If you’re considering starting the Keto diet then one of the first questions you might ask is, “What am I allowed to eat?”. Celebrities and food gurus make Keto look enticing by showing you how to make delicious dinners that are dripping with bacon and slathered in cheese. The diet is a little more complicated than that and there are certainly some foods that you should focus on as well as a few that you should avoid. The following article will give you an overview of the rules of Keto so that you can understand your food choices as well as a complete Keto food list for beginners.
Overview of Keto
The Keto diet was created by doctors who were looking at a way of stabilizing the blood sugar of their patients with Type 2 Diabetes. They found that diets that were high in carbohydrates tended to cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels. If you’ve ever eaten a high carb meal then you’ve probably experienced this yourself. Shortly after eating you feel a burst of energy; however, a few short hours later you feel drained and hungry.
When your body breaks down carbohydrates it turns them into glucose in your liver. Glucose is a very quick fuel for your body and this explains the sugar rush that you feel and the quick burst of energy. Unfortunately, glucose is also very quick to burn through so that sugar high is followed by a crash as your body runs out of fuel and hunger as it sends signals asking for more.
The Keto diet seeks to change this by putting your body in a state known as ketosis that’s achieved by depriving your body of the carbs it needs to produce glucose. With no glucose for fuel, your body needs to switch to an alternate energy source. It turns to the fat that is stored away in your body from excess carbs that weren’t used right away. This fat is processed by your liver and turned into an energy source known as ketones.
Ketones are slower to burn through than glucose which means that you don’t get as hungry as often. They’re also a more steady source of fuel so you don’t get the sugar highs and lows associated with glucose. Instead, your body is powered by a steady stream of ketones as your body burns through your stored body fat.
Because ketones are made from fat it’s important to replenish your fat stores by eating more fat than the average diet consists of. It’s also important to reduce your carb intake to 20-25g of net carbs a day. Everybody has their own individual point where their body stops producing ketones and is kicked out of ketosis. This is something that you can test using urine, blood and breath ketone tests; however, you’re safe sticking with 20-25g of net carbs daily.
What should you eat on Keto?
While you’re on the Keto diet the majority of your calories will come from healthy fats. In fact, fats should make up roughly 70-75% of your calories. Now, as enticing as bacon is, the focus here is on healthy fats. These are the unsaturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that are comm0nly found in nuts, seeds and healthy plant-based oils. Bacon is perfectly fine but you should definitely make sure that it’s eaten in moderation so you don’t consume too many saturated fats and increase your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
In addition to healthy fats, your diet should have a moderate amount of protein (roughly 20-25% of your total calories) and only 5-10% should come from carbohydrates. Because of this, you probably won’t need to go out of your way to incorporate carbs into your meal plans. If anything, it’s most likely going to be the other way around.
The majority of the foods we eat contain some level of net carbs. This includes vegetables, beans, fruit and dairy products which aren’t foods normally associated with carbohydrates. It’s important to look at the net carb count of each and every food you plan to consume in order to avoid sneaky, unnecessary carbs from filtering in.
The following list will give you a good idea of exactly what foods you should eat while on Keto, as well as some that you should avoid.
Meats, Seafood and Eggs
When it comes to meats, there are a variety of options. Liver and deli meat are really the only meats that contain carbohydrates so if you steer clear of them you’ll be okay. It’s best to stick with lean meats so that you limit your saturated fats; however, all meat is allowed in moderation. The following is a detailed list of the meats that are allowed on Keto.
- Beef roast
- Pork chops
- Pork loin
- Beef or pork ribs
- Chicken breasts
- Chicken thighs and wings
- Peameal bacon
- Stewed beef
- Ground beef
- Ground turkey
- Ground chicken
- Turkey breast
- Roast turkey
Seafood is also relatively low in carbs, and it tends to have a lot of healthy fats that are great for the health of your brain and heart. If you avoid shellfish such as clams, oysters and mussels then you’ll avoid the majority of the seafood that contains carbs. Try to incorporate some of the following seafood into your weekly meals for a boost of healthy fats.
Eggs are in a category all of their own! They’re an excellent source of healthy fats and they contain important vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D, E, iron, folate, choline and B12. Both the white and the yolk of the egg are packed with nutrients and your average egg has 7g of protein alongside 5g of protein. When it comes to carbs, eggs do have a little coming in at 0.3 grams of net carbs per egg. It would take a lot of eggs to put a dent in your net carb budget, but it’s important to track all of your carbs, no matter how small.
Fruits and Vegetables
When it comes to fruits, your taste buds are the perfect test as to whether a particular fruit has too many carbs to be allowed on Keto. As a general rule, the sweeter the fruit is, the higher the carb count. Fruit is one of the higher carb foods allowed on Keto. Be sure to indulge in moderation with an eye to your carb counts at all times. The following are some of the lowest carb fruits that you can fit into your Keto.
- Watermelon: 2.6g of net carbs in 1/4 of a cup diced
- Strawberries: 1.8g of net carbs in 1/4 of a cup
- Raspberries: 1.5g of net carbs in 1/4 of a cup
- Papaya: 2.8g of net carbs in 1/4 of a cup
- Lemon Juice: 1.3g of net carbs in 1tbsp (freshly squeezed)
- Raw cranberries: 2g of net carbs in 1/4 cup
- Honeydew melon: 3.6g of net carbs in 1/4 cup
- Blackberries: 2.7g of net carbs in 1/4 cup
- Cantaloupe: 3g of net carbs in 1/4 cup
- Fresh Apricots: 3.1g of net carbs in 1/4 cup
With fruits, you look for less sugary varieties and with vegetables, the quick test is their starch content. If a vegetable grows below ground like carrots, parsnip, beets, radish, potatoes or sweet potatoes then chances are it’s high in starch and also high in carbohydrates. Non-starchy vegetables tend to be the ones that grow above ground. Any of the following vegetables would be a great addition to your Keto meal plan.
- Artichoke hearts: each heart contains 1g of net carbs
- Bok Choy: 0.8g of net carbs in 1 cup
- Broccoli: 1.7g of net carbs in 1/2 cup
- Red and green cabbage: 1.1g of net carbs in 1/2 cup
- Cauliflower: 1.6g of net carbs in 6 pieces of cauliflower
- Celery stalk: 0.8g of net carbs in each celery stalk
- Green chillis: no net carbs
- Cucumber: 1/2 small cucumber has 1.8g of net carbs
- Daikon: 1.1g of net carbs per 1/2 cup
- Eggplant: 2g of net carbs in a 1/2 cup
- Endive: 1.4g of net carbs in a 1/2 a cup
- Escarole: 0.1g of net carbs in a 1/2 a cup
- Mixed greens: 0.4g of net carbs in a cup
- Butterhead lettuce: 0.7g of net carbs in a cup
- Romaine lettuce: 0.4g of net carbs in a cup
- Mushrooms: 1g of net carbs in 1/2 cup
- Green onions: 1.2g of net carbs in 1/4 of a cup
- Jalapeno peppers: 0.4g of net carbs per pepper
- Rhubarb: 1.7g of net carbs in a 1/2 a cup
- Spinach (raw): 0.2g of net carbs in a cup
- Watercress: no net carbs
- Swiss chard: 0.4g of net carbs in 1/2 a cup
Nuts, Seeds and Oils:
These make up the majority of the foods that you’re going to eat on Keto. The key is to understand that a little goes a long way with these foods. You don’t need more than a handful of a lot of these nuts or a tablespoon of the oil in order to meet your fat targets for the day. Because a little goes a long way it can be easy to overindulge in foods in this category and end up going over in your calories. The following are some of the most nutritious nuts, seeds and oils that you can eat on Keto.
- Almonds: 2 tbsp of slivered almonds contain 1.7g of net carbs
- Walnuts: 2tbsp of walnuts contain 1g of net carbs
- Sunflower seeds: 2tbsp of these seeds contains 1.5g of net carbs
- Pumpkin seeds: 2tbsp of these seeds contains 2.4g of net carbs
- Pine nuts: 2tbsp of these seeds contains 1.7g of net carbs
- Chopped pecans: 2tbsp of these seeds contains 0.6g of net carbs
- Peanuts: 1.8g of net carbs in 2 tbsp of these seeds
- Macadamia nuts: 2tbsp contains 0.9g of net carbs
- Hazelnuts: 2tbsp contains 1g of net carbs
- Chia Seeds:2tbsp of seeds contains 1g of net carbs
- Flax seeds: 2tbsp of flax seeds contains 0.4g of net carbs
- Corn oil: no net carbs
- Sesame oil: no net carbs
- Extra Virgin Olive oil: no net carbs
- Avocado oil: no net carbs
- Coconut oil: no net carbs
As you can see, there are plenty of yummy and nutritious foods that you can eat on Keto. Although you should stay away from sugary fruits, starchy vegetables and all grains, there are more than enough foods allowed on Keto in order for you to make a meal plan that’s full of variety. You can’t go wrong basing your meals around any of the foods found in this article!