The Ultimate Guide to the Keto Food Pyramid
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The Ultimate Guide to the Keto Food Pyramid

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The Ultimate Guide to the Keto Food Pyramid

Posted 2 years ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton


SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

Expert Approved

It may seem counterintuitive, but to burn fat on the Keto diet, most of your calories must come from fat. That’s why healthy fats form the base of the Keto food pyramid.

As you move up the pyramid, you will find proteins, low-carb vegetables, nuts, dairy, and—at the summit—Keto-friendly fruits. When you see all those foods organized in one diagram, the Keto diet suddenly seems less restrictive.  

While it may be true that the Keto food pyramid does not promote the consumption of carbs (sigh), that doesn’t mean you can’t have the occasional piece of fruit, dark chocolate, or (everyone's favorite) fresh coconut meat. 

If you’re looking for a visually-enhanced guide to eating Keto, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s talk pyramids. 

Food Pyramids

A food pyramid is a visual blueprint for how you should eat. The closer a food is to the base of the pyramid, the more servings of that food you’re supposed to consume. 

Remember the original Food Guide Pyramid? Published by the USDA in 1992, it recommended 6-11 servings of bread, rice, cereal, and pasta per day. Fats were banished to the top in the “use sparingly” section.  

In 2011, the Food Guide Pyramid was replaced with “MyPlate”—an eating strategy with a smaller emphasis on pasta and a larger emphasis on whole grains. It seems authorities realized that recommending a diet high in refined carbohydrates—which have been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease[*]—wasn’t sage advice. 

Keto Food Pyramid 101

The Keto food pyramid is starkly different from the Food Guide Pyramid. Instead of relegating fats to the top, fats form the base. 

Fat is the main source of calories on Keto. Why? Because fat provides energy without raising blood sugar and insulin levels like carbohydrates do.

Keeping blood sugar and insulin low is the key to releasing stored body fat (a process called lipolysis), burning it for energy (called fatty acid oxidation), and producing ketones in the liver (called ketogenesis).[*] The name for this fat-burning metabolic state is ketosis

A glance at the literature reveals that Keto is a promising weight loss intervention for various populations.[*][*][*] Not only does Keto have the potential to increase fat burning, but it can also curb hunger hormones.[*] Less hunger, less overeating. 

Let’s explore the different levels of the Keto food pyramid now. (Note: serving recommendations are fairly broad for some categories since different people have different caloric needs). 

The Base: Healthy Fats

Healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard, and tallow form the base of the Keto food pyramid. 

This doesn’t mean, however, that dinner is a stick of butter. It just means that most of your calories will come from these sources.

This means cooking with coconut oil, dumping olive oil on your salad, making fat bombs, etc. Be creative. Remember you’ll also get some healthy fats from other foods in higher portions of the pyramid, like animal proteins, nuts, seeds, and dairy products.

Serving recommendation: 2-6 tablespoons per meal 

Level 2: Proteins

Next up are healthy protein sources like meat, fish, and eggs. Protein is crucial for maintaining muscle, balancing hormones, and supplying the raw materials to build the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.[*

Protein is also highly satiating. This is probably why high-protein diets tend to be effective for weight loss.[*

Serving recommendation: 3-12 ounces per meal

Level 3: Low-carb plants

Your Keto meals should be rich in low-carb vegetables and avocados. These Keto-friendly plants supply loads of micronutrients without kicking you out of ketosis. 

Here’s a partial list:

  • Avocados
  • Kale
  • Spinach 
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Lettuce
  • Bok choy
  • Cabbage
  • Green beans

Keep in mind that starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, cassava, and parsnips are largely forbidden on Keto. Too many carbs. 

Serving recommendation: 2-4 servings per meal. (Keto veggies aren’t a significant source of calories, so be liberal.) 

Level 4: Nuts, seeds and dairy

You can enjoy almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and other nuts and seeds as an occasional Keto snack. They’re rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats. However, If you’re trying to lose weight, be aware that nuts, seeds and nut butters are calorically dense and easy to overeat. Enjoy in moderation. 

Also, feel free to dabble in dairy products if you can tolerate them. Whey protein, for instance, is high in amino acids like leucine (for muscle growth) and immune-boosting compounds like lactoferrin.[*]  

Serving recommendation: 1-2 servings per day

Level 5: Keto fruits and sweets

Atop the Keto pyramid are berries and other semi-low-carb treats. Enjoy these Keto tidbits occasionally and in moderation:

Serving recommendation: One small handful per day

The Keto Macros Pyramid

On a Keto diet, you consume 55 to 75 percent of your calories from fat, 15 to 35 percent from protein, and under 10 percent from carbs. Bear our Keto macros pyramid in mind each time you build your plate.

The Keto macros pyramid is a useful tool for structuring meals. It encourages you, for instance, to favor fatty protein sources (salmon, ribeye, chicken thighs, eggs, etc.) because these foods are more ketogenic than leaner options. 

What About Drinks on Keto?

If a beverage doesn’t contain carbohydrates, assume it’s Keto-approved. Without calories from carbs or sugar, a drink won’t inhibit fat burning and kick you out of ketosis. 

This means that beverage selection on Keto is a fairly binary process. It’s either allowed or it isn’t. 

Keto-friendly beverages include:

  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Tea (black, green, white, or herbal)
  • Lemon water
  • Bone broth
  • Naturally flavored zero-calorie water or soda

Alcohol is an edge case. While alcohol itself doesn’t contain carbs, most alcoholic beverages (beer, cocktails, wine) do. 

And even if you drink zero-carb distilled spirits, your body will still regard alcohol as toxic. More than one or two per day is not recommended. 

What about diet sodas? They won’t shut down fat burning, but some evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners like saccharin interfere with gut microbiome health.[*] If you want to play it safe, it’s best to avoid them. 

Building Your Keto Plate

To structure your Keto meals, follow these three principles:

  1. Ensure you’re hitting your Keto macros (i.e., the Keto macros pyramid)
  2. Favor whole food sources of fat and protein 
  3. Eat lots of non-starchy vegetables for vitamins, minerals, and menu variety

We already talked about number one. Let’s talk about numbers two and three. 

You’ve probably heard of a dirty Keto diet. It’s a species of Keto that follows the correct macros but ignores food quality. 

Dirty keto is high in processed meat and vegetable oils—and low in nutrient-dense vegetables. It might help with weight loss, but it’s not geared towards longevity. 

If you care about your long-term health, it makes sense to adopt a whole foods Keto diet. That’s the operating principle of the Keto food pyramid displayed above. 

Just eat whole foods, healthy fats, and plenty of low-carb veggies to satiety. Keto sounds simple when you put it that way, doesn’t it?

Comments 31

  • FavorableMacadamia900837

    FavorableMacadamia900837 4 months ago

    Thank you for this information. Helps me to focus on the right stuff.

    • Lolly24

      Lolly24 7 months ago

      Explained clearly should have read earlier.

      • Tata

        Tata 8 months ago


        • FantasticKetone315055

          FantasticKetone315055 10 months ago

          Is there a way to mark read

          • SpectacularKale491015

            SpectacularKale491015 7 months ago

            I ❤️ it. Hopefully, it is saved somewhere.

        • Rebaj

          Rebaj a year ago

          Very well written, the information is very clear and easy to understand! Thank you!

          • IncredibleKetone238436

            IncredibleKetone238436 a year ago

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        • UpbeatKale817103

          UpbeatKale817103 a year ago

          Thank you for the helpful information.

          • MarvellousMacadamia484800

            MarvellousMacadamia484800 a year ago

            Great helpful information. Thank you

            • SimoneOwns

              SimoneOwns a year ago

              I have a sensitive stomach and need coffee with a lot of milk; the base of the milk makes the acidity of the coffee tolerable for my stomach. How much does this impact my carb intake (I do not put sugar in my coffee)? I drink a lot of lattes that I make myself. Any suggestions are welcome.

              • Slimgoldie

                Slimgoldie a year ago

                This is my second go at Keto. I want to keep it as a lifestyle change. Well in my previous try, I found that a lot of people use the Protein shake as a substitute or they change the type/brand of coffee that sits better on their stomach. I've also heard of people use Unsweetened Almond Milk...I ended up going black with a local roaster which cut the acidity for me. Good luck, hope it helps.

              • Rocky Cushions

                Rocky Cushions a year ago

                2 weeks ago I started replacing coffee with chocolate protein shakes in the morning and it actually makes me feel more awake and energetic. For about 12 years, I used to "need" coffee daily. My stomach feels so much better now.

            • MarvellousRadish316911

              MarvellousRadish316911 2 years ago

              I'm new into the KETO Diet, 4 weeks in lost 4 lbs but my energy is pretty low. Looking forward to higher energy and loosing more weight. Any suggestions how to boost my energy?

              • Slimgoldie

                Slimgoldie a year ago

                Be sure that your electrolytes are in balance. I end up taking vitamins in order to beat the fatigue and "keto flu". The electrolytes definitely helped a ton.

              • FantasticMacadamia588302

                FantasticMacadamia588302 2 years ago

                Leafy greens and plant protein to start. If you think you are already eating enough greens, you probably aren't. And for some reason, light exercise like walking the dog gives me energy. Try it!

            • ExcellentAvocado836506

              ExcellentAvocado836506 2 years ago

              Do MCT oils need to be logged in like olive oil in daily totals

              • FavorableMacadamia594311

                FavorableMacadamia594311 2 years ago

                Very informative. Thanks.

                • Maigrichonne

                  Maigrichonne 2 years ago

                  Really helpful! Thanks!!

                  • 165bound

                    165bound 2 years ago

                    This is definitely a great read!

                    • StellarRadish225069

                      StellarRadish225069 2 years ago

                      Thanks so helpful!

                      • IncredibleAvocado250478

                        IncredibleAvocado250478 2 years ago

                        Great info, Thank You!

                        • SaraDean4

                          SaraDean4 2 years ago

                          This was very helpful - love the visuals! Thank you 😊

                          • FortuitousKale392095

                            FortuitousKale392095 2 years ago

                            How do we figure out macros.

                            • MarvellousRadish316911

                              MarvellousRadish316911 2 years ago

                              Type exactly what you consumed. For Breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a space to do so. It calculates it for you.

                          • MirthfulMacadamia802101

                            MirthfulMacadamia802101 2 years ago

                            Can I print or share this article? Great info!

                            • OutstandingRadish596662

                              OutstandingRadish596662 2 years ago

                              I like this article for info of the best foods to eat however, I am looking for the best way to gain weight. I have lost too much weight because I am not hungry through the day and need to know if I eat more carbs will that help. I believe eating more fat is working the opposite of what I need to do.

                              • Khenry

                                Khenry 2 years ago

                                This was helpful ❤️

                                • Hummingbirds02

                                  Hummingbirds02 2 years ago

                                  New here, this was very helpful! Thanks

                                  • Burning Machine

                                    Burning Machine 2 years ago

                                    Very helpful. Thanks!

                                    • Heni

                                      Heni 2 years ago

                                      Thank you for the useful explaination.

                                      • OutstandingRadish596662

                                        OutstandingRadish596662 2 years ago

                                        This is a great article, how can I share it to my family who are not eating healthy