Keto Food Guide: What to Eat and What to Avoid
What to Eat

Keto Food Guide: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Carb Manager Staff

Carb Manager Staff

10 months ago

When you’re new to the Keto diet, the grocery store can feel like enemy territory, with hidden carbs everywhere just waiting to make their way into your cart and throw you out of ketosis.

If you’ve read our Ultimate Guide to the Keto Diet, then you already know the basics: limit carbs, get adequate protein, eat plenty of healthy fats, and avoid processed junk.

But what does that look like in practice?

Rest assured that after a few weeks, this will all seem like second nature. But in the meantime, we’ve put together this printable Keto food list to save you hours of staring at labels on your next shopping trip.

And remember -- if you do come across an item in the grocery store that you’re unsure of, we’ve got you covered. Just open the Carb Manager app on your mobile device, and use our barcode scanner to quickly determine the “Keto grade” for any food item.

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF of this article.

Note: Carb Manager recommends buying the highest quality food that you can afford. Key words being “that you can afford.” Local, organic produce, grass-fed and/or cage-free meats, and wild-caught seafood are ideal. But if your budget is tight, you can still succeed and thrive on Keto. Be sure to check out the “Eating Keto on a Budget” section of our Ultimate Guide to Keto for tips and suggestions. Above all, do what’s best for your own personal goals and budget.

Foods to Eat

Keto is a high fat, moderate protein, very low-carb diet, with a macros target of about 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbs (70:25:5).

Examples of foods that you’ll eat in abundance on the Keto diet:

  • Fish and seafood
  • Poultry
  • Low-carb veggies
  • Low carb dairy; Cheese, plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese etc
  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy oils
  • Unsweetened coffee and tea
  • Water

Examples of foods that are allowed in moderation:

  • Berries
  • Dark chocolate and cocoa powder (90%+ cacao)
  • Non-glycemic sweeteners

Let’s go ahead and explore the main Keto food categories in more detail.

Meat & Eggs

The idea that Keto is an “all meat” diet is a popular misconception. While the idea that over-consuming protein will kick you out of ketosis is no longer supported by current research, Keto dieters should strive to maintain a balance between meat, vegetables, and other foods to maximize nutritional variety. Most individuals following Keto should aim to eat a fairly “normal” amount of meat, and to choose meats that are higher in fat to help with hitting your fat macro target.

Examples of Keto-friendly meat and egg options:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Bacon
  • Ham
  • Eggs
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Poultry
  • Pork
  • Venison
  • Veal
  • Wild Game
  • Organ meats
  • Deli meats in moderation (Sliced chicken, corned beef, ham, pancetta, pastrami, prosciutto, roast beef, speck, and turkey, etc.)
  • Cured meats in moderation (Sliced chorizo, pepperoni, salami, and soppressata)

Note: Some types of processed meats like ham, bacon, some deli meats, as well as some cured meats, may contain sugar or fillers which can pack on the carb count and render them non-Keto friendly.

Fish and Shellfish

Fatty fish and other seafood is an ideal source of both protein and fat. Note that some seafood, particularly shellfish, can contain a significant number carbs.

Examples of Keto-friendly options:

  • Crabmeat
  • Cod
  • Clams & Oysters (In moderation)
  • Halibut
  • Flounder
  • Mackerel
  • Lobster
  • Herring
  • Wild salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Sardines
  • Squid
  • Sole
  • Trout
  • Tuna

Cheese and Other Dairy

This category can be an excellent source of healthy fats. Be cautious about eating large amounts of dairy until you’re sure that your body can handle it; many people are sensitive and run into issues with inflammation. You’ll notice that milk is NOT included in this list, as it’s relatively high in carbs due to it’s naturally occurring sugar content, and should be consumed very sparingly.

Examples of Keto-friendly dairy options:

  • Butter/ghee
  • Bleu cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Cream
  • Goat cheese
  • Feta
  • Gouda
  • Goat cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Plain greek yogurt
  • Swiss cheese
  • Parmesan cheese

Healthy Oils

While most of your fat calories will come from elsewhere in your diet, cooking with liberal quantities of healthy oils can really help to boost your daily fat macros ratio. Healthy oils can also be used to bump up the fat content of dishes that might otherwise be lacking in that area. Asparagus sauteed in avocado oil? Salad drizzled in olive oil? Yes, please!

Examples of Keto-friendly fats and oils:

  • Butter, preferably from grass-fed sources
  • Coconut cream
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • MCT oil
  • Olive oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Cacao butter
  • Ghee
  • Lard from pasture-raised sources

Seeds and Nuts

This category is packed with protein and healthy fats, and many options are very low carb. Use for topping salads, incorporate into recipes, or eat on their own as a healthy snack.

Examples of Keto-friendly options:

  • Coconut
  • Chia seeds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Hemp seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pecans
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Flours or butters made from any of these sources

Vegetables

Contrary to the version of Keto that’s often portrayed in the media, the diet (when followed properly) actually skews more toward vegetables sauteed in healthy fats than it does endless piles of bacon. Veggies prepared with a healthy oil should be the backbone of your Ketogenic diet.

Although there are numerous exceptions, a good rule of thumb is to choose vegetables that grow above ground, and to avoid starchy root vegetables. Use the food database in the Carb Manager app to check net carbs for foods that you’re not familiar with.

Examples of Keto-friendly vegetable options:

  • Broccoli
  • Bitter greens
  • Bok choy
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Endive
  • Kohlrabi
  • Nori
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Cabbage
  • Asparagus
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Green Beans
  • Cucumber
  • Spinach
  • Green and red peppers
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Tomatoes (In moderation)
  • Certain mushrooms

Fruits

Most fruits are sugar-bombs, and are strictly off limits on the Keto diet. But that doesn’t mean you have to swear off of all fruits forever!

These fruits are fairly low in carbs, and are acceptable in moderation:

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Limes
  • Lemons
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cranberries (unprocessed, unsweetened)

Beverages

Individuals following Keto should drink an abundance of water to keep themselves hydrated and flush out toxins. Alcohol (even Keto-friendly options) should be kept to a minimum.

Examples of Keto-friendly beverage options:

  • Lemon water
  • Black coffee
  • Unsweetened tea
  • Bone broth
  • Mineral water

Sweeteners

While sugar is strictly forbidden on a Ketogenic diet, it’s possible to satisfy your sweet tooth while remaining in ketosis with non-glycemic alternatives.

Examples of Keto-friendly sweeteners:

  • Erythritol
  • Monk fruit sweetener
  • Stevia
  • Xylitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Maltitol
  • Allulose
  • Splenda

Foods not to Eat

You probably already know that you should avoid high-carb foods while following the Keto diet. But did you know that unhealthy fats and “processed foods” are also restricted if you’re doing “clean Keto”? While these foods might not knock you out of ketosis, they can contribute to inflammation and other health issues, which defeats the purpose of losing weight and taking control of your health.

Examples of foods that you should avoid altogether on the Keto diet:

  • Grains
  • Pastas
  • Starchy vegetables
  • High-sugar fruits
  • Sweetened yogurt
  • Soda and fruit juices
  • Honey, syrup, or sugar in any form
  • Chips and crackers
  • Baked goods, including gluten-free
  • Corn products
  • Seed oils
  • Sugary snacks

With that basic list in place, let’s go ahead and explore the main categories of “foods to avoid” in more detail.

Grain-Based Foods

Grain-based foods tend to be very high in carbs. This includes many “gluten-free” substitutes, which are made with non-wheat grains or other high-carb alternatives.

Examples include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Pumpernickel
  • Flour and corn tortillas
  • White bread
  • Rye bread
  • Wheat bread
  • Oats
  • Sourdough bread
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Sandwich Wraps
  • Chips
  • Cereals
  • Pasta

Vegetables

While low-carb vegetables should be a staple of your healthy Ketogenic diet, many vegetables are surprisingly high in carbs and should be avoided. As mentioned above, most root veggies are loaded with carbs and are “off-limits”.

Examples of vegetables to avoid:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Yams
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Parsnips
  • Artichoke
  • Cassava (also known as Yuca)
  • Pumpkin
  • Rutabaga

Legumes

Leguminous foods like peas and beans are usually high in protein and other essential nutrients. Unfortunately, they are also very high in carbs, and should be avoided when following a Ketogenic diet.

Examples of legumes to avoid:

  • Chickpeas
  • Baked beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Lima beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Black beans
  • Green peas
  • Cannellini beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lima beans
  • Great Northern beans
  • Navy beans
  • Peanuts

Fruits

Despite their healthy reputation, fruits are loaded with carbs. A single small apple contains enough carbs to knock most people out of ketosis! Most fruits should be avoided completely by those following a Ketogenic diet.

Examples of fruits to avoid are:

  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Bananas
  • Pineapples
  • Grapes
  • Pears
  • Nectarines
  • Mangos
  • Peaches
  • Fruit juices
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Dried fruits

Dairy

While many types of dairy can be important sources of healthy fats and protein, other varieties can be loaded with carbs. In particular, check carb counts carefully on milk and any type of flavored or sweet yogurts.

Examples of dairy products to avoid:

  • Condensed milk
  • Most milks derived from animal sources
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
  • Creamed cottage cheese

Meats

Maintaining an adequate amount of protein is important for maintaining muscle mass when following a Ketogenic diet, and meat can be an excellent source of that protein. On the other hand, some meat products can contain hidden carbs, unhealthy fats, and processed “junk”.

Examples of meat products to avoid:

  • Breaded meats
  • Bacon with added sugar
  • Processed meat that could have hidden carbs
  • Processed meats high in nitrates
  • Plant-based proteins

Unhealthy Fats and Oils

For the purposes of the Keto diet, we typically consider “unhealthy” fats to be trans fats, hydrogenated fats, and fats that have a tendency to increase inflammation.

Examples of fats and oils to avoid:

  • Corn oil
  • Canola oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Margarine
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Soy-based oils
  • Commercial lard

Success tip: Don’t allow oils with a low smoke point to reach overly high temperatures when you are cooking meals, as this can “denature” otherwise healthy oils and cause them to break down into unhealthy compounds. Always use fresh oil and throw out any oils that have even a hint of rancidity.

Seeds and Nuts

While seeds and nuts, in general, are thought of as healthy, Keto-friendly snacks, some varieties are relatively high in carbs and should be avoided.

Examples of seeds and nuts to avoid:

  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Soybeans
  • Edamame
  • Peanuts
  • Flours or butters made from any of these sources

Beverages

Be mindful of what you drink. Beverages can be a significant source of hidden carbs, often in the form of sugars. The majority of your fluid intake should come from water (6-8 glasses per day), and sweetened beverages should be avoided entirely.

Examples of beverages to avoid:

  • All soda, including diet soda
  • Tonic water and energy drinks (use caution with “sugar-free” varieties)
  • Sugary sports beverages
  • Kombucha
  • Kefir
  • Lemonade
  • Fruit juice
  • Frappuccino, mocha, and other sweetened “coffee” drinks
  • Sweetened iced tea
  • Most beers
  • Cocktails like screwdrivers, margaritas, and pina coladas
  • Liqueurs and other sweetened liquors
  • Sweet wines

Sweeteners

You probably know that high-carb, sugary sweeteners have no place on a Ketogenic diet. But certain other sweeteners that are technically low carb can cause health issues aside from an insulin response and should be avoided as well.

Examples of sweeteners to avoid:

  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Agave
  • Maple syrup
  • Fructose
  • Saccharin
  • Aspartame
  • Sucralose

Putting it All Together

As with any macros-based diet, there can be a bit of a learning curve in getting up to speed with Keto and gaining an intuitive understanding of which foods to eat and avoid.

With the help of the Carb Manager app, you’ll be a Keto pro in no time!

If you’re ever unsure on whether a specific food is a good fit for your diet goals, you can look it up in the Carb Manager nutrition database by typing in the name manually, scanning the barcode, or just snapping a picture of the item!

Carb Manager is your all-in-one Keto resource with a built-in macros tracker, nutrition database with millions of common and branded food items, Keto recipes, meal plans, an active community, and much more!

Comments 24

  • Lynda

    Lynda 2 days ago

    I swear this is a diffrrent artificial sweetener list than the article on sweeteners, i have been using sucralose

    • ExcellentKetone658646

      ExcellentKetone658646 8 days ago

      I'm new to keto...I think I'm doing things right....what can I have to snack on other than nuts...

      • LeeDeWinter

        LeeDeWinter 23 days ago

        What should I eat if my MACRO chart is complete and I’m still hungry? Thx

        • GorgeousKetone511936

          GorgeousKetone511936 a month ago

          Eating the Keto way has helped me lose 9.5 pounds in 4 weeks. I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Good luck everyone!

          • DebDeb

            DebDeb a month ago

            Why is diet soda not allowed on a keto diet? What about ICE drinks?

            • AussieEevee

              AussieEevee 10 days ago

              OutstandingCauliflower491782 I believe that's been disproven.

            • OutstandingCauliflower491782

              OutstandingCauliflower491782 18 days ago

              Diet sodas contain ingredients that will calls your sugar to spike even though they don’t contain sugar themselves

          • Meg73

            Meg73 2 months ago

            I started the keto diet 3 weeks ago but have been really confused about what is allowed and what isn't. I have looked at several different classic keto plans and all say something different on what I can and can not have example: some say peanuts are good other say its bad, dairy is good others bad. How do I know I'm following the right guidelines? Also I have been testing and my ketone meter always reads 0 even though I'm loosing weight daily. Help!

            • FortuitousCauliflower329765

              FortuitousCauliflower329765 2 months ago

              I’ve been tracking my carbs for a little over a month now and I really enjoy the app it has helped me with everything and I am slowly loosing weight and inches has well thank you for making this app

              • RemarkableRadish802874

                RemarkableRadish802874 2 months ago

                3 day water fast ! I did it.. Need to get a hang of the keto diet quantities. Questions and confusion and mind blocks! But will get to my goal!

                • GorgeousKale665729

                  GorgeousKale665729 2 months ago

                  I have just started tracking today and need work on squashing those carbs ugh!!! More research is needed lol but I got this good change is a coming !!!

                  • B

                    B 2 months ago

                    Is there a food list that we can either print or save?

                    • SpectacularAvocado844276

                      SpectacularAvocado844276 22 days ago

                      Did you see the one above? It’s 12 pages (PDF) I just printed it....

                  • oceanthief

                    oceanthief 3 months ago

                    Where is the printable check list? This is an article, informative and helpful, yes, but not a printable check list. Is there a link or print button I'm overlooking?

                    • Azazel28

                      Azazel28 25 days ago

                      https://assets.carbmanager.com/static/marketing/ebooks/CM_WhatToEatAvoid.pdf

                  • Leallen

                    Leallen 3 months ago

                    What about mayo? Which variety? How much a day?

                    • oceanthief

                      oceanthief 3 months ago

                      I use real mayonnaise and try to use the olive or avocado oil types. I've heard homemade mayo is easy to make and better for you, but I've not tried it yet. How much a day depends on what you need mayo for. I often make dressings with it or use it on a breadless sandwich.

                  • IncredibleKale376992

                    IncredibleKale376992 4 months ago

                    I like cream in my coffee and have been using half & half, stevia . is that ok?

                    • oceanthief

                      oceanthief 3 months ago

                      I use heavy cream and a "squirt" of a sugar free coffee syrup like Davinci Gourmet. I also love Bulletproof coffee. :)

                    • OutstandingMacadamia602884

                      OutstandingMacadamia602884 3 months ago

                      Half and half has carbs use heavy cream no carbs

                  • SpectacularAvocado309388

                    SpectacularAvocado309388 4 months ago

                    Thank goodness Splenda is “ok” because that Stevia has a terrible after taste. I’m new to Keto and my 1st week has been an epic fail. Most of what I had already, while healthy, is not keto friendly. I didn’t want to waste food and ate it in moderation. So fingers crossed when I restock my kitchen this weekend that I am able to have good tasting items to eat and snack on during the day.

                    • Winning@Life

                      Winning@Life 2 months ago

                      I use a brand called MONK FRUIT IN THE RAW, which is a combination of monk fruit with erythritol. I love it. There is no weird aftertaste like there is with stevia, Splenda, etc. I also have the single serve packets that I keep in my backpack and my desk at work so that I have it where ever I go.

                    • Berriesandkale

                      Berriesandkale 3 months ago

                      Try Lakanto MonkFruit. It’s a little bit expensive that truly a game changer! I don’t like Stevia either in Splenda is OK but not the best. I buy it directly from their website and they have wonderful recipes on there as well. Their Monk fruit chocolate chips are delicious.

                  • MirthfulCauliflower704402

                    MirthfulCauliflower704402 4 months ago

                    I was trying to get a good start by drinking green organic all vegetable drinks all of them were under 100 calories I wanted to cleanse toxins and sugar out of my system. I never realized it contained too many carbs, I purchased cauliflower crust pizzas thinking they would be acceptable, that wasn’t a good move either. I’m going to be looking at more labels before I take for granted it’s okay