The ketogenic diet, or keto as it’s more commonly known, is a high-fat, low-carb diet. It’s similar to the Atkins diet and other low-carb diets, but keto limits the amount of protein you can consume whereas there’s no cap on the Atkins diet.
The keto diet was originally created in 1923 by Dr. Russell Wilder for the treatment of epilepsy. And, according to various medical literature, only eating products from the keto diet food list is thought to be effective against cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.
The diet’s main use, however, is as a weight-loss plan. The diet is proven to reduce hunger and food intake in the short-term, and followers report more than twice the weight loss on keto as they do on a calorie-restricted diet.
There are various versions of the keto diet, but the standard ketogenic diet (SKD) is said to be the most popular. This program usually contains 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs, and in this article, we’re going to list all the foods to eat on the keto diet.
Keto Diet Explained – How does it Work?
Such a drastic reduction of carbohydrates puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
During ketosis, your insulin levels drop and large amounts of fatty acids are released from your body’s fat stores. They are then transferred to the liver, where they are oxidized and turned into ketone bodies. Those ketone bodies can be used by the body and the brain as energy.
To achieve ketosis most people will need to consume less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day, but that can drop to as low as 20 grams for some keto dieters.
What Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, your keto diet food plan should consist of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. The strict percentages for each macro lead a lot of people to believe that the keto diet is restrictive, but there are actually a lot of foods allowed on the keto diet.
Here’s what products should be on your keto diet grocery list.
Healthy fats make up the vast majority of your daily food intake on the keto diet and they are essential for keeping your body in ketosis. It’s not good enough to just eat any fat, though: quality is highly important. The four categories of fat permitted on the keto diet are saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats including omega-3, and naturally occurring trans fats.
Fat on the keto diet can be derived from full-fat dairy and red meats, and some other additional sources.
Put the following products on your keto diet shopping list:
Fats and oils
- Butter (or ghee)
- Lard (or dripping)
- Coconut oil (or coconut butter)
- Olive oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Sesame oil
- Walnut oil
- MCT oil
- MCT powder
Nuts and seeds
- Macadamias (or macadamia butter)
- Cashews (or cashew butter with salt)
- Almonds (or almond butter with salt)
- Brazil nuts
- Pili nuts
- Pine nuts
- Pumpkin seeds (hulled)
- Sunflower seeds (hulled, or sunflower seed butter)
- Sesame seeds (or tahini)
A substantial portion of your calories will come from protein while you’re following the keto diet. Some studies have shown a link between the consumption of red meat and cancer, but research often fails to consider the quality of the meat. The best protein-based foods for the keto diet are organic and locally sourced. Avoid processed meat products wherever possible.
The best sources of protein for the keto diet are:
- Organ meats
Vegetarian and vegan protein sources for the keto diet include tofu, seitan, tempeh, and other high-protein, low-carb meat substitutes.
Many people find that dairy bloats them or causes breakouts, so if that’s you don’t worry: dairy isn’t an essential component of keto. That being said, many issues with dairy are related to lactose intolerance which is caused by the sugar in milk. It’s entirely possible that you can consume dairy without any problems by removing lactose from your diet.
The best dairy products for the keto diet are:
- Blue cheese
- Cream cheese
- Goat cheese
- Cottage cheese (creamed or 2% fat)
- Ricotta (with whole milk)
- Yogurt (plain, unsweetened, with whole milk)
- Heavy whipping/double cream (fluid or whipped)
If you choose to include dairy in your diet, avoid all low-fat and fat-free dairy products as they’re usually full of sugar. Condensed and evaporated milk are also to be avoided, so use unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk in keto diet recipes instead.
As you know, your carb intake should be extremely low on the keto diet. The carbs that you do consume should mainly come from a long list of vegetables that grow above the ground like asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens. Carbohydrates can also come from nuts, seeds and dairy, and on occasion from fruits such as strawberries and blueberries.
Foods not Allowed on the Keto Diet
It probably goes without saying that any high-carb foods should be seriously limited. The keto diet can be tricky for beginners but a simple rule is to avoid all of the following foods:
- Grains and starches (wheat-based products like pasta, rice, and cereal)
- Beans and legumes (peas, lentils, kidney beans, etc.)
- Root vegetables and tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.)
- Sugary food and drink (fruit juice, soda, candy, ice cream, etc.)
- Fruit (except for small portions of berries)
- Diet, sugar-free, or low-fat products
- Unhealthy fats
- Some sauces and condiments
While it’s not necessary to add supplements to your keto diet shopping list, they can help you feel good and stay healthy throughout the program.
When you’re just starting out with keto you might find that you suffer from 'keto flu’. It’s common to lose water at the beginning of a low carb diet, so dehydration and a loss of minerals can lead to headaches, fatigue, nausea, and other flu-like symptoms. To combat these temporary side effects, consider taking electrolytes to replace the ones you’re losing.
Once that phase has passed, many keto dieters take fish oil to ensure that they’re getting plenty of omega-3 (it’s easy not to on the keto diet). L-glutamine is an amino acid that acts as a powerful free radical-fighting antioxidant and your reserves can become depleted during keto, so taking an L-glutamine supplement can protect against this.
If you need to lose a lot of weight, the keto diet may be the best way for you to do it. The keto diet can be confusing for beginners, but followers drop pounds incredibly quickly while also benefitting from lots of other health benefits. Follow our keto diet food list and let us know how well it works for you.
Have you already started keto? What does a typical keto diet meal plan look like for you? Let us know in the comments.