If you’re new to the ketogenic diet, it can be tricky to wade through the do’s and don’ts — especially when it comes to your grocery list.
This simple guide will highlight the best low-carb foods to add to your shopping list to keep your blood sugar stable and support weight loss.
Following a higher-fat diet likely means that you’ll be eating more fat than you’re used to, so keep this list handy for grocery shopping and even when you’re ordering takeout.
Fats and Oils
Fat is a crucial component of the keto diet, but not all fat is created equally. Always opt for a range of fat sources with omega-3, omega-6, omega-9, and saturated fat. Trans fat is really the only type of fat to avoid at all costs. Below is a list of the best types of fat to include in your keto diet.
- Grass-fed butter
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Sesame seed oil
- Almond oil
- Olive oil
- Sunflower seed oil
There’s a common myth that the keto diet is a low- or moderate-protein diet. The truth is that for most people, protein won’t kick you out of ketosis. In fact, protein is essential for muscle building, muscle maintenance, and a healthy metabolism.
Just like fat, quality is crucial when it comes to protein. Always choose organic when possible, and when it comes to beef, grass-fed is superior to grain-fed.
Here’s a list of some high-fat, high-protein options:
- Grass-fed beef
- Chicken (wings, breasts with skin, thighs)
- Lamb (especially the loin)
Any animal food that isn’t highly processed with sugar will work for your protein needs. If it comes in a package, however, be sure to check for added carbs. Also, focus on fatty fish and fatty cuts of meat instead of lean.
There’s a wide variety of vegetables that fit into a low-carb diet. Although vegetables aren’t very high in fat, they make up a crucial component of your overall diet. A list of the most common low-carb veggies includes:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Summer squash
- Green beans
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Lettuce (all varieties)
Low-Carb, High-Fat Dairy
Some people avoid dairy on a keto diet because they’re afraid that the natural sugars present in dairy products will kick them out of ketosis. While it’s possible that some dairy products like ice cream or yogurt with added sugars won’t work on keto, there are many keto-friendly dairy options. These include:
- Greek yogurt
- Heavy whipping cream
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Sour cream
- Mozzarella cheese
- Blue cheese
- Monterey jack cheese
- Feta cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Swiss cheese
Nuts and Seeds
Most nuts and seeds fit perfectly into your keto diet because they’re naturally rich in fat. Below is a list of nuts and seeds that you can choose from. Keep in mind that you can also enjoy nut butter, but make sure that there are no added sweeteners or fillers in the ingredients list. Some nuts, like pistachios and cashews should only be enjoyed in moderation as they contain a higher carb count than other nuts.
- Macadamia nuts
- Cashews (moderation)
- Brazilian nuts
- Pine nuts
- Pistachios (moderation)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
While most fruit is off-limits on a low-carb diet, there are a select few that you can enjoy. The only high-fat fruit you’ll find is avocados, but there are a few other fruit options that fit the low-carb category. These include:
- Berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, blackberries)
Note: berries should always be enjoyed in moderation. Although they tend to be lower in carbs than other fruits, the carbs can add up quickly if you overindulge.
About half of American adults enjoy at least one soda every day. There are 39 grams of sugar in just 12 ounces of Coke, and 65 total carbs. So, the main rule when it comes to keto-friendly beverages is to avoid sugar-laden drinks.
While it should come as no surprise that these drinks are a ticket right out of ketosis, there are a lot of sugar-bomb drinks out there masquerading as healthy. High-fat beverages, on the other hand, tend to be harder to come by. Some examples of drinks you can enjoy that will give you an extra hit of fat include:
- Butter coffee (with added butter and MCT oil)
- Tea (black, green, white, herbal) with heavy cream
- Coffee (with heavy cream or coconut cream, no sugar)
- Smoothies (using fat sources like avocado, peanut butter, and MCTs)
- Bone broth
There are plenty of foods to enjoy when following a keto diet, but just as important as what’s on your plate is what you forgo in the name of steady blood glucose. Here is a list of the most important foods to avoid on the keto diet.
While it’s true that fruit is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, most fruits will kick you out of ketosis. With the exception of the fruit listed above, try to avoid all other fruit like watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, peaches, plums, and so on.
Starchy veggies like sweet potato, potatoes, yams, and squash should all be avoided (or at the very least moderated) on the keto diet. Even though veggies, in general, tend to be okay, starchy vegetables are higher in carbs and may push your carb count out of range.
Most grains (even higher protein grains) contain way too many carbs for a strict keto diet. Common whole grains that you may find sneaking their way into your meals include rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, wheat, emmer, and farro.
Many keto dieters find that omitting grains is actually quite easy once you have an alternative to bread. There are plenty of keto bread recipes to choose from, most of which use alternative flours like coconut flour and almond flour.
Unless the item specifically states that it’s keto-friendly, you can be sure that any baked treat you come across is going to be packed with carbs. Most baked goods like cookies, cakes, pastries, brownies, pies, etc. are primarily made with two ingredients; sugar and grains.
The good news is that you can find keto recipe alternatives to almost all your favorite baked goods, so you never have to feel like you’re going without.
Most Packaged Foods
With the exception of keto-friendly snacks and meals, most packaged foods include added ingredients that make them undesirable for a keto dieter.
Aside from added sugar, many packaged foods also include artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, and preservatives. Some manufacturers will go with sugar alternatives like stevia or monk fruit, and stick to natural preservatives — but this is the exception, not the rule. Common packaged foods that you’ll want to move away from include:
- Protein and granola bars
- Frozen entrees
- Ice cream
- Soups and sauces (check the carb count)
When it comes to dairy, full-fat is key. When brands reduce the amount of fat in their dairy products, they often add sugar to make up for the loss of flavor that fat typically provides. Even if sugar isn’t added, the reduction in fat shifts the macronutrient ratio of the dairy to be higher carb. Full-fat dairy has a richer mouthfeel and will leave you more satisfied, so it’s really a win-win. Watch out for:
- Skim milk
- 2% milk
- Low-fat yogurt
- Low- fat sour cream
- Skim string cheese
- Low-fat cream cheese
- Low-fat creamer
Beans are another high-carb food that should be excluded in your keto meal plan. Even lentils, which have a higher protein content than most other beans, are too high carb for a keto dieter. This also includes bean dips like hummus and black bean dip.
Cocktails and Sugary Beverages
Sugary beverages like soda are obvious offenders on the keto diet, but other packaged drinks like sports drinks and energy drinks are packed with sugar and other toxic ingredients. Fruit juices, pre-made iced teas, and iced coffee drinks also often include a hefty dose of sugar. When it comes to beverages, the rule of thumb is to always check the label.
Cocktails, in general, tend to be higher in sugar then drinks like vodka soda or martinis. Margaritas, bloody Mary’s, sangria, whiskey sour, cosmos, Pina Coladas, and so on should all be avoided on keto.
There are numerous health benefits associated with following a high-fat, low-carb diet. But if you want to reap the rewards of ketosis, it takes more than simply producing ketones — you need to include high-quality, low-carb foods that are rich in healthy fats.
When you go to the grocery store, be sure to load up your shopping cart with whole food options like meat, veggies, nuts, and seeds. Save the packaged foods for your on-the-go needs and only buy packaged foods that are keto-friendly.