Here’s What You Can and Can’t Eat on the Ketogenic Diet

updated May 30, 2019
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The keto diet is getting a lot of buzz lately. Are you considering trying it out to see how it makes you feel this year? We’ve rounded up a bunch of recipes (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to get you started, but before you jump in let’s get back to the basics: What can (and can’t) you eat exactly?

Doing keto right means getting into a state of ketosis, or where your body burns fat rather than carbs for fuel. In order to get there, you’ll need to limit your carbs to about 20 grams. (The exact number varies by person). While you don’t count calories, you do need to keep your “macros” properly balanced: You should consume moderate amounts of protein (20 to 30%), and lots of fat (60 to 75%).

What You Can Eat on Keto

  • Fat: Preferably healthy fat, of course, like that in salmon, avocado, olive oil, ghee, canola oil. But bacon is okay, too.
  • Protein in moderate amounts: Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.
  • Non-starchy vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, green beans, radishes, asparagus, cucumber, zucchini, spaghetti squash.
  • Cheese and other dairy: Butter, cream, plain Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese.
  • Nuts and seeds: Some of the lower-carb choices include macadamias, pecans, walnuts, sesame seeds, almonds, brazil nuts, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Dark (very dark) chocolate and cocoa powder.
  • Alcohol

Ideas for Eating on the Keto Diet

What You Can’t Eat on Keto

  • Most fruit: Fruit is high in sugar, and sugar is a big no-no on the ketogenic diet. However, you may be able to have a few berries (which are relatively low in sugar compared to other fruit). Avocado is also a fruit, but it’s one you can eat thanks to its high fat content.
  • Grains: No rice, pasta, wheat, or quinoa.
  • Breads and cereals: Nothing made with flour, including bread, muffins, cookies, cake, rolls, and bagels.
  • Beans and legumes.
  • Starchy and root vegetables: Potatoes, corn, carrots, parsnip, and sweet potato.
  • Sweeteners: Sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, cane sugar, brown sugar, fructose, and glucose.
  • Processed foods: Potato chips, pretzels, crackers.

Keto for Newbies: Curious about the ketogenic diet? This high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb lifestyle puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis, where you burns fat instead of carbohydrates as the primary fuel source. Read more here about what keto is and see all of Kitchn’s coverage on keto here.