Chris enjoys writing about a variety of topics including science, health, and fitness.
Recently, the ketogenic diet has gained a lot of popularity in the world of weight loss. This diet focuses on eating foods that are high in fat, contain moderate amounts of protein, and have little to no carbohydrates. When the diet is followed properly (by eating less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day), your body should enter a state of ketosis where it will primarily use fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. It's been reported that the ketogenic diet also stabilizes blood sugar levels and helps to control your appetite and food cravings. I've personally used the ketogenic diet in the past with great results.
My favorite part about the diet was that I was never really hungry. However, the ketogenic diet is not without its shortcomings. I was sometimes challenged in getting enough fiber each day and finding foods that I could eat consistently every day without getting bored. Another challenge I came across was how to handle eating out with friends and family. Breakfast was no problem (bacon and eggs!) however, most other meals are so rich in carbohydrates that you'd kick your body out of ketosis with one bite. Nonetheless, once I figured out some good foods to foods to eat, maintaining this diet become significantly easier to accomplish. Listed below are my top 20 foods to enjoy on the ketogenic diet.
20. Deli Lunchmeats
Number 20 on my list is deli-sliced lunch meats. I don't eat a lot of this (which is why it's number 20), however, it can make a great snack when I am looking for something different. I prefer turkey or ham; however, any meat will do well on the ketogenic diet. Roast beef is one of the better choices since it contains more fat than turkey or ham. However, be careful to limit your deli meat consumption because it's full of salts and preservatives. A 1-oz portion of deli turkey meat can contain 28 calories, 0.6 g of fat, 4.9 g of protein, and 0.3 g of net carbohydrates. Roast beef, on the other hand, contains 53 calories, 2 g of fat, 9 g of protein, and 0 g of net carbohydrates per 1-oz serving. In the end, deli-style lunch meats can be a great snack on the ketogenic diet.
19. Green Beans
Green beans aren't a great source of fat; however, this food does have plenty of fiber in it. The high fiber content makes this vegetable a great way to meet your daily fiber needs. I enjoy green beans in moderation as a side dish for many of the meals I eat. Fresh green beans have a great flavor and can help make almost any meal better. A 1-oz serving of green beans may contain 9 calories, 0 g of fat, 0.5 g of protein, and 1 g of net carbohydrates.
18. Beef Jerky
Number 18 on my list of go-to keto foods is beef jerky. Beef jerky is a great snack that is full of protein and fat while laying low on carbohydrates. A 1-oz serving of beef jerky might have 82 calories, 5.1 g of fat, 6.6 g of protein, and 1.8 g of net carbohydrates.
When buying beef jerky, pay special attention to the nutritional labels. Many brands and flavors of jerky (even those that seem healthy) can contain an awful lot of sugar. Avoid sugar packed jerky as it will ruin your ketogenic dieting efforts. I recommend buying a food dehydrator and just making your own beef jerky if you can. It's very easy and will save you a lot of money, especially if you're planning on making this a staple in your diet.
Almonds are packed with nutrients and healthy fats, so they make a great snack or meal accompaniment while on the ketogenic diet. Use caution, though, as almonds are very high in calories. Eating too many could easily thwart your efforts to lose weight. I like to add almonds to salads for some extra crunch. I also use them as a topping in an almond-chicken dish. Just 1 oz of roasted almonds contains 167 calories, 14.8 g of fat, 6.2 g of protein, and 2.1 g of net carbohydrates.
Just like almonds, pecans are super calorie dense and contain an enormous amount of healthy fats. Pecans also have protein and lots of fiber. These nuts are good when added to salads or combined with other snacks such as when preparing a homemade ketogenic trail mix. Just 1 oz of pecans contains a whopping 199 calories, 20.8 g of fat, 2.7 g of protein, and only 1.2 g of net carbohydrates.
Tuna is one of the most protein dense foods around. A 1-oz portion of canned tuna can contain as much as 7.1 g of protein with 0.2 g of fat and 0 g of carbohydrates. You can buy tuna packed in oil if you want or need the extra fat, however, I prefer to mix it with high-quality mayonnaise or an avocado instead. Just add some salt and pepper to the mixture and wrap it in a low-carb tortilla and you have a great, protein- and fat-rich meal with very little carbohydrates. You can also make a wide variety of keto-friendly salads with tuna.
14. Cottage Cheese
On the ketogenic diet, you will probably find yourself eating a lot of cheese. Indeed, there are several cheese varieties on this list. I sometimes choose cottage cheese as a snack or side dish in lieu of standard cheese just to change things up a bit. A 1-oz serving of cottage cheese (4% fat) contains 28 calories, 1.2 g of fat, 3.3 g of protein, and 0.9 g of net carbohydrates.
Zucchini is another one of my top vegetables to eat while on the ketogenic diet. It's not the lowest carb vegetable around, however, it's cheap, easy to cook, and goes with a lot of dishes. I like to lightly fry zucchini slices in olive oil, and then eat them as a snack. I also add them to my meal as a side dish. A 1-oz serving of zucchini has 5 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0.3 g protein, 0.6 net carbohydrates.
12. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a high-protein food that can also help to promote good digestive health. I don't eat a lot of Greek yogurt since most varieties are very low in fat yet still have a few carbohydrates. However, Greek yogurt is a great alternative to cottage cheese or shredded cheese when trying to maintain a low-carbohydrate lifestyle on the ketogenic diet. A single 1-oz serving of Greek yogurt contains 16 calories, 0.1 g of fat, 2.8 g of protein, and 1 g of net carbohydrates.
Mushrooms are very nutritious and tend to be one of my favorite things to add to my meals. I often add mushrooms to omelets and top my steaks and burgers with them as well. You can sauté them in olive oil with a little salt and pepper to bring some amazing flavors to the foods you pair it with. A 1-oz serving of mushrooms can contain 6.2 calories, 0.1 g of fat, 0.9 g of protein, and 0.6 g of net carbohydrates.
10. Ground Beef
Cooked ground beef is one of the staple foods on the ketogenic diet. It's packed with protein and fat while having no carbohydrates. In addition to this, ground beef is extremely versatile. It can be used in a wide variety of dishes such as bun-less burgers, lo-carb tacos, and lo-carb spaghetti.
To make a lo-carb spaghetti, add ground beef to spiralized zucchini and top with traditional marinara sauce. Avoid most pre-made spaghetti sauces as they often contain tons of added sugar. A 1-oz serving of 80/20 ground beef contains 76 calories, 4.9 g of fat, and 7.6 g of fat.
Some people may not like to eat red meat however I find that steak is a great food to consume on the ketogenic diet. A simply seasoned, well-grilled steak has a lot of flavor and can add much needed fats and protein to your diet. Steak doesn't have to be expensive, either. I sometimes buy a London Broil and grill the entire thing over a hot fire. Once cooked, the meat can be sliced and served as a main course or added to a pile of healthy vegetables like zucchini and mushrooms. Steak has 70 calories, 3.7 g of fat, 8.6 g of protein, and no carbohydrates for each 1-oz serving.
Who doesn't like bacon, right? For people on the ketogenic diet, bacon has got to be one of the most tasty foods there is. Eating bacon makes it seem like you're not even dieting. However, bacon's high fat and protein content make it a perfect ketogenic food.
In addition to this, bacon goes great on almost everything including burgers, steaks, salads, omelets , etc. When looking for bacon at the grocery store, make sure to avoid those flavors and brands that contain large amounts of sugar in them. These will obviously contain carbohydrates. I look for peppered or smoked bacon instead. A 1-oz portion of bacon will contain 149 calories, 11.3 g of fat, 10.7 g of protein, and only 0.4 g of net carbohydrates.
7. Broccoli Raab (Broccoli Rabe)
Broccoli raab is one the most keto-friendly vegetables you can find. I mainly like broccoli raab because it is a nutritious food that is packed with fiber yet is low in net carbohydrates. In fact, a 1-oz serving of broccoli raab has 9 calories, 0.1 g fat, 1.1 g protein, 0.8 g fiber, and 0.2 g of net carbohydrates. If you can't find broccoli raab, regular broccoli will suffice; however, it tends to have less protein and more carbohydrates than broccoli raab.
6. String Cheese
String cheese, or mozzarella sticks, are a great snack to keep you going throughout the day. When purchasing string cheese, be sure to avoid the low-fat variety. While on the ketogenic diet, I usually have a serving of string cheese every other day or so. A 1-oz serving of string cheese contains 114 calories, 8.5 g fat, 11.3 g of protein, and 1.4 g net carbohydrates.
Spinach has got to be one of the best ketogenic-friendly vegetables around. Spinach is very high in protein and fiber while also being relatively low in carbohydrates. Spinach can be eaten raw or cooked. One of my favorite keto-friendly meals is a spinach salad topped with chopped bacon, sliced chicken breast, diced mushrooms, and feta cheese. This salad almost needs no dressing, however, I usually pair it with a small amount of honey mustard dressing on the side. In addition to this salad, I love to add spinach to my eggs in the morning or use it to top a burger. A 1-oz pile of fresh spinach contains 6 calories, 0.1 g of fat, 0.8 g of protein, and 0.4 g of net carbohydrates.
4. Shredded Cheese
No ketogenic food list would be complete without shredded or cubed cheese Cheese is high in fat and protein and very low in carbohydrates. Cheese also makes a great snack and pairs well with bacon or beef jerky as well. I prefer to use shredded cheese as it can be easily added as a topping to any meat or vegetable. There's a wide variety of cheeses to choose from. Beware, as some cheeses will contain carbohydrates that you didn't know where there. A 1-oz serving of cheddar cheese, for example, will have 113 calories, 9.3 g of fat, 7 g of protein, and only 0.4 g of net carbohydrates.
3. Chicken Breast
Chicken breasts are another great food on the ketogenic diet. It's also one of my favorite meats. It tastes good, can be prepared in a multitude of ways, and can be used in almost any meal. Chicken breast is high in protein but low in fat and carbohydrates.
One of my favorite ways to prepare chicken for the ketogenic diet is to dice it up and pan fry it in olive oil with some garlic salt and fresh cracked pepper. Once the chicken is browned, you can add it to a salad, eat it as a snack, or make it part of the main dish course. A 1-oz portion of chicken breast should contain 46 calories, 1 g of fat, 8.7 g of protein, and no carbohydrates.
The avocado is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods available on the ketogenic diet. It's actually a very healthy food on almost any diet. Avocados are packed with good fats, protein, and have a ton of fiber. I like to tell people that the saying should be "An avocado a day keeps the doctor away," because this super food is many times healthier than an Apple.
Avocados are great enjoy it on their own or added to a host of dishes. As I mentioned earlier, I like to mix it with tuna to add some fat and flavor to the food. I also like to slice avocados and use them in salads and to top grilled chicken breasts. A 1-oz serving of avocado contains 45 calories, 4.1 g of fat, 0.6 g of protein, and only 0.5 g of net carbohydrates.
Finally, at the top of my list is the incredible, edible egg. Eggs have got to be my favorite go-to food on the ketogenic diet. Even when I am not doing the ketogenic diet, I like eggs as well. Eggs have protein and are full of healthy fats. In addition, eggs are inexpensive and easy to make in a variety of ways. I like the pan fry them, scramble them, or put them in an omelette with spinach and mushrooms. I sometimes also hard-boil eggs and take them with me to work for snack or small meal. A 1-oz portion of eggs contains 55 calories, 4.3 g of fat, 3.8 g of protein, and 0.2 g of net carbohydrates.
I listed my top 20 ketogenic foods above; however, there are literally of other foods available for your eating pleasure. I've summarized the macro-nutrients of these 20 foods in a table to help you compare them. Most of this data was obtained from http://nutritiondata.self.com/
|Food||Serving Size||Calories||Fat||Protein||Fiber||Net Carbs|
Deli Sliced Turkey
Ground Beef 80/20
When you know what foods to eat, living a ketogenic lifestyle can be easier than you could imagine. In addition, by focusing on these types of foods, it will a help you to avoid the perils of a modern American diet, which is often very high in salts, sugars, and white flours. Let me know in the comments if you've tried the ketogenic diet before, and if so, what foods you ate, and what kind of results you obtained.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is the calorie limit on the ketogenic diet?
Answer: There is no calorie limit, per se. Since I assume that your goal is to lose weight, you still need to aim for eating fewer calories than you consume on a daily basis. If you eat too much, even while doing keto, you will gain weight. It is typically recommended that you start by eating 500 calories less per day. This should result in about 1lb of fat loss per week. However, your personal weight loss goals may be different. I wrote another article which captures my experiences while on the diet itself. My personal experience with the ketogenic diet was that I had often had a hard time eating enough calories since I was never hungry. Everyone's experience will be different.
Question: Can I eat salads on the ketogenic diet?
Answer: Salads are a great way to obtain nutrients and fiber while on the ketogenic diet. Lettuce is generally low in carbohydrates (per serving); however, I recommend sticking to spinach and/or arugula based salads since they have the most fiber and least net carbs. Top your salad with keto-friendly veggies such as radishes, mushrooms, broccoli raab, etc. Even a little bit of bell pepper is ok to add to your salad. Avoid "sweet" veggies or fruits and definitely skip the croutons. The main thing to keep in mind is to not overdo it by eating a large salad. A nice pile of healthy veggies over lettuce can quickly add up to 20-30 carbohydrates. Be sure to add fat to your salad in the form of eggs, avocado, or some kind of cooked meat.
Another important thing to remember with a salad is to choose a ketogenic friendly dressing. Choosing the wrong dressing can quickly ruin your diet. Many salad dressings are full of sugars. Stick with oil/vinegar based dressings (check the labels to avoid added sugar), or make your own at home. You can even make homemade ranch dressing out of a ranch seasoning packet and greek yogurt. Another great choice can be avocado based dressings. Plain balsamic vinegar is one of my top choices.
Question: Will eating too many calories knock you out of ketosis, even if they're all from fats and proteins?
Answer: No, too many calories will not kick you out of a state of ketosis unless those excess calories are coming from carbohydrates. When your body is in ketosis, it is running off of fat instead of carbohydrates. However, if you consume too many calories, you won't likely see the weight loss that you may be looking for by going on the ketogenic diet. Also, if you eat too many calories, you could potentially end up eating too much protein. This could also have negative effects on the body including the potential for kidney damage. While doing keto, it's important to monitor your macronutrient intake to ensure that you are getting enough fat but not too much protein or carbohydrates.
Question: Can I eat ham on keto diet?
Answer: Yes, in fact, ham is a great food for people on the ketogenic diet. However, be sure to avoid ham that has honey or brown sugar in it. These may taste great but the additional carbs could work against your goals. I suggest going with black forest ham or any wood smoked ham.
Question: Are ground turkey meat and burgers okay on the keto diet?
Answer: Yes, pretty much any meat is a great choice on the keto diet. However, turkey is very lean so you need to make sure you also consume plenty of fat with it. Don't overdo the protein - remember, the keto diet is primarily a high fat diet not a high protein diet.
© 2018 Christopher Wanamaker
Sheri on June 23, 2020:
What suggestions do u have for folks who are dairy intolerant? We can’t use all those yummy cheeses!
jas on February 04, 2020:
My cholesterol is high at the moment and I am a diabetic can I still be on this diet?
C on January 01, 2020:
Can you drink alcohol on this diet?
Christopher Wanamaker (author) from Arizona on April 25, 2019:
Beef Jerky is a great snack, however, many brands have a lot of sugar in them so you really have to be careful. Stores like Sprouts, Trader Joes, or Whole Foods tend to have a better selection of keto-friendly jerky than the typical grocery store. Although, I did purchase many brands and ate them in moderation.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 25, 2019:
This is such a good informative article. I have been on Keto for about 6 -7 weeks. One of the main reasons I went on this diet is to reduce inflammation in my body as I have arthritis and some other medical problems.
I like that I am not hungry, but sometimes I have trouble keeping my carbs low enough. I didn't think I could eat yogurt, so that is good news as I am looking for alternatives foods. I use most of those you listed, but I wondered if you have a good name brand for jerky.
Gretchen Sjerven on February 21, 2019:
Is it ok to eat a lunch meat that has 1 gram of sugar in it?
Patrick Miller on February 20, 2019:
I love bacon but I will not eat it if is loaded with sodium nitrate, is the uncure bacon is just as good as the regular bacon
Travel Chef from Manila on December 01, 2018:
I believe I can handle a keto diet since almost all of these foods are my favorites. Maybe I should try to consider it. Thank you for sharing.
Christopher Wanamaker (author) from Arizona on May 05, 2018:
Brian - You are correct that staying under the carbohydrate limit can be challenging. 50grams day is definitely easier than 20grams. I usually can keep my carb intake at less than 30 to 35 grams a day without too much trouble. I'm not too strict on myself, I just avoid the most modern, processed foods and stick mostly with meats, cheese, and vegetables. An occasional piece of bread (very small piece) or a small serving of rice isn't going to mess up your diet if you are otherwise sticking to it.
It interesting that the carbohydrate as become the most processed macro-nutrient around. Food manufactures get rid of fat and always pump sugar into everything they that make. Just today I was looking at beef jerky labels and I was appalled by how much sugar that manufactures add to it. I told my wife that this added sugar just defeats the purpose of eating this otherwise healthy snack.
As always, thanks for reading and commenting.
Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on May 05, 2018:
My wife is on a keto diet, and she eats a lot of most of the foods you list. I've been cutting back on carbs and curbing hunger with fats.
To give an inkling of the difficulty of staying under 50 (some sources say 20) grams of carbs per day: 1/4th cup (1 palm full) of raisins has 32g of carbs (24g of which is sugars).