Without a good, simple “keto diet foods list”, it can be difficult sometimes to know what you SHOULD be eating on a keto diet, especially if you’re just starting out. Many foods are acceptable on a keto diet, so long as their carb count is fairly low. However, just having low carbs isn’t necessarily enough to make a specific, individual food, truly keto. A ketogenic diet isn’t just low carb. It’s also HIGH fat and moderate (not high) protein.
Often, an individual food or ingredient may not really be an actual “ketogenic diet food”, but, depending upon what foods it is coupled with for a meal, and in what amounts, the meal itself may be perfectly “keto”. For instance, a good steak, in and of itself, will not really be “keto” and could actually keep you from or boot you out of ketosis, even though it has no carbs. The protein percentage is WAY too high. A steak will be about 80% protein and only 20% fat, which is actually reversed from what your keto macros (calorie percentages for fat, protein and carbs) should be.
SIDE NOTE: When you’re discussing keto macros, you’re really talking about percentages of CALORIES derived from each category (fat, protein, carbs) and not percentage of mass. So, even though a steak might be 80% protein and 20% fat, the actual keto macros won’t be quite that bad. Since 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories and 1 gram of protein or carbs contains only 4 grams, the actual calorie percentages would look quite different.
Let’s say you had a bite of your steak, maybe 10 grams. 8 of those grams would be protein, while 2 of them would be fat. That’s 8×4 + 2×9 = 32 + 18 = 50 calories total. That means the percentage of calories from fat would be 18/50 = 36% and your percentage of calories from protein would be 32/50 = 64%.
Of course, that’s still a far cry from 75 – 80% fat, but, it’s quite a bit better than 20% fat and 80% protein. Just thought it was worth pointing out. Either way, you’re still going to need to do something with your MEAL to bring it in-line with typical keto macro recommendations.
The Making of a “Ketogenic Diet Food” Steak
In order to make a steak truly “keto”, you’re going to need to add some really high fat items to this meal (lots of butter, sour cream, avocado, bulletproof coffee, salad with ranch dressing, etc.). For instance, maybe you make up a tasty cream gravy with butter, sour cream, mushrooms, onions and seasoning. You drink a bulletproof coffee with lots of butter, MCT oil or MCT powder. You have a salad with lots of ranch dressing. Then, you add a small avocado pudding/ice cream dessert.
This would add considerable fat content to your overall meal. It would allow you turn a no carb, yet decidedly NON-keto, high protein meal into a perfectly low carb, moderate protein and high fat meal. And who doesn’t love a good steak, right?
How Much Carb is Too Much Carb?
By themselves, most foods will not meet the proper “macros” for maintaining ketosis. Generally, to maintain ketosis, you would, ideally, want your diet to be about 75% – 80% fat, 15 – 20% protein and 5 – 10% carbs.
Everyone is a bit different. Some people can get away with a bit less fat and bit more carbs and still maintain ketosis, but, only blood test strips, monitored over time to evaluate ketones in the blood, would be able to tell you for certain. Urine strips can be helpful, but they are much less accurate and will become even less accurate as your body becomes keto adapted.
As a general rule, sticking to less than 20 grams of carbs per day is fairly certain to move you into ketosis. The more carbs you eat beyond that limit, the more likely it is that you never fully enter into ketosis (or that you oscillate into and out of ketosis regularly). Of course, some people can eat as much as 50 grams of carbs per day and still maintain a ketogenic state, but most cannot.
Moreover, since you don’t know ahead of time whether you are one of those people, you’re better off sticking to the 20-30g limit each day until you KNOW you are keto adapted. Then, if you want to test a bit to see if you can tolerate more carbs and still stay keto, you could try that.
Keto Diet Foods and “Fixers”
The foods listed below are those that, if you ate ONLY these foods, you could guarantee that you would enter into ketosis and stay there without ever having to monitor how much you ate, numbers of calories, macros, etc. They offer very high fat content, very low or no carbs and generally moderate to low protein percentages.
Also, many of these foods are so high in fat and so low in carbs that they can effectively be used as “fixers”. In other words, adding one of these foods to another food that is possibly “low” in carbs, but the macros aren’t quite right to call it a “keto” food, could make the “meal” keto. These are tremendous tools to have in your tool belt at the ready.
For instance, full fat, natural sour cream (such as Daisy brand) is about 85% fat and about 1% carbs. Thus, mixing up some ranch “dip” with daisy sour cream and dipping a spicy pork rind in it would make for a perfect “keto” snack.
Pork rinds don’t have quite the right macros to be considered for a true keto diet foods list because they are a bit too high in protein (no carbs, but, since protein can also be burned for energy, to force your body to use fat, you have to keep protein levels somewhat low).
By combining the sour cream ranch dip with the pork rinds, you create a perfect keto snack. Sour cream is the ultimate “fixer” (and, fortunately, it’s pretty tasty too :))
The Perfect Keto Diet Foods List
So, below you’ll find a list of the most commonly available foods which, even if eaten completely by themselves, would keep your diet (and every individual MEAL within your diet), completely keto compliant.
Yeah, there’s nothing here. NO fruit is every going to be truly keto by itself. However, a number of berries can be eaten in moderation on a keto diet. Most other fruits are truly too high in carbs and will spike your insulin too much to be eaten on a keto diet.
Avocados and Olives are really the only vegetables that can truly be considered “keto”. Of course, many high fiber, low carb vegetables exist that can be eaten in moderation on a keto diet, but, in and of themselves, they do not achieve truly keto macros.
For instance, having a salad with lots of lettuce, broccoli, a few cherry tomatoes and some cucumber would be very low carb. However, there would be virtually no fat in that salad. Therefore, it couldn’t really be considered ketogenic. But, adding lots of boiled egg, some avocado and a healthy amount of ranch dressing could easily turn it into a keto meal.
Most nuts have a generally “keto” macro profile, having high fat, moderate protein and low carbs (once you account for the significant fiber content of most nuts). Those that could be considered specifically ketogenic diet foods would be: walnuts, pecans, macadamia, almonds, Peanuts, Filberts and others. There are some nuts that are generally NOT keto such as pistachios which are too high in carbs. So, be careful here.
Also, since nuts are a “snack” food for many keto dieters, be a bit careful here too. If you just sit down and eat a bag of nuts, you may have good keto “macros” in terms of your fat/protein/carbs percentages, but, you could still end up eating way over your daily allotment of carbs this way.
To give you an example, a handful of roasted, salted peanuts is about 3 tablespoons or 31 grams. 31 grams of peanuts has about 6 grams of carbs, but 3 grams of fiber. So, the NET effective carbs is actually 3 grams. Not too much. But, if you have just 3 handfuls of peanuts as a snack, and you’re trying to stay under 20 grams of carbs per day, you’ve just blown nearly half of them.
On a side note, here’s a link to our Kevlar Keto Granola recipe which brings together some truly keto nuts and seeds into a delicious hot or cold morning granola cereal.
Of course, any nut butter made with the above nuts would be acceptable, but be careful about sugar additives. Many store bought nut butters will have extra ingredients, and, if any of them add carbs, then you could get yourself into trouble here. Better to make your own nut butter, if you’ve got the equipment to do it. It’s much cheaper and you know EXACTLY what’s in it.
Some seeds are actually too high in carbs to really be considered for a truly keto diet foods list, but, the following fit a ketogenic macro profile pretty well. Hemp, Chia, Sunflower, Pumpkin and Flax. Again, as with nuts and nut butters, even through the macros are pretty good, be careful about eating too many seeds. Number one, too much fiber can sometimes cause constipation, but, you can also run your overall carb count up a bit higher than you want.
Crackers & Snacks:
As a general rule, this is an entire category which can generally be considered “off limits”. However, there are some options that come RELATIVELY CLOSE to keto macros which are worth mentioning. Parmesan chips called “Whisps” can be purchased with are nothing but baked Parmesan. A little high on the protein side, you wouldn’t want to eat these by themselves, but, if you were to eat them with some sour cream dip or something of that nature, they could be a good keto snack option.
In fact, in the Cello brand, they actually have two other versions of these. They offer a cheddar option as well as an asiago and pepper jack. Any of the three flavors are terrific for using as croutons in a salad, crackers in chili or for just putting on/in anything for a little extra flavor and crunch. I actually use them in place of tortilla chips in a taco salad. Really good.
I purchase the Parmesan flavor at Costco because the price is so good, but they don’t have the other flavors. You can also check out this excellent keto snack food on Amazon (affiliate link) if you can’t find them locally.
Pork rinds are also an option which, although high on the protein side, if you dip them in a sour cream dip of some sort or ranch dressing, you would get a pretty good keto macro profile.
Milk is definitely not one of your keto diet foods, since the carb count is way too high. Even though raw milk is extremely healthy for you, the carb counts are no better for raw vs pasteurized milk. So, any dairy milk is not a good plan.
However, the following dairy items all have excellent keto macro profiles and can work well as “fixers” too: natural cream cheese, heavy cream, most whole – unprocessed – cheeses, full fat sour cream and butter. Another option that could fit your keto diet foods list would be 24 hour homemade yogurt sweetened with stevia, monk fruit and/or erythritol if needed. Fermenting your own yogurt for a full 24 hours allows the pro-biotics in the yogurt to completely digest all of the sugars in the milk, making it a good keto option.
No store bought yogurt is likely going to make the cut, though. You can check the label for the net effective carbs and see, but, chances are, even those sweetened with “no or low carb” sweeteners will likely have too much carbs because of the natural milk sugars in them. Store bought yogurt is typically only fermented for about 4 hours or so, which is nowhere near long enough to break down all the milk sugars.
Obviously, most candy is completely out. Of course, on occasion, you might be able to do some sugar free options, but don’t go overboard with these. Too much sugar alcohol or too much artificial sweetener can really throw your body into a fit, even if it is “technically” keto. Some Dark Chocolates (generally ones that are 80% cacao or so) can be decent options with relatively low carb and very high fat content. You have to read the labels, though.
Pretty much all oils will, technically, have terrific ketogenic macros because they will basically be all fat and no protein are carbs. However, not all oils are equal in terms of how “healthy” they are for your body. Highly processed or hydrogenated oils are horrible options. Keto diet foods should not only have the right macros. They should always be as natural as possible.
On the other hand, extra virgin, minimally processed or cold pressed organic coconut, MCT, avocaco, olive, sesame seed or fish oil are all terrific options. Lard can also be a fine option, so long as it is from good quality pork and not from factory farm raised pigs.
Technically, no good cut of meat would belong on your keto diet foods list, since there’s no way you’d want to eat a piece of meat that was more than half fat. However, that being said, you’re likely going to be eating plenty of meat on a keto diet, so, looking for the fattiest cuts of meat can be helpful. Also, moving toward grass fed and pastured options will also offer the best fat profile and the highest Omega 3’s, which most people do not get enough of.
For instance, don’t go for lean ground beef. Look for ground beef with the highest fat percentages. When you buy beef steaks or roasts, look for those with plenty of fat on the cut and lots of marbling. Also, remember that beef tends to be one of the fattier type meats, so having beef be one of your primary meat sources will be a good plan.
Going for the dark meat options in chicken or turkey will also be helpful, since this is the fattiest meat on the bird. Legs and thighs are typically what you’re looking for here. Duck meat also tends to be quite fatty.
Fish and Seafood:
Among fish, Sablefish is about as fatty as it gets, actually approaching true “keto” macros. Also called “black cod”, it has a, not surprisingly, soft texture with a rich flavor that is quite mild. Mackerel and Shad are a couple of additional high fat fish, although some Mackerel can taste somewhat “oily”. You would likely want to purchase Shad already filleted, since it is particularly bony.
Eel is particularly fatty as well. Sardines packed in oil are also a good option.
The Foundation for This Keto Diet Foods List
Although I’ve added to, elaborated on and embellished on some of what Dr. Schmidt provided in his video, I thought I’d give credit where credit is due. This is the original video which sparked the idea to write this article: