Although keto diets may initially seem restrictive because of the reduced carb intake, they actually allow for a wide range of healthy and delicious foods, including snacks and desserts.
While following a keto diet, your daily carb intake is generally limited to between 20 to 50 total net grams of carbs per day, depending on the specific protocol. Certain foods are lower in net carbs than others, making them more keto-friendly.
When you focus on net carbs rather than total carbs, you’re able to incorporate many more foods into your diet that may have otherwise seemed too cautionary.
The following is a list of the best foods to eat while following a keto diet. These options tend to be higher in healthy fats and low in carbs and sugars, meaning that consuming them won’t throw you out of ketosis.
Whether you are eating dinner or breakfast, these are safe foods for the keto diet:
Eggs are a great source of both fat and protein, with a ratio that is ideal for a keto diet.
Don’t skip the yolks, which provide the necessary source of fat, as well as the bulk of the nutritional value. Whenever possible, opt for pasture-raised eggs, which typically have three times as much omega-3 fatty acids.
This rich and delicious food can be used liberally on a keto diet.
The healthy fat in avocados increases the good cholesterol while lowering “bad” cholesterol. The fiber content keeps the net carbs low while helping with digestion. Additionally, avocados are a good source of potassium and other vitamins and minerals.
- Olive oil contains heart-healthy oleic acid and phenols. It can be used for low-heat cooking, and in recipes for salad dressings and homemade mayonnaise.
- Coconut oil contains MCTs (multi-chain triglycerides) and lauric acid. This stellar combo increases ketone production and helps the body maintain a state of ketosis. Studies also indicate that coconut oil may help in the reduction of belly fat.
- Avocado oil contains many of the same health benefits as whole avocados, like monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and potassium. It has a high smoke point, which is perfect for searing, frying, grilling, or roasting.
Including nuts in your keto diet is a fantastic way to satisfy your appetite, while supplying your body with healthy fats, fiber, moderate protein, and other nutrients. Avoid any nuts that have been prepared with added sugars, like candied nuts, honey roasted peanuts, chocolate-coated nuts, or nuts that have been stored in syrup. The best nut options include the following:
- Almonds are high in healthy fats, fiber, folate, potassium, vitamins, iron, and magnesium. The skins include some of the nutrients, but they can be peeled away if desired.
- Walnuts have one of the highest fat contents of any type of nut, making them one of the most satisfying on a keto diet. They are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Pecans are an insulin-lowering nut that is high in fat and low in net carbs. Additionally, they contain healthy ellagic acid and vitamin E. Pecans are delicious roasted or raw and are perfect for tossing into salads or incorporating in keto versions of granola and baked goods.
- Macadamia nuts have a rich flavor and contain healthy monounsaturated fats, palmitoleic acid (an omega-7 fatty acid), and many minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Be aware that macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, so keep them carefully out of reach if consuming them on a keto diet.
- Cashews contain many vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which improve eye health. When soaked and blended, they form a creamy consistency that works well as a base for lots of keto spreads and desserts.
- Pistachios are slightly higher in carbs, but contain healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and can be included in moderation on a keto diet.
- Brazil nuts are not only a good source of healthy fat, but also of the mineral selenium. You can get your entire daily value from just a single Brazil nut.
- Pine nuts can be consumed in moderation on a keto diet, and are especially great in homemade pesto recipes.
- Hazelnuts have a delicious flavor and can be used to make your own keto-friendly Nutella-style spread. Additionally, they can be ground into flour and used for baking.
- Peanuts are technically a legume and not a nut, and are slightly higher in carbs. However, when looking at net carbs, you’ll see that they can still be eaten in moderation on a keto diet. They are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Peanuts also contain amino acids, antioxidants (polyphenols like coumaric acid), Vitamin E, magnesium, and copper.
Like nuts, seeds are excellent for keto diets, thanks to their healthy fats, fiber, and vitamin and mineral-rich content.
These seeds, in particular, are good choices:
- Chia seeds contain so much fiber that it keeps their net carb count very low. Additionally, they are anti-inflammatory, and a good source of omega-3s and iron. They can be sprinkled on top of salads, added to keto granola, and used to make chia pudding.
- Sesame seeds are a convenient and tasty snack that provides healthy fats while decreasing inflammation.
- Sunflower seeds can be eaten in moderation, providing flavonoids, phenolic acid, and vitamin E.
- Flaxseeds are high in fiber, low in carbs, and a generous source omega-3s.
- Pumpkin seeds reduce inflammation, are rich in iron and magnesium, and are delicious when oven-roasted and salted.
- Hemp seeds help to lower blood pressure and contain Alzheimer’s-fighting linoleic acid. They make a nice crunchy salad topping, and can also be cooked and used as a hot porridge alternative.
Nut and Seed Butters
To get the same nutritional benefits of nuts and seeds, but in a convenient and delicious spreadable version, then stock your pantry with your favorite nut and seed butter.
Be cautioned that many brands add sweeteners to their products, so keep a close eye on the ingredients list and calculate the net carbs to make sure it’s a keto-friendly version. Some great products include tahini (a sesame-based spread), almond butter, cashew butter, peanut butter, and sunflower butter.
Most types of fish and seafood can be easily included on a keto diet, and it’s recommended to have at least a few servings a week.
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are especially ideal, thanks to their high-fat content and their insulin-lowering omega-3s. However, shellfish like shrimp and crab are very low in carbs and high in protein, making them another good keto option.
Poultry and Meat
For non-vegetarians, meat and poultry are an integral part of most keto diets. They’re a completely carb-free source of protein and can be prepared with healthy fats to improve the protein-to-fat ratio.
Additionally, many types of meat also provide nutrients like B vitamins, potassium, selenium, and zinc. Opt for grass-fed meats whenever possible for increased health benefits.
The fat content in dairy products is perfect for a ketogenic diet and provides a wide range of dietary options. These dairy products can be easily incorporated in your daily intake:
- Cheese is a favorite item for many keto dieters. In addition to your favorite hard cheeses, you can also consume full-fat soft varieties, like cream cheese and cottage cheese.
- Butter and Ghee can be used in cooking, as a condiment, and even as an addition to coffee. Opt for the grass-fed versions, which have a healthier profile.
- Cream can be used on a keto diet, but be sure not to confuse the full-fat, plain variety with flavored coffee creamers, which can have added carbs.
- Plain yogurt can be consumed in moderation on a keto diet, as long as it’s an unflavored, full-fat version.
Although most fruits are difficult to incorporate into a keto diet, berries are very keto-safe.
They are very low in net carbs, thanks to their fiber and low sugar content. As a superfood ingredient, berries are also packed with lots of vitamins and antioxidants. Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and açaí berries are all acceptable choices (you can find açaí berries in the frozen section of health food stores). Just be sure to portion your berry servings accordingly, so that you stay within your daily carb range.
Stevia, erythritol, xylitol, and monk fruit are all excellent keto-friendly sweeteners.
Each option is low in both calories and carbs, meaning that there is little to no effect on blood sugar, while still providing a pleasant sweet taste to all kinds of recipes. In a pinch, sucralose (Splenda) can be used on a keto diet. However, it should only be consumed in moderation because of its potential links to health issues when heated, and its extra grams of carbohydrates from the dextrose and maltodextrin.
Coffee and Tea
Consuming coffee, black tea, green tea, and herbal teas are all safe on a keto diet, as long as no sugar is added. This includes conventional sugar, as well as honey, agave, and other sugar-based sweeteners.
If desired, keto-friendly sweeteners like stevia or xylitol can be used instead. Plain cream (or even butter or ghee) can be added as well, but it’s important to avoid any flavored creamers that may contain added carbs.
There are many olive varieties, and all are equally suitable for a keto diet.
Olives contain many nutritional benefits, including fiber, healthy fat, and heart-healthy oleic acid. In addition, olives provide a variety of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, like oleuropein, Vitamin E, iron, copper, and calcium. Because they are often cured and stored in a saltwater brine, they are a higher sodium food that should be consumed in small quantities.
Almond and Coconut Baking Flours
Conventional baking flours (those made from wheat and other grains) are too high in carbs to be easily incorporated into a ketogenic diet. However, almond flour and coconut flour have the same nutrition as their whole food counterparts, making them great for a high-fat diet.
These flour substitutes can be used to make all kinds of delicious baked goods, like bread, muffins, crackers, pancakes, and even desserts like cookies, brownies, and cakes.
Alternative Low-Carb Milk
Many people aren’t aware that the lactose in cow’s milk is actually a sugar, which raises its carb content per serving. Therefore, it’s usually best to avoid cow’s milk during a keto diet.
However, there are several plant-based milk options that have a low-carb profile.
These alternative milk can sometimes contain added flavors and sweeteners, so you must make sure to select the unsweetened versions, otherwise, the added sugars will throw you out of ketosis. As long as you buy the plain, unsweetened varieties, you’ll have a lot of options to choose from!
- Almond milk is one of the easiest plant milk to find in grocery stores. It’s low in carbs and has a pleasant, neutral flavor.
- Coconut milk is also low in carbs, and slightly higher in fats. Just make sure you’re buying the drinking variety sold in a carton, not culinary coconut milk from a can.
- Macadamia nut milk is one of the richest, creamiest non-dairy milk you’ll find. It’s often sold in health food stores, but can also be purchased online.
- Hemp milk is a neutral-tasting option that has zero net carbs, making it an excellent keto food.
- Soy milk is a low carb, high protein option sold in most grocery stores. It’s best used in moderation rather than every day, as some people are sensitive to soy products.
- Flax milk can difficult to find outside of certain health food stores, but the unsweetened versions are a good low-carb option.
Coconuts can be eaten fresh, canned, or dried on a keto diet, giving you lots of variety when it comes to recipes.
They naturally contain the same healthy fats as coconut oil does, plus the benefit of added fiber. Be careful not to buy sweetened coconut in dried or canned form, as the added sugars will be too high for your daily carb count.
Shredded coconut or dried coconut flakes and chips can make delicious additions to baked goods and granolas!
Cocoa Powder/Dark Chocolate
Incorporating a bit of dark chocolate or cocoa into your diet adds a rich treat with great health benefits.
Both contain flavanols, a powerful and heart-healthy antioxidant. Although any type of solid chocolate contains fat, which is important while in ketosis, dark chocolate is the lowest in carbs and sugars, making it the best option.
For the lowest carb content and highest antioxidant profile, opt for the highest percentages of cacao that you can find.
It’s essential to include vegetables on a keto diet in order to consume enough necessary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Some vegetables are naturally higher in starches and natural sugars and are therefore best avoided. Instead, choose a selection of healthy veggies like the following:
- Leafy greens (like spinach, kale, and lettuce)
- Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts)
- Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant
- Cucumber, onions, cabbage, zucchini, asparagus, celery, mushrooms, and radishes
Sugar-Free Chewing Gum
When choosing chewing gum, look for the ingredient xylitol on the label, a keto-safe sweetener that is also good for oral health.
Lemons and Limes
These tart citrus fruits are both very low in carbs and have such a similar nutritional profile that they can be used interchangeably.
Their juice makes a great flavor addition to drinking water, and can also be used in many types of sweet and savory recipes.
Herbs and Spices
To add an abundance of flavor to your keto recipes, you can use most herbs and spices in either fresh or dried form, as long as no sugars have been added.
Keep a variety of options on your spice rack, like basil, oregano, garlic and onion powder, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper.