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If you’re starting a ketogenic diet for the first time, you may be overwhelmed when it comes to creating a meal plan. 

Many first-time keto dieters go heavy on the low-carb veggies like kale and spinach and focus on full-fat dairies like cheddar and blue cheese. 

While these options certainly fit into your keto diet, there are some food options that can take the guesswork out of carb counting altogether. And those are the no-carb options. 

If you’re ready for truly low-carb and no-carb foods to add to your keto weight loss plan, this is the guide for you.

Your No Carb Food List

The fact of the matter is, most foods contain carbs. The trick is knowing which foods are brimming with carbs, and which contain only traces.

There are, however, a handful of foods that contain zero carbohydrates.

These foods can become your fail-safe on the ketogenic diet. When in doubt — look to the zero carb options.

The lists that follow will detail by the type of food which options contain zero carbs.

Food Labels and Carbs

For clarity — to be listed as “zero carbs” on a nutrition label, the food needs to contain less than one gram of carbohydrate per serving. 

Any food other than oils (which are 100% fat), will contain some amount of trace carbs. Even animal products which are mostly protein and fat have small amounts of carbohydrates present.

For this reason, when something is in the zero carb food list, it means that it contains less than one carb per serving. 

It’s also worth noting that when you’re reading a food label, there are four aspects of the food that can fall under “carbohydrates”:

  • Total carbohydrate 
  • Dietary fiber
  • Total Sugars
  • Added sugars

Total carbohydrates account for all of the complex carbs, sugar, and fiber contained in the food. 

Dietary fiber accounts for the carbohydrate in the food that cannot be completely broken down by the enzymes in your stomach.

Total sugars account for all of the sugars the food contains. These include the naturally occurring sugars (found in many plant foods), as well as any added sugars (found in many packaged foods).

Added sugars account for any sugar that was not naturally occurring in the food product, and was added during production. 

Who Is This List For?

This zero-carb food list is an excellent tool if you’re new to keto. 

Starting a keto diet can be tricky — it’s almost like learning a new language. It’s one thing to be low-carb and go off your intuition when looking at a dinner menu or scanning the isles of a grocery store.

But it’s a whole other thing when the biochemistry of your body depends on your keeping your carbs under a certain level — as is the case with keto.

With that being said, even a seasoned keto dieter could benefit from having this handy list of keto safe foods around. Taking the guesswork out of your food choices is a great way to free up some mind power for more important things.

So without further ado, here is your ultimate zero carb food list.

No Carb Fats and Oils:

Fats and oils that you use for cooking are the only section in which you’ll find truly zero carb options. These foods are fantastic sources of nutrition on your keto diet, but the quality is essential. 

Here are your no-carb fat and oil options (with a focus on quality):01-no-carb-fats-and-oils.png

Watch Out For:

While all oils and fats will be 100% fat and zero carbs — not all fats are created equal. 

Some oils that you find on the shelves will be low-quality, meaning they use chemicals in their processing, or the fatty acid profile is suboptimal. 

Most vegetable oils, for instance, are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can become inflammatory when consumed in excess. These types of fats may also inhibit the anti-inflammatory activity of other fats like omega-3’s[*].

For this reason, it’s best to avoid oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids like:

  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Canola oil
  • Peanut oil

Another variable to be aware of is the quality of fat coming from animal products. When looking for lard, butter, and ghee, try to focus on organic 100% grass-fed varieties. 

These products will not only contain fewer hormones and antibiotics but may also have a superior fatty acid profile[*][*].

Meat:

Almost all fresh meat will fall under the no-carb category. Meat is made up of mostly protein and fat and should serve as a staple for your ketogenic diet. 

Here’s a list of some common zero-carb fresh meat options:

02-no-carb-fresh-meat.png

Fresh Meat:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Duck
  • Goose
  • Turkey
  • Venison
  • Veal 
  • Pork
  • Bison
  • Organ meats  (kidney, heart, tongue)

Fresh meat is fantastic, but sometimes you have to mix it up a bit with processed meat options. These foods often come already cooked, making it easier for you to satisfy your hunger without the hassle of food prep.

Processed Meat:

03-no-carb-processed-meat.png

Watch Out For:

The meat category comes with a few caveats. The things you want to keep an eye out for when buying meat are:

  1. Quality
  2. Additives
  3. Check those carbs

When it comes to animal products, just like fats and oils, quality is essential. Some animal farming practices to be aware of are:

  • Feeding animals grains when they should be eating grass (look for 100% grass-fed)
  • Injecting them with hormones to make them grow faster (look for “hormone-free”)
  • Loading the animals up with antibiotics to avoid spreading disease (look for antibiotic-free)

When in doubt, always choose organic. 

Processed meats can contain additives that will help extend their shelf-life. The main culprit here is nitrates, and most food companies that avoid them will make that abundantly clear on their label with a “nitrate-free” claim. 

In the processed meat category you also need to keep an eye out for sneaky carb ingredients. Many food companies will add sugar, spices, and flavorings that can up the carb count. To avoid being blindsided by extra carbs, always remember to check out the nutrient breakdown on the food label. 

You also want to keep an eye out for liver. It’s a wonderful source of nutrients, but it may contain more carbohydrates than you would expect. For instance, one serving of liver (about 100 grams) contains four grams of carbohydrates[*]. 

This certainly isn’t enough to kick you out of ketosis, but it also prohibits liver from joining the “no-carb” list. 

Seafood:

Another fantastic high-protein food option is seafood. And luckily, there’s an abundance of seafood that falls under the no-carb category:04-no-carb-seafood.png

  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Tuna
  • Catfish
  • Bass
  • Swordfish
  • Mackerel
  • Sardine
  • Halibut
  • Haddock
  • Sole
  • Flounder

Low-Carb (But Not No-Carb) Seafood

There are a few seafood options that don’t fall under the zero carb category but still offer an excellent low-carb option. 05-low-carb-seafood.png

  • Shrimp
  • Lobster
  • Clams
  • Scallops
  • Mussels
  • Oysters

Watch Out For:

Buying seafood can be tricky, whether you’re buying wild-caught fish or farm-raised, there are certain things you want to be aware of. 

First off — If you’re purchasing canned fish always make sure it comes in a BPA-free can. Many companies are offering BPA-free packaging options these days, so keep an eye out for that claim on the label.

BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical that’s used in many products that store food and beverages. There is a rising concern that BPA lining in cans can seep into your food, effectively giving you a dose of chemicals that you didn’t ask for. 

Second, be aware of the amount of large fish you’re consuming. In the ocean, large fish eat smaller fish, and smaller fish eat even smaller fish, and the smallest fish eat algae. This is why small fish like sardines are so high in omega-3 fatty acids, (algae is the original source of omega-3’s on our planet).

Considering the state of our oceans, it’s hard to say what kinds of toxins fish have been bathing in. Since larger fish tend to eat the smaller fish, they have a greater chance of toxicity. This is also true for increased mercury content. 

Beverages:

Drinking water is crucial for a healthy body, but let’s be real — sometimes you want to mix it up a bit. Luckily there are plenty of no-carb drink options of there:06-no-carb-beverages.png

Watch Out For:

As the keto diet picks up in popularity, there are more and more low-carb and no-carb beverages coming out. While this is wonderful, it’s essential to understand where the flavoring of these beverages is coming from.

For instance, diet coke has zero carbs, but its sweet flavor comes from a chemical sweetener called aspartame. Aspartame has been indicated as a potential carcinogen and should be avoided on a ketogenic diet[*].

Sugar Alternatives:

There are a handful of sugar alternatives that are safe to consume on a keto diet. After all, you deserve to have your keto cake and eat it too. 

The below list of sugar alternatives come from natural sources, and shouldn’t have an impact on your blood sugar.07-no-carb-sugar-alternatives.png

  • Stevia extract (can be found in liquid form or powder)
  • Monk fruit (can be found in liquid form or powder)
  • Erythritol (a sugar alcohol — more on this below)
  • Xylitol (another sugar alcohol)
  • Swerve sweetener ( a mix of stevia and erythritol)

Watch out for:

When buying sugar-alternatives always look at the ingredients and nutrition labels. Some of these products come with additives that will increase the carb count.

Sugar alcohols can be excellent allies on your ketogenic diet, but you need to know what to look for and how to use them. For instance, sugar alcohol maltitol not only causes digestive discomfort for many, but it also may raise your blood sugar[*].

As mentioned above in the beverages section, you also want to be aware of artificial sweeteners like aspartame as well as sucralose. These two sugar alternatives can be found in many low-quality sugar-free foods and may cause significant health risks[*].

Seasonings:

An excellent way to diversify the flavors in your low-carb diet is by playing around with different herbs and spices. Most herbs are used in small quantities, lending them to the no-carb category. Below is a list of keto-friendly herbs and spices that are no-carb:08-no-carb-seasoning.png

Watch Out For:

Some seasoning blends will add sugar to increase the sweet flavor. Single herbs are typically a safe bet, but always keep an eye out for the blends that don’t list all of their ingredients. 

Condiments:09-no-carb-condiments.png

Watch Out For:

All of the above options are safe bets as long as there are no sugars added. Unfortunately, many companies will add sugar to condiments to enhance the flavor, so make sure you always check the ingredients labels.

Difference Between Low-Carb and Low “Net Carb”

The above food lists provide a fool-proof, fail-safe guide to keto-friendly foods that contain zero carbs. 

However, there is also the matter of “net carbs,” which brings a different element to the table. 

First of all, let’s talk about what net carbs are. 

Net carbs indicate the number of carbohydrates in a food after any indigestible carbohydrates have been deducted from the total carbohydrates. So then, what are indigestible carbohydrates?

Dietary fiber is regarded as an indigestible carbohydrate because your enzymes cannot fully break it down to be absorbed by your small intestine. 

Sugar alcohols are considered another indigestible carbohydrate. However, this is where things get a little tricky because not all sugar alcohols behave the same in your body. 

For this reason, some experts suggest that you subtract only half the sugar alcohols in a food to come up with net carbs. 

Here’s an example:

You have a protein bar that contains:

  • 20 grams of total carbohydrate
  • 10 grams of dietary fiber
  • 8 grams of sugar alcohol

The net carb count would be 20 -10 (grams of fiber) – 4 (8 grams of sugar alcohol / 2) = 6 grams net carbs.

Very Low-Carb Category

The wonders of dietary fiber create a category of foods that can be considered “almost no carb.” These are foods that without the indigestible carbs taken into account may supply significant carbs, but once calculated for net carbs are actually quite low. 

Very Low-Carb Vegetables:

Vegetables are made up mostly of carbohydrates. However; there are plenty of low-carb vegetables that are rich in dietary fiber that lend them to the very low-carb category.10-very-low-carb-vegetables.png

  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini
  • Arugula
  • Cauliflower
  • Bell pepper
  • Tomato
  • Cabbage
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Mushrooms
  • Swiss chard
  • Avocado
  • Bok choy

Very Low-Carb Nuts And Seeds:

Nuts and seeds are a fantastic source of fiber. Here are some great very low-carb options:11-very-low-carb-nuts-and-seeds.png

Very Low-Carb Eggs and Dairy Products:

While eggs and dairy do contain some carbohydrates, depending on how the dairy is processed, it can have a very low-carb count.

Some products with low-carb content are:12-very-low-carb-eggs-and-dairy.png

Strategies For Keeping Your Carbs Low

As you can see, there are plenty of no-carb options in a variety of food categories. 

There are, however, some things to keep in mind while you fill up your grocery cart. The world we live in is full of sneaky sugars and carbs, so always be sure to:

Check Your Nutrition Labels 

This is especially true for packaged foods, but if your fresh meats or dairy are packaged, always check those too. You want to be looking out for:

Serving size — this is what the rest of the label is based on. Remember: total carbs are calculated per serving. If you eat four servings of a food that’s labeled zero carbs, but actually has .5 grams of carbs, you’re getting an extra 2 grams of carbs in. 

Servings per container — Before you down that bag of low-carb crackers make sure that the bag contains only one serving, or else you could be taken down a lot more carbs than you were expecting.

Ingredients — Always take a peek at the ingredient list of a packaged food you buy. You may be surprised by the added sugars and other sources of carbohydrate that wouldn’t be obvious from the front of the package. 

Total Carbohydrates — After looking at the ingredients, check out the total carbohydrates to be extra sure of what you’re buying. 

Focus On No-Carb and Low-Carb Foods

This may seem obvious, but creating meals around the foods that are listed in the no-carb categories will help ensure that you’re staying within your target carb count. 

Understand Net Carbs

A big hurdle that some keto dieters come across is understanding what net carbs are, and how they work in the keto diet. Everyone’s body is going to work differently and be affected by things like dietary fiber and sugar alcohols in a different way. 

When beginning the keto diet, it’s advised to play with net carbs until you have a better idea of how your body handles carbohydrates in general. Remember: the goal is to stay in ketosis, not to have a specific carb count every day.

The Takeaway

Our food supply is brimming with no-carb and low-carb options; you just need to know where to look and how to determine which ones are the best for you.

Quality, however, has an importance that cannot be understated. If you want to reap the health benefits of a ketogenic diet than focusing on high-quality foods is a must. 

Make sure you read your nutrition labels and figure out what foods work best for your body.

For a complete ketogenic grocery list, check out this post.

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Responses (9)

  1. As Aketo newbie,
    This is the best post I’ve read online Super helpful and well detailed. Thank you so much

    Ms. Wings.

  2. Thank you so much for this easy breakdown. I’m new to keto and hear many of these terms but had not yet found a source that made it this easy!

  3. Thank you for the reminder its hard to keep on track and it is always nice to have a list to keep on track.

  4. Awesome list. Everybody starting out on Keto needs this. Pretty much takes all the guess work out of it. Easy peasey.

  5. Perfect Keto is my very favorite place to order high quality products; no one else compares in my opinion.

  6. I forgot to add…you give us so much info to guide us on our Keto lifestyle. It is really obvious to me that you care about your customers. Reading these article enlightens my journey. Thank you so much

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