What can you eat on the ketogenic diet?
One reason the keto diet is so popular is that it won’t leave you feeling hungry.
You will probably be more satisfied after a meal and not feeling hungry far longer than usual.
The feeling of being free from the constant wish for having something to eat is maybe even more liberating than the weight loss itself.
It’s true, this eating plan does not allow you to eat everything. However, you can still have a lot of things – like your dessert after a meal.
The main aim of the ketogenic diet is to lower insulin, which is the hormone that tells the body to store fat. The more you can avoid insulin from being active, the more your body will use energy instead of storing it.
Insulin is triggered most by a high-carb meal.
However, if a meal contains fibrous carbs, insulin will not be sky-rocketing.
Unlike what people usually believe, protein also raises insulin levels. The insulin curve for protein is half the curve of carbs. Therefore, your protein intake should be moderate.
Fat, on the other hand, is neutral when it comes to insulin. It won’t raise its level.
That is why fat is the safest to eat on a low-carb diet. Since a small amount of fat will provide you with a lot of energy, you don’t have to go overboard with it.
Below is a detailed explanation of what food you can and cannot eat on the ketogenic diet.
You can have any meat you want: from chicken to beef, pork, and fish. Meat is high in protein and has almost no carbs. This makes it ideal for the low-carb diet.
When eating meat, you do not have to limit quantities deliberately, but you should stop eating when you feel full.
The harder the cheese, the more fat it contains.
You can also have softer cheeses with a little higher carb content, but they are still on the plan (cottage cheese, cream cheese)
Please avoid all processed cheeses.
Eggs are the ideal food for the ketogenic weight loss. You can have as many as you like (and you probably will have a lot since the majority of recipes call for eggs).
Avoid milk and yogurt
Although their carb content is not very high, they both considerably raise insulin.
Replace milk with plant-based milk. You can see which great alternatives are available in my article Which milk on the ketogenic diet?
Instead of yogurt, try skyr, plain Greek yogurt or have some cottage cheese.
Keto is a low-carb diet, so you should avoid carbs in general.
Not all though.
You are encouraged to eat your salad greens with every meal.
Leafy greens contain a lot of fiber; as a result, they don’t spike insulin. Other fibrous vegetables will not have an adverse effect on your blood sugar as well: you can have cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, and zucchini.
Avoid vegetables that grow underground.
For example, potatoes, beet, onions, carrots. They are starchy and contain a lot of sugar.
Corn, beans, and legumes should be avoided for the same reason.
Fruit and nuts
There is not a big choice in the fruit section as fruit usually contains a lot of sugar, but that doesn’t mean you will be deprived of the best-tasting fruit: you can have all types of berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cranberries. You can also make yourself a lemonade or drink some lime juice.
Nuts come in handy for snacks. Check the carb content of them as it can be quite high (cashews). The most keto-friendly are macadamia nuts, pecans, brazil nuts, a slightly higher carb content have walnuts, peanuts, and almonds.
In the carb category, you will need to make some food swaps.
The most important is to replace sugar for erythritol or stevia. Personally, I like erythritol much better than stevia because its taste resembles the taste and characteristics of sugar most.
But at the end of the day, the decision is yours – go for the sweetener you like best.
The next swap includes replacing flour for nut flour. The most popular options are almond flour and coconut flour.
While almond flour is a good choice for any kind of dessert, you might consider coconut flour if you are looking for a budget-friendly solution.
It may surprise you, but you should also go for coconut flour if you want to reduce the carb content. While 1 cup of almond flour contains fewer carbs than coconut flour, in a recipe you will actually use four times less coconut than almond flour and thus reduce the content of carbs considerably.
This is where you can get crazy.
Although I doubt that you will actually do that.
Fats are allowed, they taste good and will satisfy you for longer.
However, you do not want to increase your consumption of “healthy” Omega 3 and 6 fats – your body doesn’t need more of them, even if it’s in ketosis. If you have too much of the “healthy” fats, you might get digestive problems.
What your body needs is the kind of fats that can be easily converted to energy. For this reason, the most recommended fats on the ketogenic diet are monosaturates.
When breaking down different fats, olive oil has the ideal fatty acid composition. Unfortunately, not all olive oil is suitable for cooking – the lighter that the olive oil is, the better it is for cooking.
Other good fat sources are high oleic safflower and sunflower oils, lard and canola oil.
Popular oil in the ketogenic community is the MCT oil (medium-chained triglycerides). These fatty acids are naturally present in coconut oil and to a lesser degree in palm oil and dairy.
MCT oil is the easiest converted to energy. After consuming it, you will feel energetic, something that is rare when your body is at the early stages of ketosis.
MCT oil has also been proven to promote weight loss. Because of its benefits, you might consider adding it to your diet.
Salt is not a macronutrient, but its role in the ketogenic diet is so important that I am adding it to the foods list.
In order to understand why it is so important, let’s first look at what happens if you don’t get enough of it.
The infamous keto flu is predominantly caused by the lack of sodium.
If you suffer from constipation on the keto diet, you are probably not getting enough of sodium.
These unpleasant symptoms can easily be prevented and/or stopped if we consume enough salt (and water) throughout the day. The recommended amount of sodium is 3 to 5 mg a day – which translates into 2 and a half level teaspoons of salt. Every day.
Do not make the common mistake of being careful to get enough salt one, three or five days and then forget about it. Be mindful of it every single day.
For the best effect, you should not exceed 20g of carbs a day.
How will you know that?
One way is to track your macros by means of an application – the good side about it is that everything will be calculated for you, you only have to insert the food that you have eaten and its approximate quantity. The downside of this system is that you can get too caught up in the calculations and worry too much about calories.
The other way is to eat to satiety. Learn to listen to your body – on a low-carb diet, you shouldn’t be as hungry as on a high-carb diet. You will be able to go without food for longer.
Eat only when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Forget about comfort eating or eating out of boredom.
If you get a sudden urge to have something, go for coffee or tea without milk.
No matter which method you decide to follow, make it a habit to always check the label before you eat something – if the label says 1 or 2g of carbs, it’s perfect. If the carb content is higher, you might reconsider eating this food.
To make things easier for you, here is a list of all the foods you can eat: