New to the ketogenic diet? Want the best keto foods in a list for easier shopping? May this guide help you make the right choices at the grocery store. And may it help you melt fat as easily as a heated skillet melts butter.
Speaking of butter, that’s a winner on the ketogenic diet shopping list. Only if it’s grass-fed, though. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I’ll share plenty of what I consider the best low carb foods for both health and weight loss.
However, first, here’s a simple philosophy of what the best keto foods are….
OK, remember when you were in grade school and you learned about the food pyramid? The bottom tier of the pyramid was starchy carbohydrates, i.e. grains. Think: bread, pasta, cereal and rice.
The inverse of the pyramid, the top level, was fats and oils. The servings recommendation for grains was about a dozen servings per day. In comparison, the guideline for fats and oils: use sparingly.
Surely, you’re familar with the pyramid. Well, if you want an easy rule to follow a keto foods list, just flip the pyramid. Natural, dietary fat will be your best fat-burning friend on the keto diet.
Sadly, not much has changed with the United States Drug and Agricutlutre (USDA) food pyramid. Grains still make up a significant portion of the pyramid. And fats are still villainous. In fact, a modern take on the food pyramid (available at MyPyramid.Gov) does not even include fats/oils. It’s as if one of the three macronutrients does not exist!
The best macronutrient for a keto foods list
The three macronutrients (or “macros” as they’re better known in the keto community) are fat, protein and carbs.
Guess which of the three macros does not raise your blood sugar levels?
The answer: fats
And guess which of the three macros does not cause insulin resistance, a condition which may result in type 2 diabetes?
The answer: again, it’s dietary fat.
That even today, the federal government’s dietary guidelines recommends a dozen serving of grains a day is shameful. No wonder obesity and diabetes rates continue to surge.
You’re probably familiar with the saying, “A house is only as strong as its foundation.” Well, with the federal government’s food pyramid, the foundation is a recipe for metabolic diseases. Grains and cereals are culpable in the nation’s diabesity epidemic.
The Keto Diet Macros
OK, I’ll get off my dietary soapbox in a moment and review some great keto foods.
But let me first summarize what a typical meal ratio of macros looks like to keep you in ketosis so your body will burn its own fat for energy.
As a general rule of thumb, fat should account for about three-quarters of your total calorie intake. Is it hard to wrap your head around the fact that dietary fat helps you burn your own bodyfat? So long as it’s not processed fat (fried butter at the fair, for example), indeed, fat helps burn fat.
Protein helps nourish your muscles, hair, nails and connective tissue. You don’t want to eat a ton of protein. That’s because eating too much protein can kick you out of ketosis. Limit your protein intake to one-quarter of your plate.
And then there’s the third macro, carbs. Consider carbs the enemy of keto diets. With the exception of certain vegetables and an even smaller exception of fruits.
Keto diet weight loss
Remember the Atkins diet craze? It actually still remains a popular diet. However, when it first came out, followers of the diet were delighted to be able to eat platefulls of bacon, eggs, cheese. And any other food that makes most cardiologists hurriedly scratch out a prescription for a cholesterol-lowering drug.
If you want to lose weight on the keto diet, you’re not going to be able to eat pounds of bacon. Not necessarily because it goes against the keto philosophy (if it’s naturally-raised bacon with no added nitrites or nitrates, no problem!). Rather, if you stick to keto foods, you won’t want to eat a lot.
And here’s why….
When you’re in ketosis, you’re able to digest fats and proteins better. Your appetite will also be mildly suppressed. This is due to a special hormone (CCK) that delays the empty-stomach feeling after a meal.
With most other weight-loss diets, your CCK levels will actually decline. This might be one (of many) reasons most diets fail. However, after eating keto foods for a minimal time, your CCK levels will rise. You simply won’t need to eat as much.
And these keto friendly foods you will be eating will help you burn fat.
What to eat on keto diet
Now, without further ado, finally, here’s some keto foods you can eat without worrying about your health.
The first group of keto-friendly foods is meat.
You’ve likely heard that eating meat is bad for you. In particular, red meat. Red meat consumption, some studies demonstrate (like this one), leads to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
However, what most of these studies fail to take into account is the quality of the meat.
Yes, processed meat is bad. (Think: most commercial bacon, ground beef, pork, factory-farmed chicken, packaged deli slices, cured meats.)
However, grass-fed beef and bison are healthy. So, too, is virtually any animal that lives in its natural setting and feeds on its natural diet. When you eat a slice of grass-fed beef, you’re consuming the beneficial nutrients that the cow ate. This includes omega-3 fatty acids. And CLA, which is another healthy fatty acid. In fact, CLA may help reduce cancer.
The advice to avoid processed meats is a little misguided. After all, that piece of grass-fed beef you’re about to sink your teeth into has been processed.
Just keep in mind that beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb and fish is best if it’s organic. I realize that organic meat can be way more expensive. But, buying from places like Butcher Box helps keep costs lower.
This isn’t a keto foods list on the cheap. However, remember that when you’re in ketosis, you actually won’t need to eat a whole steak to make you feel full. (Some people don’t consider fish meat, but I do).
Avoid meat with condiments. Because, even if you’re enjoying a 4th of July barbecue with grass-fed burgers, a dollop of ketchup might be all it takes to kick you out of ketosis. (Depending on many factors, you may need to limit your total net carbs to 25-50 grams per day to stay in ketosis.) So, enhance your meats with natural spices and herbs instead.
Certain dairy products are best keto foods. But there are exceptions. Dairy milk (especially from cows) can lead to inflammation.
It’s relatively hard to find cow’s milk that comes from 100% grass-fed cattle. There are brands of so-called “Grass Milk” but even grass milk may kick you out of ketosis. Especially if you’re not being careful with limiting other sources of carbs.
Because milk is relatively high in sugar, it’s avoided on a keto diet. In fact, just one cup of milk contains over a dozen grams of carbs. And there’s no fiber to bring down the net carb count lower.
I love milk but milk doesn’t love me back. I find it hard to stay in ketosis if I drink milk regularly. Instead, I prefer making my own nut milks (especially almond). In addition, I use lots of Coconut Milk in my recipes. Including this one for Peanut Butter Chocolate Milkshake.
Also, Coconut Cream is an excellent dairy alternative.
If you lump eggs into the dairy category, eggs are perfect keto foods. But try and only buy organic eggs. If you have access to a farmer’s market, you can buy eggs directly from the farmer. Farm fresh eggs don’t have to be organic. Getting an organic certification is too costly for some small farmers. But if the farmer tells you that the eggs come from pasture-raised, free-range chickens, go for it! Eat a couple eggs a day to keep the bodyfat away.
If you love cheese and yogurt, no need to give them up. Just make sure that the cheese comes from 100% grass-fed cows. And be certain that yogurt is full-fat and plain.
Keto diet grocery list
In additon to meat, and dairy, you should consume other healthy fats.
There are two fruits that have lots of healthy fat. Most fruits lack fat. And many fruits are high in sugar. However, olives and avocados are two fruits that have virtually no carbs and lots of healthy fat.
Yes, olives are fruits. And extra virgin olive oil (if you can get the first pressing of the olives, that’s the best!) is a healthy fruit juice! Avocados are sort of like the fish of the fruit world. They contain omega 3 fatty acids, as does salmon and other cold-water oily fish that are healthy for your heart and best keto foods.
Other fats you can eat till your belly’s happy include Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Ghee, which is clarified butter or butter with the lactose removed, Lard (yes, lard is good for you, especially to cook with if is organic or not been hydrogenated) and Avocado Mayonnaise!
How do you know which veggies are good for a keto diet? And which ones are too high in net carbs? The simple answer: if it’s green and leafy, eat a bunch of it.
Spinach, kale, chard, parsley and any other green veggie that goes well in a green drink are high in antioxidants. You don’t want to avoid these super healthy veggies just for the sake of staying in ketosis.
Bacon and eggs won’t provide you with the plant compounds that may help prevent disease. Also recommended on the keto foods list in the veggie department: cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, radish and more. Want a chart with low net carb veggies? Take a look at this list of keto friendly vegetables.
In the colder months, you might feel like eating higher starch carbs. You can still eat these. Just do so in moderation. Sweet potatoes, yams, peas, carrots, GMO-free corn, and other tubers contain lots of nutrition. But due to their relative high carb content, exercise prudent portion control.
Sea vegetables are extremely nutrient-dense. But here in the U.S. few people eat sea vegetables such as seaweed, wakame, hijiki, dulse, kelp and others you might see in a sushi restaurant.
One reason researchers believe certain Japanese populations live into their 100s is because of sea veggies. Sea veggies are keto friendly because they are low in net carbs.
Nuts & Seeds
Avoid seed oils like plague. Most commercial seed oils (soybean, cottonseed) are highly inflammatory to your body. It’s hard to lose weight when you’re body is in a chronic state of inflammation.
However, whole nuts and seeds are solid keto foods. But certain nuts are high in carbs. Therefore, limit your intake of nuts to a handful one or two times per day. Here’s a list of nuts and seeds I deem safe for keto:
Peanuts (although they are not Paleo, a small amount of peanuts is ok for Keto)
Nut & Seed Butters
I have dozens of recipes here on LowCarbYum.com that are keto-friendly. Keto snacks are low in sugar. They use natural sweetener alternatives such as stevia and monk fruit extract. (See list of keto-friendly baking ingredients below.) Here are just a few keto-friendly snacks:
Flax Seed Crackers
Most breads and processed foods are made with white or wheat flour. And, both are bad for your health. But try using some of these flours instead to make keto foods:
Sunflower Seed Flour
Sesame Seed Flour
Monk Fruit Liquid
Monk Fruit Powder
Sugar Free Baking Chips
Glucomannan Powder: a great substitute for white flour; comes from a wild yam-like plant.
Whey Protein: choose 100% grass-fed organic for optimal keto health
This is by no means a complete, comprehensive list of keto foods. But this post will hopefully be a handy guide for eating keto.