-fed butter and enjoy!
    • Beef – Steak, especially fattier cuts like ribeye, roast, ground beef (use the higher fat variety, such as 80/20).
    • Pork – Roasts, chops, ribs, whole loin.
    • Poultry – Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Goose – they’re all good. Duck and goose tend to be fattier and more nutrient dense in general, and they render some really great fat that can be used for cooking. Dark meat has more fat and flavor, and leave the skin on when roasting! (I’ve even saved the skins and roasted them separately with a little olive oil and salt to make chips – yum!) Thighs, drumsticks, and wings are all great. Breast is fine, too, just make sure to add fat.
    • Lamb – Roasts, chops, ribs.
    • Organ Meats – Often forgotten in modern culture, organ meats have a huge advantage over muscle meats when it comes to nutrient density. They also tend to be more affordable. Organs are the filters of the body, though, so finding clean, well-raised sources is even more important. Try liver, heart and gizzards to start.
    • Processed and Cured Meats – Sausage, ham, bacon, pepperoni, salami. Almost all have higher fat content but they also often contain additives, chemicals and may include sneaky sugar. Make sure to buy carefully, read labels, and don’t make them your protein choice for every meal.
    • Bone broth – Save the bones from your meats and toss them in a crock pot to make your own bone broth. High in the kinds of protein that encourage a healthy gut, along with great skin and hair.  Many people find that bone broth helps with the symptoms of keto flu.  If you are not in a place to make your own bone broth, then buy the highest quality that fits your budget such as those from The Osso Good Company.

 

Two great sources of quality meat – Advertisements.

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Vegetables on Keto

Next on your plate, you are going to add amazing veggies that are low in net carbs. (Total carbs minus fiber equals net carbs.)

Vegetables that grow above ground have less carbs. Steer clear of vegetables that grow below ground, grains and legumes.

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are some great choices that you can find in most grocery stores. Fresh or frozen are great, but avoid canned vegetables.

If you are eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods, vegetables will make up the majority of your carbohydrate intake on Keto. Most of these are low in carbs, but you still need to count the net carbs in vegetables, just like anything else that has carbs.

Some veggies have more carbs than others. Take note of the items near the bottom of the list, as they might surprise you. Watch your portion size on all!

If you are taking longer to get into ketosis than you expected, be careful with veggies like Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, green beans, cabbage and artichoke hearts as their carbs can add up. Be vigilant about watching your portion sizes!

 

List of Keto Vegetable Choices

    • Celery (2 medium stalks, 1 net carb)
    • Radish (½ cup raw slices, 1 net carb)
    • Spinach
      • Fresh and raw (3 cups, 1 net carb)
      • Chopped and cooked (½ cup, 1 net carb)
    • Broccoli (½ cup cooked florets, 2 net carbs)
    • Cauliflower (½ cup cooked florets, 2 net carbs)
    • Asparagus (½ cup cooked, 2 net carbs)
    • Dark, leafy greens
      • Kale (½ cup cooked, 3 net carbs)
      • Collards (½ cup cooked, 3 net carbs)
      • Swiss chard (½ cup cooked, 2 net carbs)
    • Zucchini (½ cup cooked slices, 2 net carbs)
    • Yellow Squash (½ cup cooked slices, 2 net carbs)
    • Mushrooms
      • Button (½ cup chopped and cooked, 2.5 net carbs)
      • Portobello (½ cup chopped and cooked, 3 net carbs)
    • Okra (½ cup sliced and cooked, 1.5 net carbs)
    • Green Beans (½ cup cooked, 3 net carbs)
    • Cucumber (1 cup raw slices, 3 net carbs)
    • Cabbage
      • Red or green (½ cup shredded and cooked, 3 net carbs)
      • Slaw mix (½ cup shredded and raw, 2 net carbs)
    • Brussels Sprouts (½ cup cooked, 3.5 net carbs)
    • Tomato
      • Fresh and raw (½ medium tomato, 3 net carbs)
      • Diced and cooked (½ cup, 4 net carbs)
    • Turnips (½ cup cubed and cooked, 3 net carbs)
    • Bell Peppers
      • Green (½ cup raw and chopped, 1 net carb)
      • Red (½ cup raw and chopped, 3 net carbs)
      • Yellow (½ cup raw and chopped, 4 net carbs)
    • Onion (½ cup raw and chopped, 6 net carbs)
    • Garlic (1 clove, raw, 1 net carbs)
    • Artichoke hearts (½ cup whole and cooked, 5 net carbs)

Fats on Keto

One of the best parts of a Keto diet is that fat is not only included, it’s vital! Eating fat in the absense of carbohydrate helps your body recognize that you want to switch your primary fuel source to fat. Once you are fat adapted and good at burning fat, your body will begin to burn its own stored fat for fuel.

You can add good fat to those amazing proteins and vegetables while cooking and in the form of keto dressings, sauces, or dips when you are ready to eat. I’ve got lots of ideas to get you started in my Fat Boosters article.

The fats you use as part of your ketogenic diet need to be natural and unprocessed so your body recognizes them as fuel. Avoid fake and industrially processed fats like trans fats, hydrogenated oils, margarine, corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and vegetable oil. We’ll cover this in much greater detail later in this article.

List of Keto Fat Choices

  • Grass-fed, pastured Butter
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Avocados / Guacamole
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut Oil / Coconut Milk / Coconut Butter
  • Full-fat cheeses
  • Rendered fat from bacon, duck or goose, beef tallow, real (not hydrogenated) lard
  • Mayonnaise – the best is made with avocado oil or homemade with bacon grease!
  • Good Olives
  • Nuts, nut butters and seeds – Macadamias are great because they have the least amount of omega 6, which can be inflammatory. Almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts are also good. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and pistachios are good. Make sure all are not roasted in processed oils. Peanuts and peanut butter are good for some people – see how they work for you. Make sure nut butters do not have added sugars.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream in your coffee!

Fruit on Keto

For many who have been trying to “eat right” on the Standard American Diet (SAD), fruit is a shocker when starting a ketogenic way of eating.

While the saying goes “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, the carb count in that apple will also keep you from getting into ketosis or keep you from staying in ketosis. Yes, a whole fruit is better for you then juice, but it’s still sugar even if it is natural sugar.

You can have some fruit on a keto diet, but you have to eat small portions and pay close attention to the carb counts. The following low sugar fruits can be enjoyed in moderation.

Once you hit your goals, if you want to eat fruit seasonally, give it a try and see how your body reacts.  But as you are trying to begin your keto diet, avoid all fruits expect for the following short list keto fruits.

List of Keto Fruit Choices

  • Berries
    • Strawberries, raw, halves (1/2 cup serving, 4 net carbs)
    • Raspberries, raw (1/2 cup serving, 3 net carbs)
    • Blackberries, raw (1/2 cup serving, 3 net carbs)
    • Blueberries, raw (1/2 cup serving, 8 net carbs)
  • Lemons
    • Juice, fresh (1 tbsp, 1 net carb)
  • Limes
    • Juice, fresh (1 tbsp, 1 net carb)

Remember – a lot of things we think of as vegetables are actually fruits!  Here are some other ‘vegetables’ that are actually great low carb fruit choices. Bonus – these are also great fat sources!

  • Avocado (1/2 medium, 1.5 net carbs)
  • Coconut (2 tbsp coconut butter, 3 net carbs)
  • Olives (5 medium black olives, 1 net carb)

Some of the confusion between vegetables and fruits are so ingrained that we actually listed them in the keto veggies, those include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Squashes
  • Cucumbers
  • Bell Peppers

We use both fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables but we avoid canned. Organic is best, but buy what makes the most sense for your budget.

Sweeteners on Keto

There are some sweeteners you can include in a Keto diet, to sweeten your coffee or tea or to make low-carb desserts and treats. You will find in time that your taste for sweets diminishes and you will need less and less, but particularly when you first start, it is nice to have a way to still include sweet-tasting treats.

List of Best Keto Sweeteners

A little sweetness is a must for most people, at least occasionally.  With that in mind, below is a list of our favorite keto sweeteners that are all near-zero or zero carb sweeteners.  Each ketogenic sweeter is linked with convenient affiliate links to Amazon since many are hard to find locally.

 

What should I eat on a Keto Diet?

What should I avoid on a Keto Diet?

There are some foods that you will be eliminating while following a strict ketogenic diet.  It may seem a bit daunting, but keep reminding yourself of all of the great things that you can eat on your Keto Diet!

The most important part of a Keto diet is keeping your carb intake very low. To be in in ketosis and stay there, you must avoid high carb food and drink. I recommend you keep your total daily carb intake below 25 net grams. (Total carbs minus fiber equals net carbs.)

Most of the foods on this list have close to 25 net carbs in just one serving, so it’s best to just avoid them completely.

 

List of food groups to avoid or eliminate on a Keto Diet

  • Sugar
  • Grains
  • Beans
  • Starchy vegetables
  • High sugar fruits

All of these food groups are high in carbohydrate, and keeping your carb intake low (between 20-50 net grams) is vital to being in ketosis. You must deprive your body of carbs so that it can make the transition to burning fat.  

 

List of specific foods to eliminate on a Keto Diet

The following is a list of specific yet common foods that are not part of your new ketogenic lifestyle because consuming a normal serving of them will knock you right out of ketosis.

 

Common Drinks to Avoid on a Keto Diet

  • Soda / Soft Drinks
  • Fruit Juice
  • Beer

Common Grains to Avoid on a Keto Diet

  • Pizza
  • Hamburger buns, bread, crackers
  • Pasta
  • Chips
  • Tortillas
  • Wheat, rice, oatmeal, corn, quinoa

Common High Sugar Foods to Avoid on a Keto Diet

  • Many Salad Dressings
  • Steak Sauce
  • Ketchup
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Fancy Coffee
  • Jelly
  • Honey, maple syrup
  • Most fresh fruits
  • Fruit Juice (or any ‘juice’ that tastes sweet)
  • Dried fruits
  • Processed foods – Anything that has an ingredient list needs to be checked carefully – it seems like they add sugar to everything!

Common Starchy Foods to Avoid on a Keto Diet

  • French fries
  • Potato chips
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans

Bad Fats to Avoid

Fats are very important on a ketogenic diet, and they make up anywhere from 65-90% of your daily calorie intake.  In our decade plus of experience, most people who are trying to achieve dramatic changes average around 70%.  If a third or more of your calories are coming from fat, it becomes self-evident that the quality of that fat is very important.

Not all fats are created equal. Natural, unprocessed fats are your friend. (Check out the list above for lots of suggestions.) Fats that have been highly processed and altered are dangerous in our bodies and make it difficult to experience all of the health benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle.

Watch labels carefully for these bad fats.  The more of these highly processed fats you can avoid, the better your results will be on your ketogenic diet.

 

Common Bad / Highly Processed Fats

  • Canola Oil
  • Margarine
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Processed foods – read all ingredient lists carefully. Most processed foods contain these damaged, unhealthy fats.

Keto Flour?

Keto Flour Alternative – Your Choices

Keto baked goods are incredibly popular, as they give people the experience and/or feeling of eating beloved favorites from their old way of eating. There are recipes all over the internet for Keto bread, pancakes, cookies and much more. These can definitely be helpful as you transition to a Keto way of eating. If your choice is to give into a craving for an old favorite or to make yourself a Keto version, we definitely support the Keto alternative! Just watch that these don’t become a staple in your diet. They are more processed than simple meat and vegetables, and they can be habit forming, just like their higher carb versions. As you adjust to Keto, you’ll find that your tastes change and you’ll crave them less and less.

When you want a treat, you’ll probably find these flour alternatives in a lot of recipes.

List of Good Keto Fats

What are my Keto Drinks?

This is often one of the hardest things for people to adjust to, because the most common drinks in a Standard American Diet (SAD) are keeping you in a constant glycemic state and will absolutely keep you from transitioning to ketosis unless you entirely eliminate them.  

Common drinks that must be eliminated in a Keto Diet

  • Soda
  • Beer
  • Juice

However, there are so many other keto drink options!

Good ketogenic drink options

  • Water
  • Iced Tea
  • Hot Tea
  • Sparkling Water – Sugar Free
  • Coffee

Sparkling waters are nice because they have carbonation and a little bit of flavor. Make sure there is no sugar added – some brands do but many do not.

Coffee is fine, as long as you don’t add sugar to it. Most creamers are full of additives and, you guessed it, sugar. So if there are carbohydrates included on the nutrition label, avoid it and go for the good stuff…real heavy whipping cream.

Hot Tea is great.  Iced Tea is too. Sweet Tea is not ketogenic.

If you must have sugar free soda, do it. We don’t think you are doing your health any favors with the artificial sweeteners, but most won’t keep you from being in ketosis.

Keto Adult Beverages and Keto Cocktails

You can have a drink and stay in ketosis if you choose wisely. Keep in mind that your body will burn the alcohol first, before carbs, fat or ketones, so drinking will put weight loss efforts on hold. Alcohol also lowers your impulse control, so be vigilant about avoiding old eating habits if you choose to have a drink.

Distilled liquor has zero carbs and can be included on a ketogenic diet.

  • Whiskey
  • Gin
  • Brandy
  • Vodka
  • Tequila

If you use a mixer besides water, makes sure it is sugar free!

Some wines can be enjoyed in moderation.

  • Dry Red Wine (5 oz., 4 net carbs)
  • Dry White Wine (5 oz., 4 net carbs)

What about Keto Beer?

Regular (Non-Light) beer is a definite NO during a keto diet.  However, there are some pretty decent low-carb beer options out there.  If you go this way, just make sure to do so in moderation. 

Best Keto Beers for Low Carb Diet

  • Budweiser Select 55 Lite Lager – 1.9g Carbs, 2.4% ABV
  • Miller Genuine Draft 64 Light Lager – 2.4g Carbs, 2.8% ABV
  • Michelob Ultra – 2.6g Carbs, 4.2% ABV
  • Beck’s Premier Light – 3.2g Carbs, 2.3% ABV

Everyone reacts a little differently to alcohol, so use moderation and check your ketone level the next day to see how it affected you.

“What can I eat on a Keto Diet?” – Sum It Up

There is so much that you can eat and enjoy on a Keto Diet! We encourage you to focus on the wonderful foods that you can eat while supporting your decision to better your health with Keto. Keep your goals in mind when you choose what to eat and drink. And revel in the fact that heavy whipping cream, butter, steak and bacon are not just allowed on your keto diet, but are encouraged as keto super foods!

Keto On!   You got this, and we got your back.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

What are your favorite foods on a Keto Diet?

Do you have a go-to Keto Meal?

Leave us a note in the comments!

7 Comments

  1. Akash

    Hi Angela, thanks for sharing such a helpful article. I didn’t know about keto beer, thanks for the information

    Reply
  2. Jerry

    Can you use cricket flour instead of almond flour (allergic to almonds).

    Reply
    • Angela Davis

      That is an awesome idea! I’m allergic to almonds, too. Coconut flour just doesn’t act the same. I haven’t tried cricket flour, but I did a quick search and it has similar protein, fat and fiber to almond flour. I will definitely try it out. If you do, please let me know what you think!

      Reply
  3. PATRICIA OSHEA

    Thank you so much for this easy to understand yet detailed do’s and don’ts! I live in the UK and I’ve just started my Keto Diet – so far so good and your article certainly helped.

    Reply
    • S Reeves

      Thank you very useful article , I can now enjoy kippers with the family

      Reply
  4. Lisa

    Thank you for this information! It answered all my questions and in an easy way to read quickly. Love the bullet presentation.

    Reply
    • Angela Davis

      Lisa – You are so welcome! I’m glad this list is helpful for you. Are you just getting started?

      Reply

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Angela Davis

Angela Davis

Founder Advantage Meals

Angela earned her Master's Degree in Holistic Nutrition 14 years ago and began her lifelong journey of nutrition and wellness learning.  She began keto meal planning and cooking over a decade ago when she began working with local clients who were under the direct supervision of a medical doctor.  Angela is the author of No Cook Keto, the easiest keto meal plan available.

Disclaimer: I am neither a licensed nutritionist nor medical professional.  I never prescribe diets.  I only share my personal experiences and those of my clients for informational purposes only.  Nutrition details are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical nutritional data. You should consult your medical professional before making any major changes in the way you eat.

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