When it comes to the best keto diet foods, not all of them are created equal! Getting the full benefits and achieving your health goals on this popular meal plan goes beyond cutting carbs. Good nutrition and calorie control also matter.
So whether you are starting a keto diet or just looking for the best keto friendly foods to add to your shopping list, here is your complete guide to the best and worst foods to eat.
Printable Keto Food List PDF
While you’re here, download this free comprehensive keto shopping list to get started. It's the ultimate guide to hundreds of keto approved foods, complete with net carb counts.
What Can You Eat on a Keto Diet?
Keto is a macro based low carb diet, meaning no foods are excluded as long as you hit your daily keto macronutrient goals. Of course certain foods can make this harder or easier. Additionally, the quality of these food choices can impact your overall health and ability to lose weight on this meal plan (1).
The Keto Food Pyramid
The keto diet is a high fat and very low carb eating plan - with carb intake typically restricted to less than 20 grams of carbs a day (2).
Unlike traditional diets where the bulk of calories typically comes from carb based foods like grains, potatoes, beans, and legumes, a keto food pyramid flips this on its head so the majority of your calories come from high fat foods with little to no carb containing foods at the top.
The goal of keto is to restrict carbs to such a low level that your body is forced to use more fatty acids for fuel, through a metabolic state called ketosis.
How to Calculate Your Keto Macro Goals
Learning exactly how much protein, carbs, and fat you need on a ketogenic diet is the first step to building your perfect menu. Knowing your exact macro needs will not only help you achieve ketosis, but can also help you control your calorie intake to support your fitness goals.
Use an online keto macro calculator to quickly estimate your nutrition needs. Once you know your macro goals, all you need to do is choose the best keto friendly foods to eat every day that fit these macros.
Tracking your daily food intake on keto is key to hitting your daily nutrition goals and getting the most out of your meals.
How to Shop for Keto Approved Foods
The easiest way to tell if a food fits into your diet is by checking the nutrition label. For packaged foods, check the nutrition facts for the serving size calories, macros, and keep an eye out for key nutrients - is this product a good source of any essential vitamins and minerals?
Remember to look for net carb counts not just total carbs!
Check the ingredients label too! This will tell you exactly what's in the food and where your calories are coming from.
You can also opt for more nutrient dense, whole foods that help you control your sugar intake, support good health and get you results faster. While many fresh foods don’t have a nutrition label, you can quickly check this info using a nutrition tracking app that has a searchable database.
The Trifecta app allows you to search over 6 million fresh and packaged foods to get accurate nutritional information in seconds!
Best Keto Foods to Eat
Here are some of the top keto friendly whole foods to add to your grocery list.
The best keto fats are unsaturated fats that support heart health, brain health, and improved mood. These are typically found in plant based foods, but can also come from fatty fish and eggs.
The best plant based sources of fats for keto include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut butters made without added sugar
- Cacao and unsweetened dark chocolate
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Plant-based oils
While fruit is typically referred to as a sugary food, it is entirely possible to enjoy some types of fruit without going over your daily carb limit. Fruit can also be a great source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
The top low carb fruits include:
- Unsweetened Acai Puree
- Shredded Coconut
Vegetables are some of the most nutritious foods on the planet, and should make up a large portion of your keto meals.
However, like many plant based options, certain veggies can contain high amounts of carbohydrates. The key is to choose more non-starchy vegetables that are low in calories and high in water content and nutrition.
Luckily, this is almost all vegetables. Here are some of the most popular low carb veggies for keto:
- Leafy greens
- Green beans
- Bok choy
- All fresh herbs
Fatty fish and seafood tend to be some of the top protein options for a ketogenic lifestyle because they provide a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and quality protein.
When it comes to other protein options, plant proteins can often be high in carbohydrates, so animal proteins tend to be a better option for keto dieters. However, high fat animal products can also provide a lot of saturated fat which is thought to negatively impact heart disease risk (4).
Opting for more naturally lean meats like grass fed red meat, pasture raised poultry, and low fat dairy products can still help you get your protein fill with less saturated fat intake.
The best keto proteins include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and herring
- White fish
- Grass-fed bison, beef, goat and lamb
- Lean pork
- Pasture raised chicken
- Quail, ostrich, and other poultry
- Low fat cottage cheese, cheese, and unsweetened yogurt
- Organ meat
Intense sugar cravings can be a common side effect for new keto eaters, so finding sugar substitutes that satisfy your sweet tooth without impacting blood sugar levels can help.
Keto friendly sweeteners like sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners are great options for this. Specific sugar-free sweeteners to look for include:
- Monk Fruit
- Other artificial sweeteners
Foods to Avoid on Keto
Since a keto meal plan is all about hitting your macros, just about any food is allowed on this eating plan. However, certain high sugar foods can make sticking to your nutrition goals a real challenge.
Additionally, cutting back on heavily processed foods, saturated fats, trans fats, and empty calories can support your overall health, wellbeing and how successful you are.
Here are the top foods to steer clear of to support your macro and health goals.
High Carb Foods
Many carb sources will easily put you over your daily limit in a single serving or less. You'll want to cut back or avoid the following foods/types of foods altogether.
- All grains, pastas and breads
- Beans, lentils and other legumes
- Most fresh and dried fruits
- Juice and soda
- Breaded meats and other breaded fried foods
- Maple syrup, honey, agave, and table sugar
Processed Keto Foods
There are a lot of high fat and high calorie foods marketed as keto approved, but not all of these options are good for your overall health. Many keto packaged foods can contain significantly more calories than their higher carb counterpart and very little nutritional value, which can put you at a disadvantage.
While you don’t have to avoid these foods altogether, they should not make up the bulk of your food intake.
- Ultra processed packaged foods
- Keto desserts
- Keto fast food
- Processed meat and cheese
What About Keto Beverages?
Most commercial beverages are loaded with added sugar or made from juice blends that are naturally higher in carbs. When looking at drinks that fit into a keto plan, it's always best to check the nutrition facts label.
Here are some go to options to reach for:
- Sparkling water/club soda
- Tea and coffee, unsweetened
- Unsweetened plant based milks
- Flavored water with no added sugar
- Wheat grass or other green vegetable juices made without fruit
- Artificially sweetened beverages
Yes, you can enjoy alcohol in moderation while following a ketogenic lifestyle. However, the amount you consume and the types of drinks you choose can make a difference. Here are some of the most popular low carb alcoholic options:
- Clear liquor: vodka, gin, rum
- Scotch and bourbon
- Light beers
- Champagne and some wine
Tips for a Healthy keto Meal Plan
Keto is actually a fairly challenging dietary approach to master. But with a little bit of nutrition knowledge and the right tools, you can achieve a nutritious, balanced keto diet that helps you feel good and get results.
One of the hardest parts of keto is keeping calories controlled while following a high fat diet. Fat provides twice as many calories per gram than protein and carbs, so your portion sizes may actually be smaller on a keto eating plan.
In addition, it can be hard to get enough of certain nutrients commonly found in higher carb options - like vitamin D from milk and B vitamins from grains (5).
Here are a few tips you can use to make starting keto even easier:
- Choose more nutrient dense foods and balance higher fat options with large portions of non-starchy vegetables is a great way to ensure you get more nutrition and stay on track without going hungry.
- Learn how to plan and prep your own food for the week. Meal prepping can be a huge time saver and helps ensure you are always hitting your keto macros - since you control the menu and the portions.
- Track your calories and your nutrition intake. If you are noticing a lack of certain nutrients, consider working with a dietitian for recommendations or take a multivitamin supplement each day.
- Hit the easy button and order keto meal delivery. Trifecta’s keto meal plan does all the hard work for you, with nutritious, macro balanced keto meals delivered right to your house.
Want more great keto content like this? Check out more science backed keto advice on our nutrition and fitness community.