Are you wondering what to eat on a keto diet? It might seem daunting at first since there are a lot of foods that you can’t eat, but what you can eat is really quite a lot and once you get the hang of choosing the right foods it becomes second nature.
A keto or ketogenic diet is a way of eating that keeps the body in a constant state of ketosis. To stay in ketosis, most people need to stay under 50 net carbs per day and some people need to stay under 20 net carbs per day. Net carbs are the carbohydrates in a food minus the fiber. So, for instance, if you are reading the label on a food product and the carbs listed are 37 grams and fiber is 4 grams, the net carbs are 33 grams.
What to eat on a keto diet will depend on how many carbs you are aiming for per day. Certain foods are extremely low in carbs so they’re easier to fit into your daily carb budget while other foods may be a rare treat.
Some people on a ketogenic diet avoid all wheat and bread products but that’s an individual choice and not at all necessary to do the diet. There are low carb breads and tortillas that are lower in carbs than regular products and many people do fit them into their diet. If you’re not going to be able to sustain your diet without having a grilled cheese sandwich once in a while, then by all means have one as a treat on some low carb bread!
One thing to be aware of is that gluten free products are usually not low in carbs. They are gluten free which is great if you’re allergic to gluten or avoiding it for health reasons but they are usually made with non-gluten containing grains that are still high in carbs.
Also, the question of “what to eat on a keto diet” does not have to mean meat, meat, and more meat. Believe it or not, it is possible to do a vegetarian keto diet. You don’t have to eat meat. It is easier if you can eat eggs and dairy, though! A keto vegetarian would most likely eat a lot of avocados, coconut, nuts, cheese, low carb veggies, and eggs. Vegans are much more limited because they don’t eat eggs and cheese but keto vegans do exist. Thank goodness for avocados!
These are staple foods for the standard ketogenic diet. Depending on your food preferences, food allergies, and meat eating preference, you can pick and choose what you want to include in your diet.
My personal choice is to eat only hormone and antibiotic free animal products, organic and grass fed whenever possible. Of course, I realize that is not always practical and not important to everyone. It is definitely more expensive unless you live on a ranch with your own free range chickens and animals!
Beef is a staple for many on a low carb diet because it can be used in a variety of dishes like burgers, tacos, taco salad, steak, ribs, and casseroles.
Bacon, bacon, and more bacon is the mantra of many low carb dieters. Besides just eating it pan fried with eggs, it is great wrapped around stuff. Bacon wrapped shrimp, bacon wrapped chicken, and bacon wrapped scallops come to mind. You can also sprinkle bacon on things like salads and deviled eggs.
Chicken is a lean protein that can be made in a million different ways. Some people even call the roasted chickens you find in grocery stories “keto fast food” because they are very handy in a pinch when you’re traveling or in need of a quick, already-cooked dinner ingredient.
Popular ways to eat lamb include lamb chops, leg of lamb, and lamb stew. Ground lamb can be made into burgers, meatballs, or used in sauces.
Shrimp, tuna, salmon, scallops, sardines, trout, and crab are all excellent foods to eat on a low carb diet. You can really get creative in the way you prepare seafood to follow a low carb high fat diet like keto. For example, stuffing an avocado with tuna or crab meat, crab stuffed deviled eggs, and bacon wrapped scallops are all interesting ways to eat your seafood.
Cheese makes an appearance in most keto diet plans unless a person is lactose intolerant or vegan. However, it can stall some people’s weight loss when eaten to excess so keep track of how much you’re eating and see if it is stalling you or not.
Eggs can be prepared in so many different ways that it keeps the diet from getting boring. Omelettes, scrambled eggs, sunny side up, deviled eggs, and the list goes on and on. Deviled eggs can be made in large batches for snacking during the week.
Believe it or not, not all vegetables are low in carbs. Some people choose to eat the vegetables below without counting their carbs while other people count every last carb in every piece of broccoli or bit of lettuce. It really depends on what works for you. If you find that you’re eating a lot of vegetables without counting the carbs in them and not losing weight, try tracking the carbs. On the other hand, if you are losing a lot of weight easily you might be able to be less strict with your vegetables.
Cauliflower is a staple of many keto dieters because it can be turned into so many delicious forms. You can make pizza crust with it, rice, mashed potatoes, casseroles, and so much more. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods both sell bags of organic riced cauliflower so you don’t even have to rice it yourself anymore. Just pull a bag out of the freezer, use it in your favorite rice recipe, and you’ve got an easy meal made in keto heaven.
Zucchini is incredible because it is low in carbs and calories and, like cauliflower, it is versatile. Probably the most popular way for dieters to us it is in the form of zucchini noodles (aka zoodles!). You can make them with a vegetable peeler or mandolin but the easiest way to make them is with a gadget called a spiralizer. (I use the Paderno 3-Blade Spiralizer). Zucchini can also be used to make pizza crust and “fries”!
Broccoli is low in carbs and the great thing about it is that it is filling. If you’re feeling hungry on your diet, adding broccoli may help to keep you full. And, of course, we all know it is good for us!
You can make your own low carb kale chips if you have a dehydrator! They make for a nice replacement for chips and crunchy treats.
One of the coolest discoveries I’ve made in my dieting adventures is that when you fry radishes, they are an amazing replacement for potatoes. I like to cut mine up like home fries, spray them with avocado oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and fry them in my air fryer (I have the Power Air Fryer XL and love it. I recommend it to everyone on any kind of diet.).
I love to eat the radish home fries for breakfast along with my eggs. It makes the breakfast more filling and nutritious. Daikon radishes, a type of Japanese radish, make for great French “fries.” Because Daikon radishes are really big, they work well with a vegetable spiralizer to make Daikon curly fries.
Throw a bunch of lettuce in a bowl, top it with some chicken and some Caesar dressing, and you’ve got an easy, low carb meal. The stems of Romaine leaves make awesome “chips” for dipping, by the way! Other leafy greens that you can and should include in your diet include spinach and Swiss chard.
Celery is another great, low calorie staple. Spread cream cheese, peanut butter, or pub cheese in them for a delicious, filling snack.
Another great low carb vegetable option, asparagus tastes great roasted with olive oil, salt, and parmesan. You can also use it to dip into low carb dips and dressings.
Many fruits are high in carbs and need to be avoided on a keto diet if one is trying to keep one’s carb count low. However, there are a few exceptions.
Many people don’t realize that avocados are a fruit. Lucky for keto dieters, they are not only low in carbs but they are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They contain B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, lutein, phytosterols, and carotenoids. About 67% of the fat in avocado is monounsaturated. Research has found that regular avocado intake leads to better overall health, including lower cholesterol levels. An avocado a day for 5 weeks led to a large reduction of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the study.
Some ideas for including avocados in your keto diet: homemade guacamole, tuna stuffed avocados, crab stuffed avocados, deviled eggs with avocado, omelettes with avocado, and my personal favorite – plain avocado with salt and pepper.
They probably shouldn’t be eaten every day on a keto diet, but berries are one of the lowest glycemic index fruits. Strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries can be incorporated in moderate amounts into a low carb diet. My favorite way to eat them is with homemade low carb whipped cream. Take some heavy whipping cream, beat it into whipped cream, sweeten with Swerve, and top berries with it. A bit of a high calorie indulgence for special occasions!
Butter has gotten a bad rap over the years but now the general consensus is that butter is back! Long gone are the days when experts recommended choosing margarine over real butter. These days, the trend is toward wholesome, healthy foods with simple ingredients and science seems to be leaning towards fats like butter not being the baddies we once thought they were. That’s good news because butter really comes in handy and is quite delicious when used to cook eggs, sauté vegetables, and melt over vegetables.
Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is becoming more and more popular in the Western world as a cooking oil. It has been used for many years in Indian cuisine and is considered to have healing, anti-inflammatory properties. It has a high smoke point at 482 °F which means it’s perfect for frying. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and it is okay for people with casein and dairy allergies. I use Viva Naturals Organic Grass Fed Ghee.
Extra virgin olive oil is great for cooking at low to medium heat but not at high temperatures because it only has a smoke point of 410 °F. You’re better off using it uncooked or only moderately heated up whenever you can to get the great health benefits. It’s probably not going to hurt you to cook at high heats with it, but you’re likely to lose many of the benefits.
Coconut oil is the darling of the low carb and keto community because it contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are believed to have a positive effect on HDL cholesterol compared to other fats. However, the scientific jury is still out whether the hype over coconut oil is well deserved. I don’t use it as my daily cooking oil but use it when the flavor calls for it, like with fried coconut shrimp or Asian cauliflower rice dishes. What I do use it for on a regular basis is as a skin moisturizer. Nothing beats it!
Avocado oil is my go-to oil for sautéeing and frying. Not only does it have a high smoke point (520 °F) but it is incredibly heart healthy and perfect for the keto diet. My favorite way to use it is to lightly spray foods using this avocado oil spray and then stir frying or cooking them in the air fryer.
Sugary drinks are out but there are a surprising amount of beverages you can still drink. You can add low carb sweetener like Stevia, Swerve or Erythritol to your drinks if you want to.
Any type of tea, as long as it is unsweetened. Research has found that green tea may have weight loss benefits along with its many other health benefits.
You can’t drink margaritas and Cosmopolitans on the keto diet, but you can drink alcohol. Plain distilled spirits like vodka and tequila are carb free as long as they are not flavored. Vodka soda with a lime is a popular go-to keto drink. Red wine has 3 – 4 grams of carbs per 5 oz glass so it can also be on the drink menu in moderation.
If you’re a champagne lover, go for bottles labeled brut nature or extra brut because they are lower in carbs and sugar. Most champagne has added sugar but brut nature has no added sugar and extra brut has very little added. Just be careful because when you’re in ketosis alcohol may affect you more and you might get drunk after just a drink or two!
Many beers are off the menu but you might be surprised that some are low in carbs. Here’s a list of a few that are light on carbs and calories.
WHAT TO EAT ON A KETO DIET – STAPLE DISHES
There are some recipes that keto dieters rely upon for a go-to snack or meal. Everyone is different, of course, but these are pretty common things that you’ll see ketoers eating.
Deviled eggs are great because you can make huge batches of them and keep them in the fridge for the perfect keto snack throughout the week.
LETTUCE WRAPPED BURGERS
Most restaurants nowadays will happily wrap your burger in lettuce and leave off the bun. Some restaurants may even list a bunless burger on the menu (In n Out calls theirs “Protein Style”) but if it’s not, don’t be afraid to ask. Of course, you don’t want to eat fast food burgers very often so making burgers at home is the best way to go about it. Get some grass fed ground beef, some lettuce and condiments (low carb ketchup instead of regular, though!) and you’re good to go for summer grilling or anytime.
Tacos are a keto staple, you say? Yes indeed! You can’t eat most tortillas if you’re cutting carbs but there are a couple of great keto options. The first is to use Romaine leaves as your taco shell. It sounds unexciting on paper but let me tell you it’s delicious. I actually prefer it to regular taco shells. If you want a crunchy taco shell and have a bit of wiggle room in your carb allowance, I’ve found that Whole Foods 360 hard corn taco shells are only about 7 carbs per shell and these Garden of Eatin’ Blue Corn Taco Shells have 13 net carbs for two shells so about 6.5 per shell. If you haven’t eaten many other carbs during the day, these can fit into your taco dinner once in a while.
Another taco shell option is low carb tortillas. There are many different brands on the market and everyone has their favorite. Some are better than others and you’ll probably need to try a few to find the one you like best. Mama Lupe’s is a popular brand as are the Mission Carb Balance tortillas. You can also check your local grocery store because they often carry some brands of low carb tortillas.
BACON AND EGGS
Most meat eating keto dieters keep their fridge stocked with bacon and eggs for a quick meal anytime.
Caesar salad is great for ketogenic dieters because it’s available in most restaurants. You never really have to worry about finding something on the menu when you’re going out to eat with friends if there’s Caesar salad on the menu. It’s also great at home and fun to make your own Caesar dressing.
Fathead pizza is incredibly popular in the keto community. It is made from almond flour, mozzarella, and eggs. It was created by the nephew of Tom Naughton, the man behind the Fat Head documentary.
Chicken wings are a blessing for low carb dieters looking for a good protein to fat ratio. Not only are they easy to make at home but you can find them in bars and restaurants which makes staying keto on a night out at the bar a little bit easier.
KETO SNACK IDEAS
Sometimes you just need a snack to get you through until dinner. Here are my favorite keto snacks.
I make homemade vegetable chips in my air fryer and dehydrator. You’d be amazed at how delicious broccoli can be when air fried with a light spraying of avocado oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I’ve done this not only with broccoli but with Brussels sprout leaves, kale, and Daikon radishes.
Slice up some zucchini in French fry-sized strips, spray with avocado oil, season with salt and pepper, and pop those bad boys in the air fryer. They may not be exactly like French fries but they are a damn fine snack. You can also do this with Daikon radishes.
VEGETABLES AND DIP
Vegetables and dip, otherwise known as crudités, are a great way to include healthy snacks in your day. Wash and cut the veggies ahead of time so that you can have them ready when the snacking urge rears its hangry head. Celery, broccoli, and radishes make for great low carb vegetable snacking. Dip them in Ranch dressing, Blue cheese dressing, pub cheese, spinach artichoke dip, crab dip, or any other low carb dip.
We hope this has given you a few ideas about what to eat on a keto diet! It’s really not as limiting as it might seem at first and when you get the hang of using substitutes like cauliflower rice instead of real rice and zucchini noodles instead of pasta, it can be quite fun as you start experimenting and getting creative! No diet should be miserable or restrictive. Sure, there will be things that you miss but it gets easier after time.
Some people have monthly carb days to eat whatever they’ve been craving and then get back on the keto wagon the next day. That works for some people who say they wouldn’t be able to stick to the diet otherwise. For others, it can spiral out of control into two carb days, then three, then a week, then a whole year. The important thing is to know yourself and listen to your mind and body. If a cheat day works for you and you can control yourself, don’t let others tell you not to do it. Likewise, if you know you wouldn’t be able to handle it, then just stick to keto.
PRODUCTS MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE
I’ve listed a few of my favorite keto products in this article. In case you missed them here they are!
Power Air Fryer XL
Paderno 3 Blade Spiralizer
Low Carb Bread
Viva Naturals Organic Grass Fed Ghee
Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Spray
Brain Octane Oil
Fruitchup Low Carb Ketchup
Mama Lupe’s Low Carb Tortillas
Mission Carb Balance tortillas
Garden of Eatin’ Blue Corn Taco Shells
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