Help! What Can I Eat?
Ha! You should see the faces of people when I tell them that eating butter can help them lose weight!
Imagine a world of heavy cream, bacon, fried eggs, butter, and meat and you’ve got yourself some of the keto diet staples. Admittedly, what you can consume on a keto diet takes some getting used to, as a lot of the foods that we’ve always been led to believe were bad for us – such as my two favorite Bs – bacon and butter – are indeed excellent food choices when following a relaxed to strict ketogenic diet.
First and foremost, it’s imperative that you get you’re A into G and become more organized. I certainly learned the hard way, which resulted in me falling off the metaphorical keto wagon more times than I can recall when I first started out on this journey.
Having a feasible diet plan ready is a must. But the most important thing is what you eat, as this will all determine how quickly you get into that coveted state of ketosis. The stricter you are with your carb intake (i.e. eating less than 15 grams in a day), the quicker you’ll enter ketosis.
Carbs need to be limited as much as possible (most people stick to around 20 grams of total carbs in a day). But beware of the carbs – there are good ones, there are bad ones, and then there are the plain ugly ones. Obviously, bread is a no-no as is any other food product that contains wheat-based items (yes, this also includes that so-called healthy whole-grain seed bread that you often buy in a bid to “be healthier”).
The majority of your carbs should come from those healthy above-the-ground vegetables, nuts and dairy products (anything below the ground is verging on the ugly side of carbs).
Other things that are on your naughty no-eat list include pasta, cereals, beans, legumes, fruits and potatoes (sigh). There are a few exceptions to the rule like everything else in life, and this includes berries and avocado, which all can be eaten in moderation.
But even though a keto diet is called a “restrictive” diet, it really doesn’t feel like it, especially with some of the ridiculously delicious foods that you can make part of your everyday eating plan like some of the following:
- Hard cheese
- Heavy cream
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Keto-friendly sweeteners
The above list is by no means an exhaustive one because there’s actually so much you can eat while following this way of eating.
Counting calories is tricky. By all means, I’m not a slave to counting calories, and admittedly, I don’t do it anymore, mostly because I know roughly what each food item contains; however, it is necessary to stick to counting calories, at least in the beginning.
Losing weight is an amalgamation of things – diet is number one, exercise is second, and thirdly, a calorie deficit. BUT the great thing about a keto diet is that you’ll be able to consume more calories than your average diet and still lose weight.
To find out the right amount of calories that you can consume, you need to take into consideration your overall health, current weight, your target, height, sex, age, and level of activity. Yes, it does sound complicated, but the good news is there are a few online calorie calculators that you can refer to; there are even some that are specifically aimed at those following a keto diet.
As a rule of thumb, however, your macros should be somewhere around 75% fats, 20% protein, and 5% carbs of your daily calorie intake.
On average, between 20-30 grams of carbs is the recommended amount for everyday keto dieting, but when you keep your carb intake as low as possible, you’re going to get better results quicker. And if you’re following a ketogenic diet to lose fat and weight, it’s necessary to track both your total carb intake and your net carb intake as well.
If you’re new to the world of macros and tracking what you consume, you’re probably sitting there thinking “What the hell is a net carb and is it really that important?” To answer the latter first, YES, it’s important. And to put it simply, your net carbs are your total carbs less the fiber. Fiber doesn’t really count since it doesn’t affect your glucose levels, which is why vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are still encouraged.
At first, you might find it a little difficult to adjust. You’ll probably feel hungry as well. But once you’re fully fat adapted (i.e. fully in fat-burning mode), you’ll no longer feel like you could eat your entire fridge’s contents. Snacking healthily and in moderation to tie you over is okay. If you want a small bite to eat in between your main meals, opt for snacks either higher in protein or full of healthy fats, such as seeds, nuts, cheese, or almond butter.
And if you’re stuck for food options, do not fear – the foods (in my humble opinion) on a keto diet are so damn good, far better than foods that you’ll get on another diet, you won’t even think that you’re watching what you eat.
So what are the main foods that make up a keto diet, and why are they so good for us? Below is a short list of some of the main food groups that you should be including your keto eating plans.
OK, so not everyone is a lover of seafood, but both fish and shellfish are extremely keto-friendly. Fish like salmon is one of the best sources of essential fatty acids, and it’s also so easy to cook.
Let’s also not forget about all those extra-added health benefits that come with salmon such as its B vitamins, selenium, and potassium. Oh, and it’s pretty much carb-free as well. Salmon fish cakes anyone?
With shellfish, you need to be slightly more vigilant when counting carbs, as the amounts from shellfish to shellfish vary. For super low to almost-zero-carb options, opt for either shrimp or crab. Some of the more popular shellfish contain the following carbs per 100-gram serve:
- Squid: 3g
- Oysters: 4g
- Octopus: 4g
- Clams: 5g
2. Low-Carb Vegetables
There’s a reason why below-the-ground growing vegetables are off-limits on the keto diet, and it’s not because they’re the uglier sisters of the other above-the-ground ones. Above-the-ground vegetables are non-starchy and are much lower in both calories and carbs.
Not only this, but they’re also nutrient dense and packed with numerous beneficial health properties, including vitamin C.
At face value, your above-the-ground vegetables may seem higher in carbs than what you want to consume in a day, but this is because of their high fiber content, which isn’t digested and absorbed like other carbohydrates. And this is the reason why it’s recommended to count your net carbs and not the total ones.
If you’ve forgotten, your net carbs are the total amount of carbs minus the fiber.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and beets are extremely starchy, and just one small serving can take you well over your entire carb limit. So if you’re thinking, “one potato won’t hurt”, don’t bother – it’s not worth being thrown out of ketosis for it; especially when it can take anywhere from 24 hours to 7 days to get back into ketosis.
What you can do is add more color to your plate and make broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, and Brussels sprouts your friends (yes, there are some delicious ways in which the latter can also be prepared…roasted sprouts with bacon are a Godsend, as is fried cauliflower rice). The net carb count for these non-starchy above-the-ground vegetables ranges from less than 1 gram for an entire cup of raw spinach to 8 grams of net carbs for a cup of Brussels sprouts cooked to your liking.
There are so many other extra-added benefits when it comes to consuming non-starchy vegetables, which you probably don’t need telling about. They’ll protect you against nasty free radicals and they have also been linked to decreasing the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.
These lower carb vegetables can also be used as clever substitutes for more common higher-carb staple foods. It may sound strange, and even I took some convincing, but cauliflower can be used to mimic mashed potatoes and even rice.
It’s not just a ‘fad’ – just check out the pre-prepared vegetable section for proof, and you’ll see for yourself that cauliflower and broccoli rice are things! And what about pasta and spaghetti? Simple! Ditch your usual wheat varieties for zoodles (zucchini noodles) or spaghetti squash!
When it comes to keto, the secret ingredient is always cheese. And with hundreds of varieties out there, it’s impossible to tire of it. And forget everything you’ve learned or understood about cheese previously – it’s both nutritious and delicious.
Hands up – I’m a self-confessed cheese addict! I’ve always loved the stuff, and fortunately for you and me they’re extremely low in carbs and very high in fat, making it the perfect food for a keto diet. Get your cheese game on and include more cheese in your life – it’d seriously be rude not to!
Cheddar cheese is available anywhere, and there are very few people that don’t like it. With one ounce of cheddar containing just 1 gram of carbs and 20% of your recommended daily intake of calcium, you can sprinkle that stuff wherever you want and not feel guilty at all.
It’s also high in saturated fat, and some studies have even suggested that consuming more cheese can help protect you from heart disease in the future – who knew that Brie and Gouda et al had such power?
What’s more, cheese contains something called conjugated linoleic acid. Forget the scary sounding name; this type of natural healthy fat has also been linked to both fat loss and a better body composition due to an increase in muscle mass.
I could go on and on about how awesome cheese is, but that’d just be cheesy (every pun intended). No, in all honesty, cheese is amazing and goes with everything from sweet to savory. And you’ll be very glad to know that there are a plethora of keto-friendly cheesecake recipes out there too, so you don’t even have to miss out in that department.
I’ve got this motto “Everything in moderation, except for avocado!” OK, I stole it from a t-shirt, but it’s so true. I guess there are a few people that may pass up on free guacamole, but they’ve either got an avocado allergy or too joyless to live. But in all seriousness, the avocado is a key contender for the best healthy fat title when it comes to your high-fat ketogenic diet foods.
Avocados are also insanely healthy. 3.5 ounces (approximately one half of an avo) has around 9 grams of carbs, most of which are made up of fiber. Therefore, when you do the math, half an avocado equates to only about 2 net grams of carbs, which means that you can eat it guilt free.
Let’s not forget all the other benefits that avocados bring as well. They’re high in a number of vitamins and minerals, which also includes potassium, a mineral that is said to make the transitioning into a keto diet much easier. What’s more, they’ve also been found to improve both your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
5. Meat And Poultry
Seriously, bacon and a good steak are like a high-five for my mouth, which is why I was thrilled to discover that a healthy keto diet contains meat, and not the lean kind varieties either. Obviously, following a keto diet as a vegetarian or a vegan is also viable, and it is a personal choice, but including meat and poultry into a keto diet is the norm.
Fresh grass-fed meat and free-range poultry contain zero carbs, so if you are a bit of a carnivore, it is actually possible to consume no carbs in an entire day, but you would run the risk of consuming too much protein, which needs to be eaten in moderation.
Protein is where many people trying to follow a keto diet often go wrong. They either consume too little or too much, but by including meat and poultry into at least three to four dishes each week you’ll be much closer to hitting your target!
Protein is especially important if you’re working out as well, as it helps preserve muscle mass, which is essential when you adhere to any kind of low-carb diet. If you exercise on a regular basis, the recommended protein intake is around 30% of your daily calorie intake.
Other than the obvious ethical reasons, grass-fed meat is better when possible, because the animals that only eat grass produce a higher quality of meat with more omega-3 fats, conjugated linoleic acid, and antioxidants in comparison to those animals that are grain-fed.
In my poorer days as a college student, I lived off eggs. They were cheap and cheerful.
To be honest, I was also incredibly lazy with my cooking, but these days we’re a little more adventurous in the kitchen and find incorporating eggs into meals on a regular basis easy – even an old-fashioned omelet with the right filling is an awesome and quick meal…if you’ve never added dollops of cream cheese with avocado into one, you’ve not been living!
That’s the beauty about eggs – they’re one of the most nutritious and most versatile foods in the world. Low in carbs, a large organic egg contains less than one gram of carbs and around 6 grams of protein, which if you’ve got your head around the macros bit yet, you’ll know that they have an excellent macro profile for a keto-friendly food.
And if this isn’t enough to give the humble egg its superfood status, this is – eating eggs also increase your feelings of fullness while regulating your blood sugar levels, meaning that a cookie or a packet of chips in that alluring office vending machine won’t be as tempting if you snack on hardboiled eggs instead.
One thing that’s important on the keto diet in terms of egg consumption is that you need to eat the whole egg – none of this egg white omelet BS! The majority of the goodness is found in the egg’s yolk, which includes two beneficial antioxidants, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
There’s an urban myth about eggs. They say eating too many results in high cholesterol.
This is not the case! Yes, they do contain a great deal of cholesterol, but they don’t raise the blood cholesterol levels in a healthy person. In fact, some studies have discovered that eating eggs modifies the shape of your bad cholesterol (LDL), and therefore minimizes the risk of heart disease.
7. Coconut Oil
With a keto diet and fat loss, the secret ingredient is always coconut oil. Coconut oil is highly underrated, and it boasts some awesome properties that make it the perfect match for a low-carb high-fat diet.
Firstly, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (try saying that quickly!) MCTs are different to long-chain fats, as they’re directly taken up by the liver and then converted into ketones and used as a quick source of energy.
One of the health benefits of a keto diet that I previously mentioned was that it helps with Alzheimer’s. Like me, you’ve probably known a lot of people that have suffered from this dilapidating disease, which is why if you’ve got a history of it in your family or you’re suffering from the early onset of it, you should also try and include as much coconut oil as possible in your keto diet, as it has been found to boost ketone levels and prevent or ease the symptoms of this heartbreaking disease.
Also, the combination of MCTs and lauric acid in coconut oil help promote a sustained level of ketosis, meaning it will be harder to drop out of it.
What’s more, when it comes to fat loss, coconut oil can help obese people lose more weight and belly fat by speeding up the fat-burning process.
8. Plain Greek Yogurt And Cottage Cheese
Don’t fall into the trap that I did when I first started out on my keto journey and mistake Greek-style yogurt and plain Greek yogurt, because they’re two completely different things, with the former being full of sugar.
Plain Greek yogurt is an awesome snack on the go, as is cottage cheese. Both healthy and full of protein, these make for easy on-the-go meals to fit into a busy ketogenic lifestyle, because let’s face it, we’re not all Martha Stewart, and even if we were, who has the time for preparing fancy snacks?
They do contain carbs, but they’re minimal, and if eaten in moderation, they will not affect your state of ketosis. 5 ounces of plain Greek yogurt contains around 5 grams of carbs and 11 grams of protein. Cottage cheese has the same amount of carbs, but a slightly higher level of protein at 18 grams for every 5 ounces.
Like eggs, yogurt and cottage cheese help decrease the appetite, so if you carefully think about the snacks you eat while following a ketogenic diet, you won’t experience those pangs of hunger that result in a good old binge eat as you might do on many other restrictive diets.
9. Olive Oil
Honestly, I drizzle this stuff over everything from my salads to my vegetables. Dating back thousands of years, Hippocrates once said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” In the case of olive oil, he was spot on!
With many impressive health benefits, olive oil contains oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat that cuts the risk of heart disease. Not only this, but it also contains countless antioxidants that protect the heart further by reducing inflammation.
Olive oil is a 100% pure fat source and contains zero carbs, making it the ideal condiment and low-heat cooking oil on a ketogenic diet.
10. Nuts And Seeds
The guys at the gym are always joking that I’ve turned into a bit of a bird. Trust me it has nothing to do with my beak-shaped nose but my constant grazing on nuts and seeds, which make for an excellent source of food that is both high in fat and low in carbs.
Nuts and seeds cut the risk of heart disease, some cancers, depression, and a few other chronic diseases. What’s more, they’re also high in fiber, which will add to that feeling of fullness and help you remain regular (too much information? You’ll thank me later!)
But not all nuts are created equal. Most nuts and seeds are relatively low in their net carb count, however, the amount can vary considerably between nut types.
In the nut department, Brazil nuts, walnuts and pecans are definitely the best with only 1 gram of net carbs per ounce. Macadamia nuts, which are my personal favorite, are not too far behind with only 2 grams of net carbs per ounce.
Almonds have 3 grams of net carbs for every ounce and cashews come in at the highest with 8 grams of net carbs, so they definitely need to be limited. Forget your fancy flavored nuts (you know those delicious honey coated ones and the chili and lime varieties), as these have extra non-keto additives, and not to mention honey is basically pure sugar, but just in a liquid form.
You might also be wondering why the world’s most famous bar snack, peanuts, hasn’t featured. That’s because peanuts are considered to be a legume, which makes them non-keto compliant, and let’s be honest the idea of how many dirty hands that have gone into those bowls at your local bar is enough of a reason to avoid them.
There are many so-called keto blogs out there that showcase some seemingly delicious recipes containing peanuts or peanut butter, and these should also be avoided and have not been created by people really in the know. But all is not lost – there are other nut butters out there, such as almond butter or macadamia nut butter, which can easily replace that decadent peanut butter.
Seeds also make for an excellent low-carb snack. With a little bit of creative thinking, they can also be added to a variety of things, such as salads and stir-fries. And if you’re going to get your keto baking game on, they’re a wonderful addition to low-carb keto bread and cracker recipes.
Flaxseeds are God’s seed gift to the keto world. They’re packed with fiber and have 0 net carbs. Chia seeds make for an amazing pudding and only have 1 gram of net carbs per ounce. Sesame and pumpkin seeds come in at slightly higher with 3 grams and 4 grams of net carbs respectively, but when eaten in moderation, it’s hardly going to tip you over the edge.
Berries are an amazing addition to a ketogenic diet. As a self-confessed former fruit addict, I’m happy I can still include these into my way of eating. Everything that you’ve learned about fruit previously is wrong. Fruit may have a lot of beneficial vitamins, but most are also laden with sugar in the form of fructose, which translates into carbs.
Compared to the other fruits, berries are relatively low in carbs; not only this but they’re also high in fiber, especially raspberries and blackberries.
They’re also loaded with a whole heap of goodness, which includes a plethora of antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and protect against disease. A hundred grams of the below-listed berries include the following net carb counts:
- Strawberries: 6 grams of net carbs
- Raspberries: 6 grams of net carbs
- Blackberries: 5 grams of net carbs
- Blueberries: 12 grams of net carbs
12. Butter And Cream
The only thing better than butter and cream is more butter and cream. Both of these foods include a number of healthy fats that are perfect when it comes to a keto diet.
For a long time, both butter and cream were considered to be evil, with many people, even medical professionals, stating that they contribute to heart disease because of their high saturated fat content. But the good news is more recent studies have debunked these myths.
In fact, it’s now quite the contrary with some research suggesting that moderate consumption of high-fat dairy products might even cut your chances of heart attacks and strokes.
Just like other high-fat dairy foods, both butter and cream are high in conjugated linoleic acid, which is the fatty acid that promotes fat loss when combined with a healthy low-carb diet.
13. Shirataki Noodles
Now, these were a great find, and I’m just sorry it took me so long to discover them. With less than 1 gram of carbs per serve, these noodles that are made up of mainly water, are a fantastic addition to a keto diet.
Shirataki noodles contain viscous fiber, which helps slow down the movement of food when it travels through your digestive tract. The result? You guessed it – a decreased sense of hunger, which is most welcome when you’re trying to kick your dirty snacking habits from your former life to the curb.
Not only this, but the viscous fiber also prevents blood sugar spikes, which helps with both weight loss and diabetes control.
Previously, the only olives I ever had come in my martinis. But my love-hate relationship with them has turned into pure love, and like seeds and nuts, they’re awesome to snack on. The fact that they only contain 1 gram of net carbs per ounce makes them even more appealing. I can safely say that one of my favorite types of restaurants is one with plenty of Mediterranean-style foods like olives.
Olives and olive oil are pretty much on an even keel when it comes to their health benefits. They both contain lots of beneficial antioxidants that can help improve your overall health, but one that needs special mention is oleuropein, which contains anti-inflammatory properties that protect your cells from any damage.
Olives complement a keto diet well, as they also help decrease blood pressure and prevent bone loss amongst other things.
15. Unsweetened Black Coffee And Tea
Imagine a world without coffee! It doesn’t even bear thinking about. Thankfully, I’ve always had a penchant for black coffee, so it was pretty easy for me. But once you get the taste, you’ll never go back, especially when you learn what your Starbucks favorites actually contain.
Black tea and coffee are really healthy carb-free drinks that kick start the metabolism thanks to their high caffeine content. Additionally, if you work out, they also help boost your physical performance.
Also, there’s some promising evidence that people who consume black tea and coffee significantly cut their chances of developing diabetes later on in their lives.
You may even get used to bulletproof coffee, which is the ultimate fat-burning drink. What is this magic liquid? Basically, it’s black coffee with butter and MCT oil added to it. Sounds gross, but when blended, it resembles a frothy latte, and the taste isn’t so bad either, especially when you realize how it can boost your ketone production to promote fat loss.
Bulletproof Coffee Recipe
- 2T Freshly ground coffee of your choice
- 1 Cup filtered water
- 1T MCT powder/oil
- 1T Unsalted grass-fed butter
- Make a cup of freshly brewed coffee using filtered water.
- Add a tablespoon of MCT powder or oil.
- Add a tablespoon of grass-fed unsalted butter.
- Blend until frothy, pour into a cup and serve immediately.
16. Dark Chocolate
Going over to the dark side when it comes to chocolate is perfectly acceptable most of the time. Dark chocolate…honestly, I could write an entire chapter on this, but that’d be me going completely off topic once again. What’s important to remember is that when it comes to chocolate and a keto diet, the darker the better (ideally the chocolate needs to be a minimum of 70% cocoa solids).
It contains a delicious amount of antioxidants, and proper dark chocolate is said to contain as many antioxidants as acai berries and blueberries. It also contains flavanols, which have been found to help lower the risk of developing any heart-related diseases.
It is important to still read the nutrition labels, as some companies still add extra sugar.