The keto diet (or ketogenic diet) has become popular as a way to lose weight and stay healthy. With it, you’re relying on a high amount of healthy fats, moderate protein and minimal carbs. The approach is very different than the way that most of us eat normally, which makes it important to know which keto diet foods you can eat regularly.
That’s why we’ve made this list. In it, we’re highlighting a variety of go-to keto foods, their benefits and their role on the keto diet.
Many of these foods, like avocado and eggs, are already strongly linked to the keto diet. You might be less familiar with others.
Don’t worry if you’re not a keto dieter. The foods on this list are healthy for people in other situations too. Just be aware that many of the examples here are high in calories and fat. How well they work in your eating plan will entirely depend on the other foods that you eat.
Keto Diet Foods
- Fatty Fish
- Most Seafood
- Spaghetti Squash
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Other Low Carb Vegetables
- Red Meat
- Coconut Oil
- Olive Oil
- Nut Butter
- Shirataki Noodles
- Dark Chocolate
- Macadamia Nuts
Fish is renowned for its health benefits. The common recommendation is still that people should be eating at least one serving of fish each week, ideally more.
A key reason for this is that fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This type of fat is important for maintaining health. It has been linked to a variety of benefits too, such as decreasing inflammation and helping to fight depression.
In general, fish is also a good source of healthy fats, while being naturally low in carbs. This combination alone explains why fish features so heavily on the keto diet.
While you can rely on whatever fish you like, salmon is the poster child for the keto diet. As many salmon lovers will know, salmon is simply different than any other type of fish out there. Its high fat content and meaty texture make it ideal on a keto diet.
Most Types Of Seafood
Many types of seafood are naturally low in carbs, including white fish, salmon, shrimp, lobster, and scallops. The biggest limitation is that most of them are low in fat and may contain a decent amount of protein.
This balance of nutrients might be good for other diets, but it is a problem on the keto diet. To improve the balance, you may need to cook the seafood in fat or serve it with a fatty side.
The carb content does vary from one type of seafood to the next, so you’ll need to pay attention. For example, mussels tend to have more carbs than other types of shellfish, while shrimp contains barely any carbs at all.
Cauliflower is just one of many low carb vegetables. It is also one of the most well-known, as cauliflower is incredibly versatile. Cauliflower also has a very mild flavor, so there is little risk that it will influence the taste of a meal.
In particular, cauliflower can be used as an alternative to rice when it has been diced finely enough. Many keto recipes will simply replace regular rice with keto rice.
You’ll also see diced cauliflower used creatively in many different ways. For example, cauliflower pizza bases are a clever alternative to conventional pizza bases. They don’t have the same flavor or texture as a normal pizza base, of course, but this approach does allow you to enjoy pizza on a keto diet.
Zucchini is another vegetable that heavily features on the keto diet. While you can follow conventional approaches, the most common way to use zucchini is as zucchini noodles (also called zoodles).
Zoodles end up being an ideal low carb pasta alternative. They taste fresh and vibrant, while also providing you with plenty of nutrients. You don’t get the same taste and mouthfeel as with regular pasta, but the low carb content more than makes up for that limitation.
Using zoodles is also a great way to make meals feel less heavy. Pasta-based dishes are often stodgy, while using zoodles instead makes the whole meal feel much lighter and more enjoyable.
At times, spaghetti squash can also be used as an alternative to pasta. When the vegetable has been baked, the individual strands can be easily teased out and used in a similar way to angel hair pasta.
Spaghetti squash is fairly low in carbs, so it can be used in other ways on a keto diet too. Nevertheless, it is most popular as a pasta alternative.
Lettuce is a classic salad ingredient, whether you’re on the keto diet or not. This is true for all varieties of lettuce, although you’ll still need to keep an eye on your carb intake (as is the case for all ingredients when you’re following a keto diet).
Lettuce leaves can also be useful as an alternative to wraps. The flavor of the lettuce complements most sandwich ingredients, while also adding a satisfying crunch.
The idea has become so popular that you’ll even find some well-known stores selling sandwiches that use lettuce wraps rather than bread.
Dark Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are another easy addition to a keto diet. Just like with lettuce, leafy greens are naturally low in carbs. They also offer a variety of nutrients that are fantastic for health.
Kale, spinach and Swiss chard are just a few examples of dark leafy greens that you can enjoy regularly.
An important trick is to vary the leafy greens that you add to your diet. Don’t just stick to a single type. Each of them has a unique balance of nutrients, so you’ll get the most benefits by including many different types in your diet.
Other Low Carb Vegetables
While there are many keto-friendly vegetables, some other vegetables need to be avoided almost entirely. A good general rule is that above ground vegetables tend to be lower in carbs, while below ground vegetables are higher in carbs.
This is particularly true for potatoes and sweet potatoes, which are rarely eaten on a keto diet.
Similarly, green vegetables tend to be lower in carbs than brightly colored ones.
We’ve mentioned various vegetables already, but some other good options are asparagus, cabbage, cucumber, green beans, and broccoli.
Avocados have almost become the poster child for the keto diet – and it’s easy to see why. The fruit is delicious, creamy and packed full of healthy fats.
Avocados can be prepared in many different ways too. One popular approach is to bake an egg in the stone hole from the avocado. The resulting snack is delicious and surprisingly filling too.
You can add other ingredients to the mix if you feel like it. Ham (or bacon!) and cheese are common examples.
Gone are the days when eggs were considered unhealthy because of their cholesterol content. These days, the advantages of eggs are well-recognized. After all, they are packed full of nutrients and also taste amazing
Whether your poaching, boiling, frying or even steaming your eggs, you can certainly include them on a keto diet. In fact, many classic keto meals rely on an egg or two.
Cheese tends to be low in carbs. It is mostly fat, after all. Still, you’ll need to pay attention to the carb content, as this won’t always be the same.
Most importantly, watch out for cheese that is highly processed. This will often contain extra carbs, along with undesirable additives. Spray cheese and American cheese are both examples of this issue.
Likewise, ricotta cheese and cottage cheese are both higher in carbs than hard cheeses. You can still enjoy them on a keto diet, but you’ll need to watch your portion size.
Most diet plans will tell you to have red meat in moderation and to focus on lean red meat. This isn’t the case for keto at all. Keto takes a high fat, moderate protein approach, which means that fatty red meat tends to be better.
This is fantastic news, as the fattier meats are often easier to cook and are rich in flavor too. Steak is one of the classic examples, while bacon is another.
The general rule is that most meats can be enjoyed on a keto diet, but try to focus on unprocessed meats as much as possible. If you do plan on enjoying bacon, check the ingredients carefully, as some brands will use additives or add sugar.
I’m sure you’ve heard about coconut oil on the keto diet by now. Coconut oil is one of the most common keto diet ingredients. It is high in healthy fats and contains almost no carbs, so it’s a natural choice.
Coconut oil also contains MCTs. These are medium-chain triglycerides, which are a specific type of fat that has been linked to a variety of health benefits. MCTs may help you to reach ketosis faster and remain there too.
In a way, MCT oil is a step up from coconut oil. It is a more concentrated source of MCTs and is often derived from coconut oil too.
MCT oil is popular because it relies on the smaller chain length MCTs from coconut oil. A large proportion of coconut oil consists of lauric acid, which only just falls into the category of an MCT.
While lauric acid may offer some health benefits not found with other MCTs, its impacts on ketosis aren’t as powerful, making MCT oil a better alternative in many ways.
Some people simply add MCT oil on top of other meals to provide extra healthy fats. But, one of the most common approaches is to include it in Bulletproof coffee. This type of coffee relies on MCT oil and butter (or ghee).
The coffee is generally blended, as this is the only way to create a decent texture. Even then, it can take some getting used to. Some people end up loving the coffee, while others don’t enjoy it at all.
Olive oil is another fat that is popular on keto (it also features on the Mediterranean diet). Olive oil contains a variety of beneficial phytochemicals, while also adding an appealing flavor to meals.
The oil is basically just fat, so there are no carbs to worry about.
The biggest limitation is that olive oil is a little tricky to cook with. It has a relatively low smoke point and the strong flavor doesn’t work well with all meals. Refined olive oil can be easier to cook with, but it doesn’t offer the same benefits.
Meat tends to be low in carbs and poultry is no exception. Once again, the emphasis is on the fattier cuts of meat, such as thighs, rather than lean cuts of meat.
One way to use meat like chicken breast would be to cook them in fat, like butter and ghee. This adds extra fat and improves the balance of fat to protein.
Nuts are an excellent source of protein and fiber, with the advantage that they are also easy to eat. However, the carb content varies dramatically between types of nuts, so you’ll need to choose carefully.
Almonds aren’t an ideal choice, as they’re higher in carbs than some of the other nuts featured on this list. Even so, they’re popular for their flavor profile and healthy compounds.
The most important area to mention is portion size. Nuts can fit well on a keto diet, but you need to make sure that you don’t eat too many. Doing so will quickly take you over your carb allowance for the day and, let’s be honest, it’s very easy to eat more nuts than you mean to.
Nut butter is another way to get nutrients from butter. Almond butter is the classic choice here, but you may be able to use some other types of nut butter too.
Just make sure that you check the ingredients label carefully. Look for brands that don’t add any extra ingredients to their nut butter.
Once again, you’ll need to keep an eye on portion size. Nut butter is calorie-dense and a portion is often smaller than you might expect.
While most types of meat make their way onto the keto diet, bacon is an especially popular choice. One reason is that bacon is naturally fatty. This is appealing, as to follow a keto diet, you need to keep your fat intake high, without raising your protein too much.
Besides that, bacon tastes amazing. This is reason enough to enjoy it regularly, especially as bacon fits into the keto diet so perfectly.
Butter has had a variable reputation over the years, but keto dieters generally consider it to be very healthy. For one thing, butter is minimally processed. Many brands of butter will contain no additives at all.
Butter is also very easy to cook with. This is another bonus, especially as the flavor of butter is so perfect.
Ghee is, quite simply, clarified butter. It ends up having a different fat balance compared to butter, along with a more intense butter flavor.
These aspects make ghee especially popular for keto dieters. You’ll often see it as an ingredient in Bulletproof coffee. Some people also add it into meals just as an extra source of fat.
Shirataki noodles are made from konjac root. They’re incredibly low in carbs, making them perfect for keto dieters. There are various brands to choose from, including Miracle Noodles.
Cooked shirataki noodles tend to be translucent and thin. Their texture is a little gelatinous, but this becomes less noticeable when the noodles are used as part of a meal. The noodles have very little taste of their own. They’ll absorb flavors from your meal instead.
This combination of features means that shirataki noodles can taste a lot like regular pasta in the right recipe.
Still, not everyone enjoys them. Some people find that the noodles take too much work to prepare, while others don’t like the fishy odor. Most of that odor can be rinsed off, but it can still be off-putting.
While milk chocolate is a no-go for keto dieters, dark chocolate can be a good addition – if you choose carefully. You’ll need to find products that don’t add much sugar and have a high cocoa percentage.
At least 70% cocoa is ideal. Many keto dieters try for 90% or even higher. If you can’t stand unsweetened chocolate at those cocoa levels, you could try chocolate that uses natural sweeteners.
Nuts and seeds often feature on a keto diet, as they’re generally low in carbs. They also complement meals well, adding in extra flavor and texture.
However, the carb content varies dramatically from one type to the next, so you need to choose carefully. The main seed choices break down like this (for a 1 ounce serving):
- Flaxseeds: 0 grams net carbs
- Chia seeds: 1 gram net carbs
- Sesame seeds: 3 grams net carbs
- Pumpkin seeds: 4 grams net carbs
Walnuts are an especially good nut on keto, as a 1 ounce serving contains just 2 net grams of carbs. Walnuts also offer more antioxidants than many other foods,
In fact, walnuts are often linked to improved brain health and not just because of their shape.
Macadamia nuts have similar carb content to walnuts, so they’re another good keto choice. While some people do snack on keto nuts directly, you’ll also find them in many keto recipes.
These nuts may be especially good nutritionally, as they contain an unusual type of omega-7 fatty acid and a significant amount of manganese.
At roughly 1 net gram of carbs per serving, pecans are one of the lowest carb choices out there (along with Brazil nuts).
Once again, some people eat the nuts as snacks, while others use them as ingredients instead. For example, crushed pecans can sometimes be used to create a type of crust when frying chicken or fish.
Keto is one of the few diets where cream is a more common choice than milk. As with butter, keto dieters generally consider cream to be a source of healthy fats.
Look for brands that don’t add extra ingredients into their cream. Most added ingredients won’t increase the carb content of the cream significantly, but it’s generally best to focus on food that is as natural as possible.
Olives offer many of the same benefits that you’ll find with olive oil, as they have the same healthy compounds. Olives may even be better in some senses, as you’re getting fiber as well.
The carb content of olives varies depending on the type of olive and the size. Even so, you’re often looking at around a single net gram of carbs for perhaps 7 to 10 olives, which isn’t too bad at all.
Berries don’t sound like they should fit on a keto diet, but they’re not as high in carbs as you might think. They actually end up being relatively high in fiber and low in carbs, which is impressive for a fruit.
You also get antioxidants from berries, so they’re worth including in your diet for the potential health benefits.
Of course, you will need to watch your serving size. It’s easy to consume too many berries in a sitting as it is. Keto dieters have less tolerance for doing so than most other groups of people.
Blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries are particularly good choices, containing around 5 or 6 net grams of carbs for a 100 gram serving. In contrast, blueberries contain many more carbs per serving.