Today’s the big day. You’re going keto! You’re cleaning out the fridge, the pantry, and your secret snack stash in your office desk. You’ve done all the research and while you understand the basics of a ketogenic diet, you still have a few questions about what’s allowed and what isn’t.
That’s why we took the time to put together a giant list of foods that fit into the ketogenic diet. Once you know what’s safe, you’ll be able to experience flavor, variety, and satisfaction while reaching your health goals through ketosis. And if you’re still having trouble, we put together a few keto-friendly menus and meal ideas to inspire you. Before you know it, you’ll be able to look at a food and know right away if it’s safe for keto.
The Basics of Keto
The simplest breakdown of a keto diet goes as follows.
- 75% fat
- 20% protein
- 5% carbs
But when you start diving further into the details of a ketogenic diet, you find that there are good fats and bad fats . There are sources of high protein and sources of low protein packed with unnecessary calories. There are carbs that your body can still utilize and carbs that no one, whether they’re on a keto diet or not, ever benefits from.
We’ve found it’s easier to understand ketogenic food by first breaking your options down into a few categories.
- Fats: Don’t think Twinkies or Oreos when we mention fat. You want fat to be from natural sources like nuts and meat. Oils are another great source, if they’re high quality. Olive oil and coconut oil are great options. Just remember, the more natural a fat is, the higher chance it’s keto approved.
- Protein: Again, you want your protein sources to be as natural and organic as possible. Meat is an ideal source of protein on a ketogenic diet. Look for organic, pasture-raised, and grass-fed options.
- Vegetables: Not all vegetables are created equal. There are actually plenty of vegetables that are high in carbs. You can go with fresh or frozen but as an overall rule of thumb, stick with leafy or green vegetables that grow above the ground.
- Dairy: You’ll find plenty of keto-friendly dairy options because of their full-fat profiles. Always double check the labels of what you buy as there are fat-free versions of just about every type of dairy product. Some can hide sneaky carbohydrates as well.
- Nuts: Nuts can be a great source of healthy fat on a keto diet. Macadamias and almonds are great options. Just always consume in moderation. Look out for pistachios and cashews though which can sneak in additional carbs.
- Beverages: In a perfect ketogenic world, you would drink water, water, and more water. But because we all need a bit of variety, there are a few alternative options we’ll cover, including what you can drink at happy hour.
- What to avoid: Before we tell you what you should have, let’s quickly cover what you should avoid completely. Basically, carbohydrate-rich and processed foods are off the table. This includes all grains, just about anything that comes in a wrapper or box, artificial sweeteners, refined fats, alcohol, fruit juice, and beans.
Now that you have an overview of keto food, let’s dive into each section further so you never have to doubt what’s on your plate.
It wouldn’t be a ketogenic diet if it wasn’t full of fat. But remember, it’s all about the quality of fat. When you eat the right types of fat, you’ll be able to enter a deeper state of ketosis and remain in it for longer.
You’ll feel full and your taste buds will be happy. But because most of us have been taught to avoid fat in our diet, making the switch can be daunting and confusing at first. Here’s a list of keto-approved fats to choose from .
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Sesame seed oil
- Coconut butter
- Flaxseed oil
- MCT oil
- Walnut oil
How to consume fat in a ketogenic diet
Cook with fat
Don’t be afraid to add a little extra fat to a skillet when you’re cooking. Fry an egg in butter, cook your chicken in coconut oil, and drizzle your salmon with olive oil. Before you cook, see if there’s a way to add a bit more fat to the dish.
Make fat bombs
Fat bombs are delicious and easy to make. Eat them as snacks or meal substitutes. They’re made with mostly fat, like coconut butter, bacon fat, or cream cheese. You’ll find a ton of varieties out there, from sweet to savory, and they’ll give you energy and substance without throwing your diet off track.
Salad dressings or sauces
Like fat bombs, making your own salad dressings or sauces is simple with ketogenic diets. Using a fat as a base, you can flavor with other ingredients we’ll go into later. For a simple option, mix mayonnaise, olive oil, MCT oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, and mustard together. Flavor with salt, pepper, and herbs as desired.
Protein is an often-overlooked macronutrient in the ketogenic diet. While fats and carbs get all the attention, protein is often forgotten about. But making sure you’re consuming the proper amount is important if you want to remain in ketosis and keep your body performing properly. Protein helps build muscle, connective tissue, and regulates organs so it’s not something you can skip .
However, if you consume too much protein, your body will enter gluconeogenesis, where it breaks down amino acids from protein into glucose, kicking you out of ketosis.
To find out exactly how much protein you should be consuming, check out our article on macro calculation. Once you have your number, here’s where to source your protein from.
- Organ meats
How to consume protein in a ketogenic diet
Meat and fish
We’ve included a few types above but wanted to go into more detail for you. When it comes to beef, look for fattier cuts like ground beef or steak. For poultry, focus on darker and fattier options like chicken thighs or turkey legs. When it comes to fish, stay away from farm-raised whenever possible. If you like pork, make sure you include everyone’s keto favorite – bacon.
Eggs are sure to become your best friend. They’re affordable, tasty, and you don’t have to be a professional chef to make them taste great. Keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for a quick snack. Make deviled eggs to boost your fat intake or simply scramble some eggs in the morning for breakfast.
But avoid these
It’s important to make sure you avoid processed or cured meats. The more natural and organic, the better. You should also avoid anything breaded (like boneless chicken wings) as the carb count will most likely be much higher than your daily allowance.
Don’t assume that all carbs are evil. There are several healthy sources of carbs that can provide you with plenty of nutrients as well. In a ketogenic diet, you’ll get most of your carbohydrates from vegetables. But that doesn’t mean you can buy everything in the produce section.
Before you choose a vegetable, find out how it grows. If it grows above the ground, you’re probably okay. But if it grows below, like potatoes or parsnips, it’s probably too starchy. Here’s a brief list of keto-approved vegetables to add to your diet in moderation.
- Bell peppers
- Artichoke hearts
- Green beans
- Iceberg lettuce
- Romaine lettuce
How to consume vegetables in a ketogenic diet
Mix up a salad, top it with some protein, and add a homemade salad dressing for fat. You’ll be getting a little of everything and fulfilling your macros with this simple meal.
Snack on veggies raw or add a dip for a little variety. Try celery and peanut butter or bell pepper with a keto-friendly veggie dip. You can also blend some in a smoothie (like spinach and kale). Just choose low-carb fruits for flavor, like strawberries and fresh blackberries.
You can eat vegetables raw or cooked for keto. Just double check weights and nutritional value here to make sure you’re not over or underestimating their value. Sauté some asparagus, steam some broccoli, or mash some boiled cauliflower for a quick dinner side.
Dairy products can help you round out a ketogenic diet with ease. Most products have plenty of fat and just the right amount of protein. They can be worked into main courses or eaten as a quick snack. Just always make sure you purchase full-fat options and if possible, go for organic or raw as well. Here are some of our favorite dairy keto products.
- Blue cheese
- Cream cheese
- Cottage cheese
- Sour cream
- Goat cheese
- Yogurt (plain)
- Greek yogurt (plain)
- Heavy whipping cream
How to consume dairy in a ketogenic diet
Most cheeses are keto-friendly. As a rule of thumb, harder cheeses typically have less carbs but always double check. You can snack on cheese alone in between meals or add them to main dishes for more flavor.
Stay away from the flavored versions as they’re full of sugar. But you can dress your plain yogurt up a bit with keto-friendly nuts or a small serving of low-carb fruit.
Miss taco night? Try this recipe that shows you how to make taco shells out of just cheese. You can also use avocados or zucchini if you’re not looking for a dairy option. If you’re creative and open-minded, there’s a way.
Nuts and Seeds
One part of keto that many struggle with is finding keto-friendly options on the go. But nuts and seeds make great snacks that you can keep in your purse, car, or briefcase for when hunger strikes and you’re away from your keto-food packed fridge .
We’ve also included a few nut butters that you can work into your diet. You can try making your own but if you prefer to buy a premade option, double check the label for added unnecessary ingredients. Here’s a list of keto-approved nuts and seeds to choose from.
- Almond butter
- Peanut butter
- Shredded coconut
- Sunflower seeds
- Pine nuts
- Almond flour
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Cashew butter
How to consume nets and seeds in a ketogenic diet
Trail mix is always a great snack to keep on hand, but store-bought versions are rarely keto. Make your own by mixing your favorite nuts and seeds together with a bit of lemon juice and cayenne pepper for a spicy snack.
Thanks to almond flour, baking isn’t completely off limits with a keto diet. You can use it to make this delicious keto-friendly chocolate mug cake that’s fast and sure to cure your sweet tooth.
Look out for carbs
Some nuts are still high in carbs compared to others. Nuts you can eat more freely include macadamias, peanuts, walnuts, and almonds. But go easy on cashews, chestnuts, and pistachios.
Water is the best ketogenic diet beverage, but we know most people prefer a few options. Here are a few beverages you can enjoy, some even alcoholic, in moderation.
- Club soda
- Unsweetened almond milk
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
- Low-carb beer
How to add variety to ketogenic diet drinks
Add a bit of lemon juice and keto-friendly sweetener to a glass of water for a homemade lemonade that won’t throw you off track. Avoid traditional sugar and opt for xylitol or stevia instead.
Wine has the most carbs, both red and white, so stick with one glass a night. If you want to enjoy a few drinks, choose a low-carb beer or a mixed drink. Just be careful when mixing with juice or carbonated beverages as they’re sure to have an abundance of carbs and sugars. Try vodka, rum, or tequila with club soda and a splash of lemon or lime juice.
A Few Extra Tips
- It can be even harder to go keto when you have other dietary restrictions. For example, vegans think keto is off limits for them. But there are quite a few vegan-friendly keto foods you can enjoy. Look into tofu versions of all the meats listed above, like bacon and sausage. Veggies might make up the bulk of your diet so make sure you double check net carb counts. There are vegan cheeses you can add to your diet along with veggie burgers and crumbles. While it’s not easy, it is possible to eat a vegan ketogenic diet with a bit of planning and prepping.
- If you’re no stranger to the kitchen, you may be wondering if seasonings get the seal of approval in keto. For the most part, feel free to season as you wish. Use basil, oregano, parsley, cilantro, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Just look for plain herbs and seasonings. Skip mixes or marinades as they could have added sugars.
- Condiments are your friend. Homemade is always best when it comes to sauces and condiments though. Most packaged options contain added sugars or non-keto ingredients. Some that fit the bill straight off the store shelf though include horseradish sauce, enchilada sauce, Sriracha, soy sauce, salsas with no added sugars, Tabasco, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and Caesar salad dressing.
Three Days of Keto Meal Ideas
We’ve thrown a lot of information at you. If you’re still not sure how you can throw together a full day’s worth of meals and snacks that’s keto-friendly, we’ve put together a few menus for you to be inspired by.
Note: We haven’t included amounts or serving sizes. This can be determined by your individual macros and preferences (for example, if you prefer a larger breakfast and a small lunch, your numbers would be different than someone who prefers the opposite).
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and bacon
Morning snack – Cottage cheese
Lunch – Salad with bacon, avocado, cheese, and a high-fat salad dressing
Afternoon snack – Beef jerky
Dinner – Lasagna with ricotta cheese and zucchini noodles
Dessert – Chocolate avocado pudding
Breakfast – Avocado and bacon omelet
Morning snack – Almonds
Lunch – Tuna salad with bacon and cheese
Afternoon snack – Deviled eggs
Dinner – Grilled salmon and broccoli
Dessert – Keto mug chocolate cake
Breakfast – Almond flour pancakes, bacon
Morning snack – Hardboiled eggs
Lunch – Buffalo chicken tenders, small side salad
Afternoon snack – Jalapeno popper fat bomb
Dinner – Keto-friendly tacos
Dessert – Low-carb lime coconut bars
Once you understand your options on keto, staying on track becomes pretty simple. With a little experimentation and planning, you’ll be able to come up with weeks of keto-friendly options without feeling like you’re eating the same thing for every meal. Whether you’ve been keto for years or just starting out, we encourage you to try something new!
- James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD James H. O’Keefe, MD
Good Fats versus Bad Fats: A Comparison of Fatty Acids in the Promotion of Insulin Resistance, Inflammation, and Obesity
Mo Med. 2017 Jul-Aug; 114(4): 303–307.
- Ann G. Liu,1 Nikki A. Ford,2 Frank B. Hu,3 Kathleen M. Zelman,4 Dariush Mozaffarian,5 and Penny M. Kris-Ethertoncorresponding author6,7
A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion
Nutr J. 2017; 16: 53.
Published online 2017 Aug 30. doi: 10.1186/s12937-017-0271-4
- Daniel W. D. West,1 Sidney Abou Sawan,1 Michael Mazzulla,1 Eric Williamson,1 and Daniel R. Moore2,*
Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study
Nutrients. 2017 Jul; 9(7): 735.
Published online 2017 Jul 11. doi: 10.3390/nu9070735
- Wajeed Masood; Kalyan R. Uppaluri.
Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2018 Jan-.