Your diet is one of the biggest players in determining this. Restricting your intake of carbs and increasing your intake of fats causes your body to switch from burning carbs to burning fat for fuel. This encourages it to break down fats into ketone bodies, which become the primary energy source.
The keto diet focuses on a low intake of carbohydrates. So it’s essential to know which foods are best to stock up on and which are best avoided so your body isn’t kicked out of ketosis.
In this article, we’ll explore the best keto-friendly foods you can add to your grocery list. We’ll also look at foods that are best avoided or limited to help you achieve the best results.
Best Foods for a Keto Diet
The keto diet can be challenging for new dieters. Luckily, there is a wide range of keto-friendly food options, so you can enjoy a good variety of meals each day.
Let’s explore these options!
Meat and Poultry
Fresh meat and poultry do not contain any carbs, so they can be considered staples in a keto diet. You can eat any unprocessed meat during a keto diet.
Some examples of high-protein foods that fit nicely into a keto diet are as follows:
- Organ meats (e.g., liver)
In general, the keto diet recommends a moderate amount of proteins. Getting enough proteins can help maintain satiety and preserve muscle mass while on a keto diet .
Fish and shellfish are some of the best foods to include in a keto diet. Fish contains near to no carbs and packs an incredible amount of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids.
According to the American Heart Association, omega-3 fatty acids can help improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke .
Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, and sardines are some of the richest sources of these healthy fats.
Shrimp, lobster, crab, and crawfish also contain negligible amounts of carbs, making them suitable for this diet. But you’ll need to be a little more careful with clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, and octopus, as these contain more carbs.
If you’re on a strict ketogenic diet, you’d want to prioritize veggies that are low in carbs. Some examples of low-carb vegetables include the following:
- Bell peppers: Bell peppers contain around 6 grams of carbs or 4.2 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. These low-carb veggies are especially rich in vitamin C but are also loaded with other vitamins, such as vitamins B6, E, and A.
- Spinach: There are approximately 3.6 grams of carbs and about 1.3 grams of net carbs per 100 grams of spinach. Apart from its antioxidant effects, some other health benefits of this leafy green include improved heart health and blood pressure .
- Kale: In general, kale contains about 2 grams of carbs per 100 grams and a minimal amount of net carbs. This highly-nutritious vegetable is loaded with essential nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin A, and manganese. Manganese is a trace mineral that helps to enhance bone health, reduce inflammation, and support optimal blood sugar regulation .
- Cabbage: This keto-friendly vegetable contains about 6 grams of carbs and 3 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. It is a fantastic source of vitamin C and vitamin K. Vitamin K plays a vital role in regulating blood clotting and supporting the production of healthy bone tissue .
- Zucchini: Zucchini contains around 3 grams of carbs and 2 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. Apart from its low-carb content, zucchini is packed with various nutrients and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, potassium, and folate.
- Brussels sprouts: Brussels sprouts are considered suitable for a keto lifestyle due to their low net carb content. These cruciferous vegetables contain about 9 grams of carbs and 5.2 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. They are also high in fibre, vitamin K, and vitamin C and are a decent source of minerals like potassium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
- Cauliflower: There are around 5 grams of carbs and 3 grams of net carbs in 100 grams of cauliflower. This vegetable is naturally high in B vitamins, fibre, and antioxidants.
- Broccoli: Broccoli contains about 7 grams of carbs or 3.3 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. It is an excellent source of fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. Interestingly, broccoli is thought to have anticancer, antidiabetes, and anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of a compound known as sulforaphane.
- Asparagus: There are approximately 4 grams of carbs and 2 grams of net carbs per 100 grams of asparagus. This vegetable serves as a decent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, B vitamins, and zinc.
Fruits are naturally high in sugar and carbs, but don’t be so quick to cross them off your keto food list. Certain fruits are lower in net carbs than others, making them a suitable addition to most low-carb diets.
The following are some fruits to consider adding to your keto diet plan:
- Raspberries: Raspberries contain around 12 grams of carbs and 5.4 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. Despite their small size, raspberries are packed with various nutrients, including fibre, vitamin C, B vitamins, and manganese.
- Strawberries: Strawberries can be consumed in moderation on a keto diet. There are approximately 7.6 grams of carbs and 6 grams of net carbs in 100 grams of strawberries.
- Blackberries: A small amount of blackberries is fine on a keto diet. Blackberries contain around 9.6 grams of carbs and 4.3 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. They’re a decent source of vitamin C, fibre, and antioxidants. Compared to blackberries, blueberries are on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of carbs, so you’ll need to watch your intake of them if you choose to add them to your keto diet.
- Avocados: This keto-friendly fruit packs an impressive amount of healthy unsaturated fats, making it a perfect addition to a keto diet. It contains around 8.5 grams of carbs and 1.8 grams of net carbs per 100 grams and is rich in vitamins C, E, and K, as well as magnesium and potassium.
- Apricot: Apricots can fit into a keto diet but should be consumed in moderation. These fruits contain around 11 grams of carbs and 9 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. If you’re thinking about having dried apricots, always read the nutritional label to check the net carb and sugar content since they might contain a high amount of added sugars.
- Watermelon: There are approximately 8 grams of carbs and 7 grams of net carbs per 100 grams of watermelon. Apart from being highly refreshing, watermelons are also packed with healthy plant compounds, including lycopene and cucurbitacin E, which are thought to have cancer-fighting properties. That said, more research is needed to prove these claims.
For a dairy product to be keto-approved, it needs to be low in carbs and added sugars. If you’re on a keto diet, read the nutritional labels of the dairy products you buy, noting their net carb content and the amount of added sugars.
In general, the following dairy products will be best for a keto diet:
- Butter: Butter contains just 0.1 carbs per 100 grams, making it essentially carb-free. You may go for grass-fed butter since this variation is slightly higher in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Ghee: Ghee is a clarified form of butter. Ghee contains a slightly higher concentration of fats than butter and no carbs, making it the perfect choice for a keto diet.
- Heavy cream: Heavy cream is the portion of milk that rises to the top due to its high-fat content. Since it is a high-fat dairy product with a much lower carb content than milk, it’s suitable for a keto diet. In general, there are almost 3 grams of carbs per 100 grams of heavy cream.
- Certain cheeses: Cheese isn’t off-limits on a keto diet. Some types of cheese that are suitable for a keto diet include parmesan cheese (4.1 grams of carbs per 100 grams), goat cheese (0.1 grams of carbs), cream cheese (4.1 grams of carbs), and blue cheese (2.3 grams of carbs).
- Greek yoghurt: Greek yoghurt may be a reasonable addition to the keto diet, but moderation is key. Go for plain, full-fat Greek yoghurt, as flavoured Greek yoghurt likely contains more added sugars. There are approximately 3.6 grams of carbs per 100 grams of Greek yoghurt.
- Certain types of milk: Not all types of milk are keto-friendly. But you don’t have to avoid milk entirely on a keto diet. Unsweetened almond milk (0.8 grams of carbs per 244-gram serving) and macadamia nut milk (1 gram of carbs per 244-gram serving) fit nicely into a keto lifestyle.
Most Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are very low in net carbs and high in healthy fats, making them an excellent addition to any keto diet. They’re also rich in antioxidants, fibre, minerals, and vitamins and are thought to help support weight loss and cardiovascular health.
You can include the following nuts and seeds in a low-carb diet. The approximate carbs and net carbs provided are per 100 grams of each food.
- Flaxseeds: ~1.6 grams of net carbs (~28.9 grams of carbs)
- Chia seeds: ~7.7 grams of net carbs (~42.1 grams of carbs)
- Pumpkin seeds: ~10 grams of net carbs (~13.3 grams of carbs)
- Macadamia nuts: ~5.4 grams of net carbs (~13.4 grams of carbs)
- Pecans: ~4.3 grams of net carbs (~13.9 grams of carbs)
- Almonds: ~5.2 grams of net carbs (~16.2 grams of carbs)
- Brazil nuts: ~4.2 grams of net carbs (~11.7 grams of carbs)
- Walnuts: ~7 grams of net carbs (~13.7 grams of carbs)
The exact number of carbs of different seeds and nuts will vary based on how they were processed and if they contain any added sugars or flavourings. Be sure to look at the nutritional labels of products you buy to gauge how well they fit into a keto lifestyle.
The keto diet calls for a relatively higher portion of fats, but this can take some time to get accustomed to. To ensure you get enough of this macronutrient while on this high-fat diet, you can be more generous with the amount of oil you use in your meals and cooking.
While all pure oils contain zero carbs, certain oils are naturally healthier than others. Here are some of the best oils to include in your low-carb meal plan:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- MCT oil
- Hazelnut oil
When choosing a suitable oil for your keto lifestyle, opt for oils made from foods that are naturally high in fats, such as olives and avocados.
What to Avoid on a Keto Diet
On a keto diet, your carb intake is typically restricted to less than 50 grams of carbs daily. This means you will have to avoid certain types of foods to ensure your body isn’t kicked out of ketosis.
Here are some high-carb foods that are best avoided or limited on a keto diet:
- Foods high in refined carbs: This includes white bread, rice, and pasta. Instead, you could opt for cauliflower rice or low-carb bread made from almond or coconut flour.
- Processed meats: While processed meats like bacon, sausage, or ham are keto-friendly, they are not the healthiest form of protein to add to your diet. Current research suggests that a higher intake of processed meats is linked to a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and mortality .
- Sugary beverages: A regular soda can quickly push you past your daily carb and sugar limit with just one serving. Fruit juices generally aren’t ideal for keto, either, since they’re loaded with sugars.
- Honey and maple syrup: One tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of carbs. Meanwhile, maple syrup contains 13 grams of carbs per tablespoon. Both honey and maple syrup don’t contain fibre, meaning that their net carbs are just as high as their total carbs. If you’d like a substitute for honey, maple syrup, or sugar, you can consider replacing them with keto sweeteners like stevia, allulose, and erythritol.
- Starchy vegetables: Sweet potatoes, potatoes, parsnips, squash, peas, corn, and legumes like black beans, green beans, and peas are best avoided on a keto diet.
- High-carb fruits: Bananas, apples, grapes, mangoes, cherries, pineapples, and lychees are all fruits that do not fit well into a keto diet.
- Regular beer and mixed drinks: An average can of beer contains about 13 grams of carbs. Mixed drinks and cocktails contain syrups, juices, and mixers, making them less suitable for a keto diet. Instead, you may go for wine since they generally contain fewer carbs. Apart from that, pure spirits like vodka and whiskey are practically carb-free.
- Cow’s milk: In general, cow’s milk isn’t keto-friendly because they have higher amounts of sugar in the form of lactose.
A keto diet can be restrictive since you will have to limit or avoid your intake of higher-carb, starchy, and sugary foods. However, there’s still a decent amount of wiggle room when it comes to meal planning for a keto diet. Non-starchy vegetables, lower-carb fruits, fish, eggs, meat, nuts, butter, ghee, and oils are suitable for a keto lifestyle.
Of course, the keto diet can still be a significant change from the meals you’d typically have. Because of this, it’s best to consult your nutritionist, dietitian, or healthcare professional before starting on a keto diet, especially if you have any medical conditions or are on any medications.
If you’re looking for more guidance and information on kickstarting a keto diet, feel free to check out our beginner’s guide to a keto diet, as well as lists of the best keto-friendly snacks and meal plans. You can also read our recommendation for the best keto meal providers in Australia.
Explore in more detail
- The Keto Diet for Beginners: Pros, Cons, & Tips to Get Started
- Best Keto-Friendly Foods to Try (& What to Avoid)
- Best Keto-Friendly Snacks: Ideas for Beginners
- 15 Keto Breads You Can Buy in Australia That Are Low-Carb
- Best Keto Meal Plans: A Beginner’s Guide + Sample Menu
- The Top Keto-Friendly Meal Delivery Services In Australia
- The 6 Best Keto-Friendly Restaurants In Sydney
- How To Tell If Your Body Is In Ketosis
- 9 Ketone Testing Devices To Check If You’re In Ketosis (Including Strips And Breathalysers)
- Keto Sweeteners In Australia (2023): Best & Worst Substitutes For A Low-Carb Diet