What to eat

Disclaimer:  As with any big change in lifestyle or diet you should always consult your doctor for whether these changes are appropriate for you and to monitor you throughout the change.  The following information is not medical advice and only my experiences with the ketogenic lifestyle.

So what can I eat?

Now that you know what keto is, the next question to answer is: “What can I eat?”  Remember, the goal is to get into a state of nutritional ketosis by decreasing your carb intake to an incredibly low level and replacing those carbs with healthy fats and protein.  Since your goal is to keep your carbs low, carbs are what you really need to be focused on. Your carb count is more important than your fat and protein since that will ultimately determine whether or not you are in ketosis.  While you will want to focus on your fat and protein eventually, I always recommend focusing on carbs first. This will help prevent you from feeling completely overwhelmed. If you’re used to eating a traditional western diet, then you’re making a pretty drastic change already.  By focusing on carbs alone in the beginning, you’ll get into ketosis and the rest will fall into place.

How many carbs can I have?

Before I list what foods you can eat, let’s talk briefly about total carbs vs net carbs. Total carbs is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the total grams of carbohydrates per serving in the food you consume.  Some people count total carbs. If you do that, you can aim for closer to 50g total carbs per day and most people will still be in ketosis. For me, that’s incredibly difficult and takes out a lot of food options.  Especially options I personally feel are important to get necessary nutrients in your diet. The alternative is to count net carbs. To find net carbs, you take the total carbs and subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols.  So:

Total Carbs – Fiber – Sugar Alcohols = Net Carbs

That is the simple explanation of total vs net carbs.  I’m not going to get into why you can subtract fiber and some of the controversy behind subtracting sugar alcohols at this point.  I’ll go more in detail about that in my later posts about macros and sweeteners so check back for those!

Let’s talk food!

Now that you know to focus on carb counts, let’s look at what foods you can eat and which ones to stay away from.

Eat This

Below is a list of keto friendly foods, divided into food groups and their average net carbs (in grams) per serving.  You can choose to eat any of these at any time! Just make sure to pay attention to the nutrition labels and serving sizes.  Add up your net carbs for the day and keep that around 20g. The higher the carb count of an item, the less carbs you can have from other foods per day.

Proteins – average net carbs per serving

  • Bacon (check the label for added sugars) – 0.4g
  • Beef – 0g
  • Chicken – 0g
  • Eggs – 0.7g
  • Fish – 0g
  • Goat – 0g
  • Lamb – 0g
  • Pork – 0g
  • Sausages and hot dogs (Be careful as many times they have added fillers.  There are some options that are ok, and the occasional sausage or hot dog isn’t the end of the world but try to focus more on other proteins) – varies
  • Seafood – 0-1.4g
  • Venison – 0g

Vegetables – average net carbs per serving

  • Artichokes – 3.8g
  • Arugula – 2.0g
  • Asparagus – 1.7g
  • Bamboo shoots – 3g
  • Bean sprouts – 4.1g
  • Bok choy – 1.1g
  • Broccoli – 4g
  • Brussel sprouts – 5.1g
  • Cabbage – 3-5.2g
  • Cauliflower – 2.9g
  • Celery – 1.3g
  • Cucumber – 3.1g
  • Eggplant – 2.8g
  • Endive – 0g
  • Fennel – 4.2g
  • Garlic – 0.9g
  • Green beans – 4.2g
  • Kale – 5.1g
  • Lettuce (leafy green is best) – 0.9g
  • Mushrooms – 2.2g
  • Mustard greens – 1.4g
  • Okra – 4.2g
  • Olives – 2.8g
  • Onions (be careful with onions, they add up quickly) – 7.6g
  • Peppers – 2.9-3.7g
  • Pumpkin – 6g
  • Radicchio – 1.3g
  • Radishes – 1.8g
  • Snow peas – 4.9g
  • Spaghetti squash – 5.2g
  • Spinach – 1.4g
  • swiss chard – 2.1g
  • Turnips – 4.6g
  • Water chestnuts – 0.7g
  • Zucchini – 2.1g

Fruits – average net carbs per serving

All except avocado and tomato should be avoided in the first month or so and then only eaten in moderation.

  • Avocado – 1.8g
  • Blackberries – 4.3g
  • Blueberries – 12g
  • Coconut – 6.2g
  • Lemon – 6.5g
  • Raspberries – 5.4g
  • Strawberries – 5.6g
  • Tomatoes – 2.6g

Nuts/Seeds – average net carbs per serving

Pay very close attention to serving sizes of nuts.  It is usually much smaller than you think and add up quickly.

  • Almonds – 2.7g
  • Chia seeds – 0.4g
  • Flaxseed – 0.6g
  • Hazelnuts – 2g
  • Hemp seeds – 1g
  • Macadamia nuts – 1.5g
  • Peanuts – 1.6g
  • Pecans – 1.2g
  • Pine nuts – 0.1g
  • Pistachio – 4.9g
  • Pumpkin seeds – 1.3g
  • Sunflower seeds – 3.2g
  • Walnuts – 2g

Healthy Fats – average net carbs per serving

  • Avocado Oil – 0g
  • Bacon grease – 0g
  • Butter – 0g
  • Chicken fat – 0g
  • Coconut Oil – 0g
  • Ghee – 0g
  • Lard – 0g
  • Macadamia Oil – 0g
  • Olive Oil – 0g
  • Pork rinds/Cracklings (Check the label for added carbs, especially on flavored varieties) – 0g

Dairy – average net carbs per serving

Avoid anything labeled “low-fat” or “reduced fat” and go for the full fat options instead as low fat options tend to be loaded with sugars. When they take the fat out, they usually replace it with something to make it taste good and that something tends to be sugar.

  • Cottage cheese – 2.8g
  • Hard cheeses – 0.4g
  • Heavy cream – 0.9g
  • Plain full fat greek yogurt – 7g
  • Soft cheeses – 1.6g
  • Sour cream – .06g

Condiments/Spices – average net carbs per serving

  • All spices and herbs – varies
  • Almond flour – 2.2g
  • Alternative sweeteners (Stevia, Truvia, Swerve, and Erythritol are the best choices.  I’ll be doing an entire post about sweeteners later) – 0.1-0.5g
  • Coconut flour – 3.2g
  • Lemon juice – 3.8g
  • Lime juice – 3g
  • Mayonnaise  – 3.5g
  • Mustard – .07g
  • Pesto – 0.5g
  • Pickles – 1.8g
  • Psyllium husk powder – 1.4g
  • Salad dressings (best choices are Blue Cheese, Caesar, Oil & Vinegar, and Ranch.  You still need to check the labels as some do have added sugars and you might be able to find other flavors that are keto friendly, but these are your best bets) – varies
  • Salsa – 1g
  • Soy sauce (stick to Tamari and check the label for added carbs) – 1.1g
  • Sugar Free Ketchup (regular ketchup is loaded with sugar and carbs so don’t eat it) – 1g
  • Unsweetened Cocoa powder (again, watch for carb loaded fillers) – 1.1g

Beverages – average net carbs per serving

  • Alcohol such as dry red wine, dry white wine, unsweetened spirits, low carb beer (These can slow down weight loss! I’ll do an entire post devoted to alcohol later) – 0-6g
  • Cashew milk – 3g
  • Coconut milk – 1.6g
  • Coffee – 0g
  • Diet sodas (This is somewhat controversial.  It works for some, not for others. I can’t live without my diet coke so I drink it.  Is it the healthiest option? No. But neither is being overweight so at some point you have to pick your battles) – 0g
  • Flax milk – 0g
  • Hemp milk – 0g
  • Powerade Zero – 0g
  • Sparkling water – 0g
  • Tea – 0g
  • Unsweetened almond milk – 0.3g
  • Water – 0g
  • Water enhancers (Check the label for sweeteners used and carb counts) – varies
Not That

Avoid all of the foods below.  Think of them as poison to your body and do your best to stay away from them!  With that being said, this is the real world, life happens, and nobody is perfect.  So if you do eat them, moderation is key. Also, know that everyone’s tolerance is different. Some people will be kicked out of ketosis with one bite, while others can eat these things in moderation on occasion and still be fine.  You have to figure out what works for you.

  • High carb vegetables including, but not limited to, beans, carrots, corn, peas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
  • Any fruit not listed above including fruit juices and dried fruits.  Fruit juice (even 100% juice) is basically just sugar water!
  • All grains and products made from them.  This includes bread, crackers, oats, pasta, pizza, quinoa, rice, wheat (even whole wheat), etc.
  • All sugars and sweet products made from them.  This includes agave syrup, cake, cookies, high fructose corn syrup, ice cream, pudding, sugar, sugary drinks, etc.
  • Refined fats and oils.  This includes canola oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, margarine, etc.
  • Regular Gatorade, Gatorade G2, and Regular Powerade. These are all made with real sugar and are not a good choice.
  • Milk.  This is actually very high in carbs because of its high lactose content, which is a form of sugar. It is also difficult for the body to digest and lacks good bacteria. The lower fat milk you get, the worse it is.  
  • Sweet alcohols. Sweet wines, regular beer, many mixers for cocktails.

I cannot say it enough… for ALL foods make sure you check the labels!  Nutrition and carb counts vary by brand and even different varieties within a brand so pay close attention to ingredients, nutrition, and serving size as this can make or break whether you’re in ketosis.

Now that you’re armed with what keto is and some of the foods you can and cannot eat, check back next week for my post on how to get started!

More Info

If you would like more info about foods to eat on the ketogenic diet, the following sites are some of my favorites:

KetoDiet Blog food list 

FatSecret food list 

Ruled.me food list 

15 Replies to “What to eat”

  1. What are sugar alcohols and where do I find them on a basic label? Is it just the sugars that’s listed or something more scientific?

    1. Unfortunately, it can be listed several different ways. Sometimes it will be listed as “sugar alcohols”, sometimes the individual sugar alcohols are listed, and sometimes it isn’t listed separately from the carbs at all but when you look at the ingredient list, you’ll see the sugar alcohols listed. There are a lot of them, but the most common are erythritol, sorbitol, maltitol, maltitol syrup, mannitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. On keto, the best choices are erythritol and stevia (not a sugar alcohol but is an alternative sweetener). Many people, although not all, experience issues with sorbitol and maltitol, which are pretty common in sugar free foods. It can get very confusing which is why I’ll be doing an entire post dedicated just to sweeteners!

  2. Can I ask how much is a serving for the foods listed. I am just beginning and getting confused with the per serving.
    Loving your blogs. Very helpful

    1. It’s going to be different for every item. If you’re using a tracking app, that should say what a serving size is for each item or you can also look on packaging for each item. Hope that helps!

  3. You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation but I in finding this topic to be actually one thing which
    I believe I might by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and very huge for me.

    I am having a look forward on your next post, I’ll try to get the cling of it!

  4. I think this is among the most significant information for me.
    And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna remark on few general things,
    The site style is great, the articles is really great : D.
    Good job, cheers

  5. I think this is among the most significant information for
    me. And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna remark on few general things, The site style is great,
    the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers

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