What You Can Eat on the Keto Diet

The keto diet is pretty easy to follow. All you really need is to learn which foods to enjoy, and which foods to avoid. And then you get eating. That’s it!

I’ve been teaching my patients how to do keto for years, and I’ve had a lot of success with my approach. Other keto guides set targets for net carbohydrate consumption (net carbs equals total carbs minus dietary fiber). Some experts advise 25g per day, some advise 50g, and others something in between. That’s not my approach—I don’t want my patients stressing out about how many baby carrots they’ve eaten, or scheming to fit half a candy bar in under their daily limit. You don’t need a kitchen scale or a calculator to enjoy the ketogenic lifestyle. If you’re eating the right types of foods, the carb count will take care of itself.
Here’s my easy guide to ingredients. I’ve separated foods into three categories: foods you should eat a lot of, foods you can eat a little of, and foods you cannot eat at all.

Eat a LOT of These Foods

The foods below will make up the vast majority of your diet. Emphasize these foods and you’re on your way to enjoying a diverse diet of minimally processed ingredients, full of healthy vegetables, protein, and high-quality fats.
Green Leafy Vegetables- You’ve always known it: green veggies are just about the healthiest thing you can put in your body. Broccoli, kale, cabbage, spinach, collard greens, brussels sprouts, green beans: these vegetables are generally low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, chock full of vitamins and minerals, and other beneficial substances. They fill you up without adding many calories, and should absolutely be a central part of your diet.
Non-Starchy Vegetables
- Cauliflower has become the quintessential low-carb vegetable because it is such a good substitute for potato and rice. Zucchini and summer squash make delicious pasta substitutes. Avocado is high in healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Turnips, radishes, and mushrooms are among the many other non-starchy vegetables that can be enjoyed without limit.
When you start cooking all those veggies, you’ll probably find yourself eating more fat than you ever have before. Don’t skimp on healthy oils such as olive, coconut, and avocado oils. Animal fats – butter, bacon fat, or even pork lard and beef tallow – are great too.
Meat is the centerpiece of many low-carb diets. From the leanest skinless chicken breast to the fattiest pork belly or ribeye steak, meats from the natural heart of many low-carb meals. Meat provides a vital source of protein and nutrients and is terrific for your metabolism.
Seafood- Seafood is perhaps the healthiest of all protein sources: lean white fish such as tilapia and cod for clean protein, fatty fish like tuna and mackerel for rich Omega-3’s, and shellfish for incredible nutrient density. Most experts agree that we should all be eating more seafood, and this is a great opportunity to add more seafood to your diet.
The controversy is over: eggs are good for you! Enjoy as many eggs as you wish.

Eat a Little Bit of These Foods

There are more than a few ingredients that fall in a gray area between low- and high-carb. The following foods can be enjoyed in moderation. A little bit will bring some welcome flavor and variety to your diet, but a lot can throw you off the diet, so be careful.
Nuts- Nuts are packed with protein and healthy fats and are a treasured part of many low-carb diets. But carb contents vary from one nut to another, and it’s easy to get carried away with these treats. Lower carbohydrate nuts, such as pecans and macadamia nuts, are a super healthy snack. Medium-carby nuts, such as almonds and peanuts, are fine in moderation, but it may be tough to keep yourself from eating too many! The same goes for peanut butter which, even when you buy the “natural” stuff, has enough carbs that it should only be used sparingly. Cashews and pistachios are two of the varieties with the most carbs—try limiting yourself to just one handful.
Some Vegetables- Carrots, beets, onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers: there’s a long list of vegetables with moderate carbohydrate content. All of these ingredients are fine in moderation—there’s nothing wrong with adding a little onion to a sauce—but you do need to watch out because the carbs can sneak up on you.
Dairy- Cheese and other low-carb dairy products, like sour cream and heavy cream, add richness to a low-carb diet without provoking insulin production. They have very few carbs, but nevertheless, you probably don’t want to eat too much dairy, both because it’s easy to overeat and because it can lead to gastrointestinal distress. Whole milk and plain yogurt do have about 12g of net carbohydrates in a single cup (sugared yogurt is a definite no-no!). A little bit of either can make a nice part of your diet, but don’t go overboard.

Eat NONE of these Foods

If there’s one important message to following the ketogenic diet, it’s that the following foods must be totally eliminated. If you can truly remove sugar, grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, and legumes, you’re almost certainly going to succeed on keto.
Sugar- Added sugar is absolutely the biggest no-no in a low-carb diet. Candy, soda, sweets: all gone. “Natural” sugars like maple syrup, honey and agave syrup are no better. Sugar is also added to almost any processed food you can think of, from ketchup to canned soup, and you’ll need to scrutinize nutrition panels and ingredient labels aggressively in order to make sure that you’re not eating sneaky sugars.
Grains- Bread, pasta, rice, oatmeal, cereal, etc. All grains are extremely high in carbohydrates, from highly processed Wonder Bread to the healthiest heirloom quinoa. Unfortunately, there’s no wiggle room here: you can’t eat grains on this diet.
Starchy Vegetables- Potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and butternut squash—if a vegetable is dense and sweet, it’s probably high in carbs.
Fruit- Fruits are naturally high-carb and as such should be avoided. Some fruits (such as berries) are comparatively high in fiber and protein, and may eventually have a small place in a well-formulated low-carb diet. But beginners are advised to eliminate all fruits entirely. This goes double for fruit juices, sweet liquids from which all of the fruit’s healthiest elements have been filtered.
Beans, lentils, chickpeas: while there are reasons to believe that these high-protein ingredients are healthier than sugars and grains, the fact is that they still pack in a lot of carbohydrates. It’s not really possible to eat legumes on a low-carb diet.
Industrial Seed Oils-
Industrial seed oils (canola, corn, soybean, sunflower, etc) don’t immediately raise your blood sugar, but they can wreak havoc with your metabolism. These cheap oils, produced with modern industrial processes, are a huge contributor to the world’s issues with insulin resistance and chronic inflammation, and they’re found in almost every processed food. Toss out the veggie oil and cook instead with olive, coconut, or avocado oil, butter, or even pork lard and beef tallow.

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