The keto diet has been gaining a lot of traction recently with more and more people showing interest. It’s fairly well known that it’s a low-carb high-fat diet, but it still leaves many people wondering what they can eat on a keto diet since for many it seems so restrictive. It essentially eliminates grains, sweets, bread, pasta, rice, sugars and many typical foods one would eat on a daily basis such as cereal and porridge. Hopefully, this post will simplify things for you.
What Can I Eat On A Keto Diet?
First off, know that a keto diet is more about eating low carb than it is about eating high fat, so instead of thinking you should eat food high in fat, think about eating foods low in carbohydrates. This is one of the reasons why eating a small amount of berries (fairly low carb) is acceptable on a keto diet.
Fats And Oils
Technically all fats and oils are acceptable on a keto diet since they’re all low carb. But I suggest staying away from your typical vegetable oils when it comes to cooking because these have been highly processed and contain a very high omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio. Even those vegetable oils which say ‘a good source of omega 3 fatty acid’ probably contain much more omega 6 fatty acids which can throw your body out of balance.
I suggest sticking to the following main sources of fats and cooking oils on a keto diet:
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
When it comes to protein, I think meat and animals should be your go-to source. If possible rely less on protein powders and more on eating real food to keep you satiated.
Animal foods should be your main source of protein on a keto diet whether that’s pork, lamb, bison, steak – eat whatever animal you fancy. If you can afford it, I’d recommend consuming grass-fed animals as they tend to be richer in micronutrients.
You can also consume more processed meats such as sausages and meatballs, but I’d look on the packaging to see what the carbohydrate content is since some of these products can have flour and sugar added to them which can increase the carbohydrate content significantly.
If you ask me, seafood should always be present in any diet in order to obtain an ample amount of omega 3 fatty acids, the exception being if you consume grass-fed beef (which have a good amount of omega 3 fatty acids) or you supplement with fish oil.
Try and consume any sort of fatty fish at least twice a week. The easiest and cheapest option would be to buy tinned sardines. Feel free to mix it up as well with mussels, prawns, caviar, salmon – any seafood!
Watch out for breaded fish as this process can increase the carbohydrate content due to all the added flour, so I’d suggest buying fish which hasn’t been modified externally in any way.
For the most nutrition, I suggest going for organic or pasture-raised eggs. As for the cholesterol concerns, well most of that can be ignored since the idea that eggs will increase the risk of various cardiovascular diseases due to having high cholesterol has been largely disproven.
Study: NHS ‘There’s No Link Between Cholesterol And Heart Disease.’
I think you can obtain plenty of protein on a keto diet, but some may wish to take protein supplements due to convenience, particularly if you like to drink a fast-absorbing whey protein shake after your workout. By all means, go ahead, there’s nothing wrong with it but I would try not to be too dependent on protein shakes.
Whether you decide to eat fresh or frozen vegetables doesn’t matter, you just want to be wary of the carbohydrate content in vegetables. You’ll want to limit starchy vegetables such as:
- Sweet potatoes
Try to consume vegetables that grow above the ground as these will contain fewer carbohydrates. Go for vegetables such as:
- Other leafy green vegetables
When it comes to fruit there’s not a lot of options on the keto diet. You either have to consume fruit in very small quantities or opt for berries which tend to be low in sugar. Eating a small apple a few times a week is absolutely fine, but you’ll probably have to cut out eating bananas if you’re interested in following a keto diet and you’ll want to watch the volume of fruit you’re eating.
Different dairy products contain varying amounts of carbohydrates, usually in the form of the sugar lactose. Greek yoghurt contains around 10g sugar per 100g whereas cottage cheese will contain about 3.5g sugar per 100g so adjust your intake depending on the sugar content of the dairy product.
Raw and organic dairy is generally best on a keto diet as they have a lower sugar content. Aim for full-fat dairy rather than low-fat dairy since low-fat dairy is more likely to have added sugar. Full-fat dairy is also much more likely to satiate you due to the additional fat content, helping to regulate your appetite. As well as containing fat, dairy can also be a great source of protein.
For those who have lactose intolerance, your probably best off either avoiding dairy or consuming hard and long-aged dairy products since these contain far less lactose.
Some dairy products you could consume are:
- Greek yoghurt
- Cottage cheese
- Heavy whipping cream
- Hard cheese e.g. parmesan, cheddar, feta
- Soft cheese e.g. mozzarella, brie, Monterey jack
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts are a go-to snack for many following a keto diet since they are high in fat, but it’s important to be wary of the carbohydrate content of nuts and seeds since it can add up, especially if you have a bowl of nuts in front of you and end up mindlessly eating away at them! For that reason, I suggest counting how many you eat to avoid overeating them otherwise you could easily end up eating 100g of nuts totalling around 600 calories worth of energy.
If one of your main goals is weight loss by following a keto diet, I’d suggest trying to avoid nuts and seeds since they’re easy to overindulge in and are very energy-dense. This includes avoiding nut and seed flours.
Some nuts and seeds with a higher carbohydrate content you may want to be wary of include:
- Almonds (21g carbs per 100g)
- Cashews (30g carbs per 100g)
- Chestnuts (45g carbs per 100g)
- Chia seeds (42g carbs per 100g)
- Flax seeds (28g carbs per 100g)
- Pistachios (27g carbs per 100g)
- Pumpkin seeds (53g carbs per 100g)
- Sesame seeds (23g carbs per 100g)
- Sunflower seeds (20g carbs per 100g)
Nuts and seeds also tend to have a high omega 6 fatty acid content. Since most people have an imbalanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids, it’s best if you limit your consumption of nuts and seeds.
When it comes to a keto diet, you’ll have to limit some of the beverages you consume due to their sugar content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a couple of drinks!
The most commonly consumed beverages on a keto diet include:
- Water – a common staple (I suggest adding sea salt or electrolytes in order to obtain minerals).
- Bone broth – packed with minerals and vitamins as well as electrolytes.
- Coffee – yes, you can still consume coffee, just don’t add too much sugar (stick to 1 teaspoon).
- Tea – limit the sugar added to 1 teaspoon and try to go for black or green tea.
- Coconut or almond milk – low in carbohydrate content, just be wary of added sugars.
- Diet soda – these are still technically allowed, but I suggest trying to limit and ideally stop drinking these due to the sugar cravings that the artificial sweeteners in these drinks can elicit.
- Alcohol – go for a hard liquor since most beer and wine will have a higher carbohydrate content. It’s a bit tricky with alcohol since the nutritional information is harder to find unless you look online.
Spices are a commonly used in cooking all over the world and there’s no reason to exclude them on a keto diet due to many of the health benefits which can be obtained from spices due to hormesis (positive stress response).
Just be wary that spices do also contain carbohydrates and some spice mixes will contain added sugar so try to opt for spices without any added sugar. Try implementing the following spices in your cooking:
- Cayenne pepper
Condiments And Sauces
We all love to have some sauce to add a bit of kick to our food. Again, you’ll want to check the carbohydrate content of the condiments and sauces that you use. In general, I’d stick to the following condiments:
- Low-sugar ketchup
- Hot sauce (no added sugar)
- Unsweetened salad dressing e.g. Caesar salad, ranch
- Sugar-free sauces which use sweeteners like stevia or sucralose instead
For most people, chocolate is not a viable option on the keto diet since it contains about 50g sugar per 100g. The exception is if you consume dark chocolate in the 80% range and above or you have an insane amount of willpower to limit yourself to 1 square of milk chocolate.
If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate then you might need to give the chocolate a miss, but once you become keto-adapted you may actually find that you like the taste of dark chocolate as your palate adapts to find the less sweet foods, sweeter.
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