5 Surprising Foods You Can Eat on the Keto Diet
Adopting a new way of eating can be hard when the foods you love don’t fit into the
diet rules. The best part about the ketogenic diet is the freedom it provides — there
are a few major foods to avoid, but as long as you stay within the macronutrient
ratios, you are free to get creative. With little tweaks to your recipes, you’ll still be
able to enjoy your favorite comfort and fast food favorites.
While high-carbohydrate grains aren’t recommended, there are so many grain-free
pasta alternatives on the shelves today that you’ll hardly miss your whole wheat
spaghetti. Shirataki noodles and noodles made from kelp or edamame are great low-
carb choices that are available in most specialty grocery stores. You can also make
your own vegetable noodles from zucchini or squash with a spiralizer. Saute with
butter or olive oil, garlic, basil, parmesan cheese, and pepper for a quick take on a
traditional “aglio e olio” pasta.
“Macaroni” and Cheese
In addition to pasta alternatives, cauliflower works as a great substitute for high-
carb grains. Combine bite-size pieces of steamed cauliflower with heavy cream,
cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and your favorite herbs and spices. Toss it in the
oven and bake until gooey – a keto-friendly version of a classic comfort food.
Keto dieters love cauliflower for its versatility, and it strikes again as a substitute for
rice. You can usually find “riced cauliflower” in most produce departments, but you
can also give fresh heads a quick spin in a food processor or chop finely by hand to
create a rice-like texture. Use it as a base in a burrito bowl: Top your “rice” with
seasoned ground beef or turkey, a Mexican cheese blend, lettuce, black olives, salsa,
and scallions — just leave off the beans!
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
A favorite on many chain restaurant menus, spinach and artichoke dip is a great way
to incorporate veggies and keep your appetizer course keto-friendly. Make sure it’s
made with 2% or full-fat dairy without added sugars, and swap the typical dipping
bread for celery, cucumbers, or endive leaves.
Yes, you can still enjoy an occasional drink while following the keto diet. While
alcohol does slow down fat burning and ketone production, sticking to hard alcohol
and keeping your sugary mixers to a minimum is your best bet to stay in ketosis.
Choose liquors like tequila, unflavored vodka, and whiskey, and avoid syrups, sodas,
beer, and sweet wines.
What Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?
Many people fear that adopting a ketogenic diet will feel restrictive and limiting.
What do you eat if refined carbohydrates like wheat, flour, and sugar are off the
table? And no fruit?
The answer: more than you may initially realize. The keto diet can seem confusing
and restrictive at first because it’s very different from the way we’re used to eating.
But after you get used to eating a low-carb, high-fat diet, you may be surprised to
learn how easy and satisfying it can be.
The keto diet is high in fat, low in carbs, with moderate protein intake. The standard
macronutrient breakdown for maintaining ketosis is roughly 75% of your daily
calories from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbohydrates.
You should include high-quality fats in every meal. In broad terms, there are two
different types of fat you should include in your keto diet: saturated fat and
Saturated fat has earned a bad reputation over the years. It’s often blamed for health
conditions such as heart disease and elevated cholesterol. However, recent studies
indicate that these claims are unfounded and that a low-fat diet does not actually
lower the risk of heart disease.
Saturated fat is typically found in animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy. For
most people on a ketogenic diet, these foods play a large role.
When choosing meat, select the fattiest types, such as sausage and beef. Chicken and
turkey are leaner meats. If you eat poultry, leave the skin on.
For dairy products, stay away from milk, which is higher in lactose. Choose high-fat
dairy products such as heavy whipping cream and full-fat cheese.
Coconut products are also high in saturated fat and typically form a large part of the
keto diet. Common coconut products include coconut oil, unsweetened coconut
milk, and MCT oil derived from coconut.
Unsaturated fat is what we typically think of as healthy fats. Foods high in
unsaturated fat include avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like
salmon and mackerel. These foods are especially helpful in increasing your fat
intake while keeping your protein consumption at a moderate level.
To get more unsaturated fat in your diet, try using avocado as the base for a
smoothie. Use olive oil with herbs as a salad dressing. Snack on nuts and olives.
Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds can easily be added to salads or stir-fries.
Fatty fish are also important as they provide you with essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Non-starchy Fruits and Vegetables
Finally, don’t forget your fruits and vegetables, which provide important vitamins
and minerals that your body needs to function properly. The keto diet can include
plenty of non-starchy fruits and vegetables, including spinach and other leafy
greens, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, and
avocados. After you’re fully adapted, you can also add in small quantities of
tomatoes and berries.
What Foods Should Be Avoided on the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet aims to maintain a state of nutritional ketosis by limiting
carbohydrate intake to roughly 5% of total calories. For many people, this means
eating a diet that is vastly different from what we have been told to eat our entire
lives. Guidelines for the standard American diet recommend making carbohydrates
45 to 65% of total calories, so switching to a low-carb diet can be confusing at first.
There are a few important points to keep in mind when planning your keto diet. The
first is that low-carb does not mean no-carb. You will still eat some carbohydrates
on your keto diet, mostly in the form of non-starchy vegetables.
The second thing to remember is that your macronutrient calculations should be
based on net carbs, not total carbs. Since the body doesn’t digest fiber, fiber grams
can be deducted from your total carbohydrates. This makes it much easier to stay
within your 5% carbohydrate limit.
Some foods should absolutely be avoided on a keto diet because they are too high in
carbs. These include grains of any kind, starchy vegetables such as corn, potatoes,
rice, and legumes.
Foods containing derivatives of these — such as corn syrup and potato starch —
should also be avoided.
Get in the habit of reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists on any packaged
foods. Even if an item appears to be low in carbohydrates, it could still contain
additives that should not be included in a keto diet.
Most types of fruit are too high in sugar to be included in a keto diet. However, once
your body is adapted to the keto diet, you can consume small quantities of berries
and tomatoes. Cucumbers and avocados are also allowed.
All Forms of Sugar
Any type of sugar should be avoided. In addition to regular sugar, this includes
additives such as brown sugar, sucrose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, high-fructose
corn syrup, cane juice, cane syrup, fruit juice concentrate, and molasses.
Other Food Additives
Watch out for other ingredients that can cause inflammation or interfere with your
body’s insulin response. These include MSG, partially hydrogenated oils, refined oils,autolyzed yeast, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. As a general rule, if you don’t
recognize something or can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
Some people opt to continue using artificial sweeteners while on a keto diet. Be
aware, however, that if your goal is weight loss, artificial sweeteners may make it
difficult to lose weight. Avoid products that contain Equal, Splenda, aspartame,
sucralose, and acesulfame potassium. Instead, look for products that use sweeteners
such as sugar alcohols (such as erythritol, xylitol, and maltitol), stevia, or monk fruit.
The healthiest foods to eat are those that don’t contain any ingredient lists: non-
starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and high-quality meats such as grass-fed beef.
Although this way of eating may be an adjustment for you, it will become easier in
time, and the benefits are worth it!
Try These Easy Swaps to Kickstart Your Keto Diet
"Going keto" sounds difficult, but replacing high-carb foods with more balanced
options can be a snap. The ketogenic diet — based on a macronutrient ratio of 70-
80% of daily calories from healthy fats, 10-20% from protein, and 5-10% from
carbohydrates — can become a sustainable lifestyle in no time. Try these easy
ingredient swaps to kickstart your keto diet and get you on the road to weight loss
Replace Grain-Based Flours with Almond or Coconut Flour
One of the biggest carbohydrate contributors in the Western diet is wheat flour.
Whether it’s white, whole wheat, or even a grain-based gluten-free blend, flour is
fairly off-limits on the ketogenic diet. Fortunately, there are many flour alternatives
that work well for baking. Consider using almond flour or coconut flour, which have
4 to 8 times fewer carbohydrates than white flour, in your next batch of brownies.
Almond flour, or almond meal, is also great as a coating for chicken breasts or fish; it
gets nice and crunchy, like breadcrumbs but without the carbs!
Swap Your Tortillas for Greens
If you can’t imagine ditching tacos, just ditch the tortilla! Stuff your ground meat,
fish, or tofu and beans into a big, juicy lettuce leaf, instead of shredding those greens
on top. Varieties like romaine and Boston bibb lettuce are great because of their size,
structure, and stability — and as a bonus, they don’t get soggy and deteriorate like
Change Your Sugar Source
You can still satisfy your sweet tooth on the keto diet, but you do need to be mindful
of refined sugars and where they lurk. There are many low-carb, natural sugar
substitutes available today that are keto-friendly, such as stevia and monk fruit.
Other options, derived from sugar alcohols, include xylitol, maltitol, and erythritol. If
using these in baking, read the instructions on labels for swapping in, as there might
be a slight difference in certain applications.
Cauliflower is basically a life-saver for those on the keto diet who just can’t quit
their carb cravings. Cauliflower is a low-carb vegetable that can magically transform
itself into a whole host of substitutes. It becomes an awesome rice replacement
when it’s diced super fine, and with a little effort it holds up as a great pizza crust,
ready to be topped. You can steam and mash it like potatoes, or boil it and smother
it in cheese for a macaroni stunt double.
Following the ketogenic diet doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods,
but you do have to be committed to making some changes to the way you eat.
Staples like almond flour, lettuce, stevia, and cauliflower can help you stay on track,
squash your cravings, and fuel your keto lifestyle.