Choosing the Right Foods to Kickstart Your Keto Program

Macros are important on the ketogenic diet, but choosing the right foods is critical to your success.
Macros are important on the ketogenic diet, but choosing the right foods is critical to your success.

This guide contains everything you need to know about what to eat and what to avoid on a keto diet, and how to make food your best friend.

Setting your mind for success

You may already know that keto is a low-carb, medium-protein, high-fat diet. However, if you only focus on the general categories without paying attention to the specific foods, you may be missing out on some of the most powerful keto benefits.

That’s because not all foods are equally good for your health. And the main goal of the keto program is to use food not just as fuel, but as medicine for living the longest, healthiest, most active life possible. That’s why rather than focusing on restrictions, you should concentrate on the foods that are the healthiest fuel for your body.

Foods to eat anytime

Once your body adjusts to the health-promoting state of ketosis, you’ll feel more energy and less desire for junk food. And the longer you stick with it, the more your body will crave healthy, nutritious foods instead of sugary, processed foods. But to get to that point, you need to know exactly what to eat.

Get your healthy fats from:

  • Oils, like extra virgin olive oil, coconut, MCT, avocado oil
  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Olives
  • Dark chocolate (90%+ cacao)
  • Nuts

Get protein from:

  • Grass-fed meat, like beef, pork, lamb, veal
  • Wild-caught fish, like cod, lobster, herring, shrimp, sardines, squid, trout, tuna
  • Pasture-raised poultry, like chicken, turkey
  • Bone broth
  • Protein powders and bars

Get healthy carbs from:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Green beans
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Peppers (especially green)
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

keto foods

Foods to enjoy occasionally

You will need to limit some foods that you may be used to consuming on a regular basis. Be sure to consume up to one serving of these foods daily:

  • Full-fat dairy products, such as sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, raw cheeses
  • Medium-starchy vegetables, such as sweet peas, artichokes, okra, carrots, and beets
  • Deli meats, like ham, pancetta, pastrami, prosciutto, roast beef
  • Cured meats, like chorizo, pepperoni, salami, soppressata
  • Condiments, such as ketchup, salsa, sour cream, mustard, hot sauces, and salad dressings, if they contain less than 1 net gram of carbs per 1 tablespoon (always check the label!)

Foods to avoid completely

Some of the following foods are too high in carbs, others are just plain unhealthy and you should limit them regardless of the diet plan you follow. Be sure to avoid:

  • All grains – wheat, oats, rice (including brown), quinoa, couscous, pasta, and pilaf, as well as corn and all products containing corn, including popcorn, polenta, and cornmeal. And no grain-based flour – or anything made with flour.
  • Cow’s milk and low-fat dairy products, as they contain too many natural sugars to be keto-friendly.
  • Any type of sugar – white, brown, cane, raw, and confectioners’, as well as syrup, honey, agave, and anything containing fructose, glucose, maltose, dextrose, or lactose.
  • Most processed foods – crackers, chips, pretzels, candy, cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, cereal, granola bars, meal replacements, canned soups, and anything containing artificial sweeteners.

In the beginning, it can be hard to give up your usual sweet foods and snacks. Keeping in mind the negative aspects of unhealthy foods – the fact that they clog your arteries, deplete your energy, or cause you to store fat – can help you significantly reduce those pesky cravings.

Fruit and berries

Fruits and berries are usually among the healthiest foods you can eat. Remember that they also contain a moderate amount of sugar, so be mindful of how much you eat.

Keto foods berries

Keto-Friendly Drinks

Drinks are actually the sneakiest sources of calories and sugar. Juices, sodas, caramel frappuccinos, beer – all of these can throw you out of ketosis in the blink of an eye. You can never go wrong with water, unsweetened coffee, and tea. You can enjoy coconut water in moderate amounts.

Diet drinks or sugar-free sodas may be fine for some people and probably won’t throw you out of ketosis. However, artificially sweetened drinks are never a healthy choice, so drink them with absolute caution. Also, if you cut sweet drinks out of your diet for a few weeks, your body will stop craving them, and frankly, you won’t even like them anymore.

What about alcohol?

As with everything, it’s about watching your sugar. There are several drinks you can enjoy occasionally with the Keto diet. Just be sure to avoid mixed drinks that contain sugar syrup or fizz, like tonic or cola. If you notice that your weight loss is stalling or you’re concerned about your metabolic health, you should avoid alcoholic beverages, at least for now.

Keto foods alcohol

Are you ready to start this transformation?

Understanding what is good for your health from the start will be critical to your progress. It’s important not to focus on keto restriction and what you need to give up. Instead, focus on what you can eat, and the benefits of those specific foods: more energy, lower risk of disease, weight loss, and better overall health.

Don’t think of healthy eating as a penance, think of it as a privilege – something you get to do to bring out the best in yourself.

keto quiz

Category: Keto 101