Many people assume that Keto is terrible because of its high fat content, and they immediately write it off because it’s “all steak, bacon, and cheese.”
But a firmer grasp of the scientific evidence shows us that dietary fat isn’t the villain we once thought it was.
Now, it’s time to share some of the top Keto-friendly foods that are actually good for you (that may be a bit surprising), along with a guide to making your Keto diet as healthy as possible.
How to Make Keto Healthy
Keto can be as healthy or as unhealthy as you want it to be. You can lose weight both ways.
However, a healthy Keto diet is more likely to provide other health benefits and help prevent other issues from arising.
The easiest way to make sure that your Keto diet is healthy is to choose a “clean Keto” eating style.
Clean Keto is a low-carb, high-fat, ketosis-inducing diet that’s composed of minimally-processed and high-quality foods.
On the other hand, dirty Keto is also Keto — but food quality isn’t necessarily a concern. On dirty Keto, you may choose to eat fast food, packaged Keto foods, artificial sweeteners, or diet sodas.
However, these ultra-processed foods have been linked to a number of health conditions — including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome.[*]
That’s why clean Keto is a better choice. And no, you don’t have to switch to 100% organic, grass-fed, sustainable food choices if that’s not a fit for your budget. Do the best you can, and you’ll still reap the benefits of this clean and minimally processed eating style.
Healthy Keto Foods
Interested in trying clean Keto? Here’s a quick guide to clean Keto foods:
- Meats: beef, pork, fish, chicken, turkey, shellfish, duck, lamb
- Fruits: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
- Vegetables: avocados, tomatoes, salad greens, spinach, kale, mustard greens, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, garlic, ginger, peppers
- Nuts and seeds: sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts
- Fats and oils: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee, lard, tallow, butter, bacon fat
- Other: vinegars, herbs, spices, dark chocolate, bone broth
Generally, you’ll want to buy the least-processed and highest-quality versions you can — like grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, organic strawberries, and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil.
Top 10 Keto Foods You Never Knew Were Healthy
These Keto-friendly foods have gotten a bad rap over the years, but they’re actually pretty good for you.
1. Ribeye Steak
Until recently, red meat like steak and hamburger had a terrible reputation. The scientific consensus was that their saturated fat content could clog arteries, just like solidified fat can clog a sink.
However, we’ve since learned that saturated fat doesn’t have that effect on heart health. In fact, saturated fat appears to have very little to do with your heart disease risk.[*]
Red meat is also an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. So go ahead, enjoy that steak or (bunless) burger. For maximal benefits, choose grass-fed if you can.
2. Raw Cheese
Cheese has never really been considered a health food, and in fact many people still actively avoid cheese due to its fat content.
However, researchers have found that full-fat dairy offers some metabolic health advantages over reduced-fat dairy. It’s less processed, too.[*]
Additionally, raw cheese — which hasn’t been pasteurized — is an excellent source of gut-healthy probiotics. You can purchase raw cheese through local dairy farmers or some natural and organic grocery stores.
3. Preservative-Free Bacon
Bacon is fatty, salty, and often made with processed preservatives — not exactly what most people would call a healthy food.
However, some types of bacon can be much healthier choices.
Look for bacon made from pastured pork (that is, from pigs that are allowed to roam pasture), that is preserved using natural preservatives like celery salt.
While we still don’t recommend building your entire diet around bacon, choosing a higher-quality one can help you stick to a clean meal plan and still enjoy the occasional bacon-and-egg breakfast.
Coffee’s role as a health food is hotly contested, mostly thanks to its caffeine content.
Still, most people will feel anxious, jittery, or nauseous with excessive caffeine intake, so it’s important to limit your total caffeine to 400 mg or less per day. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should limit your caffeine intake even further — be sure to speak with your doctor for more specific recommendations.[*]
5. Dark Chocolate
While you may think that chocolate is immediately off-the-table on Keto because of sugar content, many brands offer low-carb varieties of dark chocolate.
Typically, the more cocoa a chocolate contains, the better. With 70% or more cocoa content, there’s not much room for added sugar on the ingredient list.
Dark chocolate can be an indulgent, Keto-friendly dessert, especially when paired with some low-carb berries and sugar-free whipped cream.
What’s in your fridge right now — butter or margarine? Although margarine is less expensive, and you may have heard in the past that it’s healthier than butter, that’s actually not true.
Margarine and other “plant-based buttery spreads” are often made with low-quality oils like soybean or canola oil, and they may contain other highly-processed ingredients too.
On the other hand, butter is minimally processed — made from heavy cream and, sometimes, salt. Butter is ideal for cooking and baking.
Mayonnaise is a tangy, high-fat condiment that’s traditionally made from oil and egg yolks. Although it earned a bad reputation due to its high-fat content, mayonnaise isn’t inherently unhealthy — just rich in fat and calories.
Mayo made with quality ingredients, like avocado oil and pastured eggs, is an excellent addition to a clean Keto diet to boost your fat intake. Mayonnaise is also really easy to make homemade.
8. Pork Rinds
Many people think of pork rinds — or fried pork skins — as an extremely unhealthy snack food. In many cases, they are — because they’re made with conventionally-farmed pork and fried in low-quality oils.
However, high-quality pork rinds are made with pastured pork and baked or fried in healthy oils. For instance, Epic brand pork rinds are baked with pork fat to provide their familiar crispness.
Pork rinds can be used as a snack on Keto, or crushed and used as a Keto-friendly and protein-rich alternative to breadcrumbs.
Pickles are often decried because of their high salt content.
However, if you’re on Keto, you actually need to increase your salt intake. (Note: if you’ve been placed on a salt restriction by a healthcare professional, please follow their advice.)
Additionally, fermented pickles are an excellent source of natural probiotics, or bacteria that may help improve your gut health. Look for them in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, or — if you’re feeling adventurous — make them yourself!
Pickles are a great low-calorie snack or crunchy addition to Keto tuna salad.
10. Egg Yolks
There’s been a lot of debate about egg yolks for years. It seems like every few years, the consensus changes. We want to let you know that egg yolks, and whole eggs, are a fantastic addition to a healthy Keto diet. Egg yolks are one of the single best sources of the nutrient choline, which your body needs for proper nervous system function.[*][*]
Our recommendation? Next time you find yourself reaching for the carton of egg whites to make scrambled eggs or an omelet, just reach for a whole egg instead.
Conventional wisdom about diet has had several misses. Generally, if a food is minimally processed and found in nature, it’s perfectly healthy for most people. Salt and fat don’t automatically make foods unhealthy… but extensive processing most certainly can.
But remember, your clean Keto diet doesn’t have to be perfect to provide health benefits beyond weight loss. If you’re making healthy choices most of the time, you’re golden.