Keto diets have become incredibly popular as ways to lose weight and get healthier overall. But, they are also somewhat confusing. For one thing, people often struggle to figure out what foods you can eat on a keto diet.
The problem isn’t uncommon because a keto diet tends to be quite restrictive. In particular, getting in ketosis (and staying there) involves keeping your carb intake extremely low.
The precise level varies from one person to the next but it isn’t unusual to have to eat less than 20 grams of usable carbs per day.
At first, the diet approach can seem extremely challenging. But, it doesn’t have to be.
Instead, there truly are amazing meals that you can create while you’re on a keto diet, and that includes appealing keto dessert recipes. In fact, a keto diet doesn’t have to be restrictive at all.
With this in mind, the popularity of keto diets is hardly surprising. After all, a keto diet may be as effective (or even more so) as a traditional diet for weight loss (1,2,3,4,5). At the same time, this type of diet may offer a range of health benefits, including the potential to lower insulin and blood sugar levels (6,7), reduce the risk of heart disease (8,9,10) and improve metabolic outcomes (11,12,13).
For some people, the appeal is simply that a keto diet can be an easy and powerful way to feel better and lose weight. After all, keto is a great approach for simply including an increased amount of healthy and whole food in your diet. As such, it can help to improve your health in that way.
So, the first step is to simply take a look at the foods that you can eat on a ketosis diet.
Now, the list isn’t exhaustive, not by any means. Instead, it just focuses on key foods and categories that you can include that can help you along the way.
Meat and Fish
As a general rule, keto diets tend to be fairly meat-heavy. After all, you are cutting out a significant number of other types of food. Meat also tends to be a great source of protein and energy.
Plus, despite myths to the contrary, neither protein nor red meat is actually detrimental to health. The idea that they are unhealthy mostly comes from bad research, along with the fact that people assume that red meat is unhealthy and act accordingly.
On a keto diet, you can basically pick whatever type of meat that you like, with red meat and fish tending to be the most popular. However, you do still need to avoid processed meat, like sausages, as these may be higher in carbs and are certainly less healthy.
Regardless of your diet, the best recommendation for health is to focus on organic and grass-fed meat, along with wild fish (rather than farmed). Doing so typically results in more nutrients and means there are fewer chemicals involved in the process.
At the same time, there are some amazing options for buying both meat and fish online and ensuring you get a high-quality product. To do this, I recommend a site called Vital Choice, which has better products than most local stores.
Full Fat Dairy
Many people avoid dairy. But, unless you have a specific health condition (like lactose intolerance), dairy is a critical source of nutrients, including vitamin B12. The site Ketovangelist also offers an interesting Keto Guide to Dairy, which is worth checking out.
Buying full fat dairy is important because the low fat versions typically contain more sugar or artificial ingredients. Additionally, a keto diet involves lowering carbs and increasing fat intake, with fat becoming your main source of energy.
Despite popular opinion, full fat dairy may even help to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke (14,15,16). There is even some indication that it could play a role in weight loss too, perhaps because full fat dairy does tend to be more filling (17,18,19).
Nevertheless, it is still important to make decisions carefully. For example, most types of yogurt don’t fit well in a keto diet and tend to be high in carbs. But, some types of full fat yogurt will work, including some Greek yogurt options.
Butter is also a great addition, particularly for cooking. But, it’s still important to not overdo it.
One other specific type of dairy to consider is cheese. This tends to be low in carbs and high in fat, while also offering a significant amount of protein and calcium (20).
Variations like ricotta cheese and cottage cheese also have advantages for health and can be great additions to the diet.
Another critical component of a keto diet is eggs – although these are still somewhat controversial. Much of the issue comes from the fact that eggs are fairly high in cholesterol. Yet, they don’t impact cholesterol or heart disease risk nearly as much as people assume (24,25).
The site Paleo Leap examines this in more detail, looking at why eggs are so beneficial.
Eggs also work well because they are so versatile, while their high protein content also makes them filling. They are also typically inexpensive, which makes them a good choice for struggling households.
The protein aspect of eggs alone can make them a valuable inclusion into the diet. For example, some people find that having eggs for breakfast helps with weight loss, largely because it helps them to feel full (29,30,31).
Nuts and Seeds
Both nuts and seeds are a healthy addition to any diet, although they are often overlooked because of their fat content.
One key advantage is that nuts tend to be relatively high in protein and fiber (32). This makes them a healthy snack and a great way to curb hunger cravings. At the same time, nuts are associated with a range of health benefits and can even reduce disease risk in some cases (33,34).
However, some options are better than others.
In particular, the following options are often highly recommended among keto dieters.
Regardless of the nuts you pick, it’s important to pay close attention to portion size. Realistically, nuts are extremely easy to overeat and they are fairly high in calories. So, if you’re consuming them every day, you certainly don’t want to be having too many.
In most cases, a few nuts or perhaps half a handful may offer the most benefits. But, the precise amount you should be eating will vary depending on the rest of your diet, how many carbs you can consume and the specific nuts you’re eating.
Of course, you may not use the nuts directly, instead, nuts are often used in recipes, especially when it comes to keto desserts.
On a side note, there is some controversy surrounding the consumption of peanuts. Technically speaking, peanuts are a legume rather than a nut. Many people exclude them from a keto diet for that reason alone, often arguing that legumes stall weight loss.
Now, some research does suggest that peanuts are good for you. Still, their net carb content is higher than many other types of nuts. As a result, they may not be the best choice.
Low Carb Vegetables
Vegetables tend to be a very healthy addition to the diet and they’re a great choice for getting more nutrients overall. Indeed, increasing your vegetable intake is one of the first steps if you want to improve your health.
But, you do have to be careful with vegetable selection on a low carb diet. After all, some vegetables are surprisingly high in sugar.
With a keto diet, the emphasis is on vegetables that grow above the ground, mainly the leafy greens. This is great for health anyway, as many such vegetables contain powerful health benefits, such as kale and swiss chard. As a good rule of thumb, anything that is dark green and leafy like this is a good addition to a keto diet.
Those aren’t the only options. Instead, other low carb vegetables include the following:
On a side note, vegetables like these are often used to substitute for foods that are higher in carbs. For example, many recipes call for noodles made from zucchini or from spaghetti squash. Likewise, cauliflower makes a surprisingly effective alternative to rice and mashed potatoes when prepared correctly.
However, you do need to avoid starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and beets. If uncertain, the best answer is to check the carb levels first, paying close attention to the portion size that you’d be consuming.
There aren’t all that many low carb fruits but avocados are certainly one example. They are also a particularly great option on a keto diet. With these, a serving of 3.5 ounces only gives you a net carb count of 2 grams, which is great (35).
Avocados also offer a range of nutrients, including potassium, which is often low in a keto diet. They also tend to be viewed as a good source of healthy fats and may help to decrease levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood (36). The oleic acid in them is also associated with reducing inflammation (37,38).
Beyond all of that, avocados are appealing in terms of taste and texture. This aspect alone is why they are often used in so many different types of recipes
Fats and Oils
Getting healthy fats and oils is critical for any diet. But, this is especially true for a keto diet. After all, fat plays a large role with ketosis, so you want to make sure you are getting healthy fats.
For one thing, this means that you do need to avoid heavily processed products, particularly those that have high amounts of trans fats or hydrogenated fats. Instead, you’re looking for both saturated and monosaturated fats, along with omega 3 fatty acids.
As a result, it’s best to avoid vegetable oils entirely and focus on healthy alternatives.
Whenever possible, it’s worth looking for the cold-pressed versions of oil. In many cases, you will need to look at information from the company to find that out.
With olive oil, extra virgin tends to be the best choice. However, you do have to be careful about the brand.
Keto Fat Bombs
There are many examples of food that you can make on a keto diet. In fact, there is a wide range of food bloggers that focus on this type of eating, so there is no shortage of recipes out there. However, to close this list off, I want to bring up one type of food that is often included in a keto diet – fat bombs.
For the most part, fat bombs contain three types of ingredients
- A fat base (e.g. cream cheese, coconut oil)
- Some type of flavoring/sweetener (e.g. cocoa powder or a spice)
- Texture additions (e.g. nuts, coconut)
But, as you can probably imagine, there are infinite variations on the theme.
The idea is that these fat bombs act as filling snacks and ways to get a burst of energy, without breaking a keto diet. They can also be a good way to help with weight loss and are often essential for ensuring people get enough healthy fats in their diet.
In most cases, fat bombs end up being high fat, low carb and low protein. They are also very small, partly because it would be hard to eat too much at one time. The end result is extremely appealing and does mean that you can still have great treats, even while on a keto diet.
A good place to start is our list of 33 Keto Fat Bombs. These are powerful recipes from food bloggers that taste amazing. The site The Keto Summit also offers insight into the basic steps behind making fat bombs.
These areas are general categories but there are many other specific options that you can include on a keto diet. Likewise, people often tailor their food choice based on what works best for them.
In some cases, this could mean that you end up following something similar to a Paleo diet, where you are eating a considerable amount of red meat. Alternatively, you might avoid red meat and get most of your protein from fish and from dairy.
Nevertheless, you can only tweak a keto diet so much. After all, you do have to keep your carb intake low enough that you remain in ketosis. Achieving this isn’t hard if you plan accordingly. However, the requirement does mean that a keto diet works better for some people than for others.
One final note to make is about beverages.
With the keto diet, many unhealthy drink options are automatically unavailable. After all, most of those have a considerable amount of added sugar. But, you do need to keep up with your fluid intake, as a ketogenic diet does tend to dehydrate you.
The best way to hydrate yourself is with water, although you could also try an approach like lemon water if you wanted something different. Additionally, many people turn to black coffee or to tea, both of which offer their own health benefits.
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