The ketogenic diet focuses on high-fat food options, paired with nutritionally dense protein options, fruits and vegetables.
It is well known to help with certain ailments such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Still, you might be scratching your head when it comes to making choices about what to buy.
Though the ketogenic diet is simple to follow and doesn’t restrict too many foods from your diet, there is a level of strictness, since you have to obey serving sizes and get the appropriate allotment of macronutrients in order for it to work.
Below, you’ll find lists of ketogenic foods broken into the main groups that you will be choosing from to create meals, as well as a glimpse into serving sizes to help you create healthy, balanced meals.
Ketogenic Diet Food List and Serving Portions
Fats & Oils
Healthy fats are the cornerstone of the ketogenic diet, because you use this macronutrient to bring your body into ketosis, where your body breaks down fat for energy instead of carbohydrates and protein.
In order for this to work, though, you need to consume a lot of fatty foods.
In fact, the ketogenic calls for most of your calories to come from fat—about 60-70%.
However, this doesn’t mean you can load up on cheese and call it a day.
The fats you want to include in your diet:
Avoid trans fats at all costs.
Trans fats are routinely found in hydrogenated oils. An example of a hydrogenated oil would be margarine.
Here are some foods that provide high quality sources of fat:
Fats & Oils Serving Sizes
The main serving size of healthy fats and oils is 1 tablespoon.
A single tablespoon of oils that are liquid at room temperature ranges between 100-120 calories and typically has 11 to 14 grams of fat.
Nuts & Seeds
Another way to consume healthy fats would be nuts and seeds.
Depending on the rigidity of your diet plan, you might want to avoid peanuts, since they are a legume and not widely permitted by the ketogenic diet, some people do include peanuts and peanut butter in their diet.
Nuts and seeds are best when roasted, since this gives them flavor.
You can use nuts and seeds as toppings, snacks, or include them in other recipes.
Some nuts, though, have a higher carbohydrate count, like cashews and pistachios, so use them sparingly.
Here are some nuts and seeds that provide high quality fat and protein:
- Almond Butter
- Macadamia Nuts
- Brazil Nuts
- Hazel Nuts
- Cashew Butter
- Peanut Butter
- Sesame Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
Nuts & Seeds Serving Sizes
For whole nuts, a serving size is generally what fits in your palm. Now, this can be a bit confusing, so here are some numbers:
Seeds are usually ¼ cup or 2 tablespoons. For nut and seed butters, 1 tablespoon is a sufficient serving size.
This is usually about the size of your thumb.
Since dairy counts as both a fat and a protein, it is widely used in a ketogenic diet.
However, try to consume dairy in moderation, since it has a higher amount of saturated fat than other sources.
Also, aim to use only raw and organic dairy products, including dairy alternatives like almond, coconut, and soy, since processed dairy and dairy alternatives are likely to have up to 5 times more carbohydrates than unprocessed options.
Dairy options include:
- Greek yogurt
- Plain yogurt
- Heavy whipping cream
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Mayonnaise and mayo alternatives
- Hemp milk, unsweetened
- Almond milk, unsweetened
- Soy milk, unsweetened
- Vegan cheese (without casein)
- Vegan mayo
Dairy Serving Sizes
The acceptable serving size of all dairy is 1 ounce.
1 ounce is about 28 grams, if you are measured hard and soft cheeses. For plain, unsweetened yogurt, it’s 4 ounces.
Remember not to consume too much cheese. It can slow down weight loss and might aggravate your gastrointestinal tract.
The best protein sources, depending on your diet—being vegetarian/vegan or not—will be organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised (cage-free).
Choose darker meat when eating poultry, since white meat has less fat. Another source of protein is fish and shellfish, especially mackerel, salmon, and tuna, which have omega 3 fatty acids.
For vegetarians and vegans, the sources of protein become slightly more limited, but you can use shirataki noodles, tempeh, tofu, vegan cheeses, veggie burgers, and veggie meat substitutes for protein.
However, these often have a lower percentage of fat and carbohydrates, so mix them with oils.
Here are some examples of ketogenic proteins:
- Beef – fattier cuts like steak, roast, 80/20 ground beef
- Poultry – chicken, quail, duck, and wild game
- Pork – loin, tenderloin, bacon, ham, and chops
- Lamb – meat
- Fish – fatty fish with omega 3s
- Shellfish – crab, mussels, lobster, shrimp, clams
- Organ meats – offal, kidney, tongue, heart, and liver
- Goat – meat, cheese
- Eggs – use the whole egg
If you plan on using cured meats, like sausages, bacon, and pepperoni, be sure to check the ingredients to make sure you aren’t getting any filler ingredients and sugars.
Proteins Serving Sizes
Most animal proteins are a 4 oz serving size, such as ribeye steak, salmon, ground lamb, liver, and ground beef.
These net no carbs and usually have about 15-25g of fat. If you are using a nut butter or vegan option, check below:
- Almond butter (and similar) – 2 tablespoons, 180 calories, 6g protein, 16g fat
- Shirataki noodles – 4 oz, 20 calories, 1 g protein, 0.5g fat
- Tempeh – ½ cup, 160 calories, 17g protein, 9g fat
- Tofu, firm – 4 oz, 70 calories, 8g protein, 3g fat
- Tofu bacon – 2 strips, 40 calories, 4g protein, 2g fat
Fruits & Vegetables
Just because the ketogenic diet focuses on fats, it doesn’t mean you can shy away from the carbohydrates present in fruits and vegetables.
These will be the main source of carbohydrates in your diet, but a lot of produce contains some protein as well.
Whether it’s frozen or fresh doesn’t matter.
Do keep in mind that vegetables grown below the ground do contain more carbohydrates than those grown above soil, but you can eat them in moderation.
For example, onions have some carbohydrates, but they are so nutritionally dense that adding them to your steak once in a while won’t disrupt your diet. Simply be mindful of your choices, and watch the sugar.
Here are some fruits and vegetables that you can eat:
- Olives, black and green
- Mung bean sprouts
- Beet greens
- Squash – zucchini, spaghetti squash, summer squash
- Melon – cantaloupe (rockmelon/muskmelon), honeydew
- Berries – blueberries, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, currants, cranberries, gooseberries
- Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower. Radicchio, cabbage, brussels sprouts
- Leafy greens – spinach, chard, bok choy, romaine, watercress, escarole, mustard greens, kale, arugula/rocket
Avoid potatoes, bananas, and other starchy fruits and vegetables.
Fruits & Vegetables Serving Sizes
Aim for around 4 to 6 ounces of raw vegetables per serving.
For cooked vegetables, cruciferous are ½ cup, leafy greens are 1 cup, and mushrooms and onions are ¼ cup.
Steam your vegetables whenever possible then pair them with dairy-based sauces, such as cream sauce, to up the fat intake.
Fruit serving size is ¼ cup, except for avocado, which is ½ of the fruit.
Water & Beverages
With liquids, keep it simple.
Stick to water, unsweetened tea, and add flavorings that contain natural sweeteners like stevia or lime/lemon juice.
You can also drink alcohol in moderation, since most of the clear alcohols have no carbohydrates.
Wine and beer, however, need to be consumed with caution, since these beverages contain sugar.
Do note that the ketogenic diet creates a diuretic effect, so you need to stay hydrated.
For those who are prone to bladder infections and urinary tract infections, you are going to want to be prepared for increased liquid consumption.
Otherwise, you might experience what we called “Keto Flu,” which is when you are experiencing a lack of hydration and electrolytes.
One way to prevent this is to drink bone broth and sports drinks that contain only stevia, monk fruit, or another natural sweetener.
Also keep tabs on how much caffeine you are consuming.
You don’t want to consume more than 2 cups of caffeinated drinks per day, such as coffee in the morning and caffeinated tea in the afternoon.
Lastly, put down the diet soda.
Drinking diet soda will lead to sugar cravings, insulin spikes, and other problems.
Spices, Condiments & Sweeteners
Even those ingredients that you unthinkingly add to recipes for flavor can rack up carbohydrates, making spices, condiments, and sweeteners a difficult addition to your ketogenic diet.
Not only are these challenging to monitor, they can show up in the most unexpected of places.
When it comes to sauces, gravies, and salad dressings, you are going to have to decide for yourself how strict you want to be with your dietary restrictions.
The reason is because premade condiments, like ranch dressing, sriracha, and ketchup all have sugar as a main ingredient.
Check ingredient labels for other fillers, like xanthan gum and guar.
If you need a sauce or condiment, consider making it yourself to avoid these harmful ingredients.
Spices you can use:
- Sea salt
- Himalayan rock salt
- Cayenne pepper
- Red pepper flakes
- Garlic Power
Avoid table salt, since that is typically mixed with dextrose, a carbohydrate.
Condiments you can use:
- Hot sauce
- Ketchup, organic, unsweetened
- Sauerkraut, no sugar added
- Relish, no sugar added
- Worcestershire sauce
- Salad dressings – fattier options like caesar, French, Russian, and Ranch
- Sambal Oelek
- Soy sauce
- Marinara sauce
- White sauces – alfredo
- Sucralose – there’s a lot of misinformation about this artificial sweetener, but the fact of the matter is that it’s everywhere. You can’t always avoid sucralose. Just try to limit your intake by using more natural sweeteners on the market.
- Stevia – sweet and with no glycemic impact, stevia is the best substitute for sugar out there right now. Use the liquid form when possible.
- Erythritol – similar to stevia, erythritol has no glycemic impact. What makes it better than stevia, however, is that it passes through the body without being absorbed.
- Monk fruit (Luo Han Guo) – though somewhat difficult to find on the shelves of supermarkets, monk fruit is a great sweetener if you don’t like overly sweet flavor. It’s a nice balance and doesn’t impact your blood glucose levels.
Keep in mind that you want to avoid the sugar alcohol called maltitol, since it is high in the glycemic index.
Food To Avoid
After having gone through the lists of foods that are allowed in a ketogenic diet, you should have an understanding of what you can and cannot eat.
If you still have questions about what is permissible, below is a succinct list about which food items can’t be consumed while on a ketogenic program:
- Sugar – anything that contains large amounts of sugar, such as soft drinks, juice, smoothies, chocolate, ice cream, donuts, pastries, and candy cannot be consumed.
The ketogenic diet avoids sugar consumption at all costs. If you ever find yourself craving sugar while on the ketogenic diet, be sure you are getting enough magnesium, chromium, carbon, phosphorus, tryptophan, and sulphur—all of which is found in nuts, seeds, cruciferous vegetables, cheese, and poultry.
- Grains – When the craving for breads, pasta, and other carbs arises, you might be low in nitrogen.
You can fight the craving by eating a high protein meat, such as pork or steak.
- Low-fat foods – Obviously, being that the ketogenic diet focuses on consuming high-quality fats, you don’t want to choose low-fat options.
The other reason is because low-fat foods contain synthetic chemicals that could be harmful to your health and well-being.
- Fruit – Large fruits, such as peaches, pears, apples, oranges, and bananas are high in sugar content and thus need to be avoided.
If you are craving fruit, you can have berries and other fruits with small serving sizes.
- Starches – Potatoes, yams, oats, muesli, cereal, and corn should be avoided, since these are starchy foods with high carbohydrate content.
- Trans fats – Though these are fats, they aren’t quality fats.
Items like shortening, margarine, and spreadable butter alternatives all contain hydrogenated fats, which are extremely bad for the human body.
In order to achieve ketosis, your diet needs to be centered on consuming high-quality fats from varied sources.
Knowing the source of your food is pivotal to having a nutritionally balanced diet that gives you the results you are looking for.
This means sticking to the outside ring of the grocery store, stocking up on fresh or frozen, low carb fruits and vegetables, and selecting protein sources with healthy fats.
Use this guide to help you shop, and you will find yourself on the path towards a successful ketogenic diet.