If you find yourself in a conversation about dieting or weight loss, chances are you’ll hear of the ketogenic, or keto, diet.
That’s because the keto diet has become one of the most popular methods worldwide to shed excess weight and improve health.
This article explains what to eat and avoid while following a keto diet and provides a one-week keto meal plan to get you started.
The keto diet, as a rule, is very low in carbs, high in fat and moderate in protein.
When following a ketogenic diet, carbs are typically reduced to under 50 grams per day, though stricter and looser versions of the diet exist (3).
Fats should replace the majority of cut carbs and deliver approximately 75% of your total calorie intake.
Proteins should account for around 20% of energy needs, while carbs are usually restricted to 5%.
This carb reduction forces your body to rely on fats for its main energy source instead of glucose — a process known as ketosis.
While in ketosis, your body uses ketones — molecules produced in the liver from fats when glucose is limited — as an alternate fuel source.
Though fat is often avoided for its high calorie content, research shows that ketogenic diets are significantly more effective at promoting weight loss than low-fat diets (4).
Plus, keto diets reduce hunger and increase satiety, which can be particularly helpful when trying to lose weight (5).
Summary The ketogenic diet relies on a very low-carb routine. Carbs are typically restricted to under 50 grams per day, replaced mostly with fat and moderate amounts of protein.
Switching over to a ketogenic diet can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Your focus should be on reducing carbs while increasing the fat and protein content of meals and snacks.
In order to reach and remain in a state of ketosis, carbs must be restricted.
While certain people might only achieve ketosis by eating less than 20 grams of carbs per day, others may be successful with a much higher carb intake.
Generally, the lower your carbohydrate intake, the easier it is to reach and stay in ketosis.
This is why sticking to keto-friendly foods and avoiding items rich in carbs is the best way to successfully lose weight on a ketogenic diet.
Keto-Friendly Foods to Eat
When following a ketogenic diet, meals and snacks should center around the following foods:
- Eggs: Pastured, organic whole eggs make the best choice.
- Poultry: Chicken and turkey.
- Fatty fish: Wild-caught salmon, herring and mackerel.
- Meat: Grass-fed beef, venison, pork, organ meats and bison.
- Full-fat dairy: Yogurt, butter and cream.
- Full- fat cheese: Cheddar, mozzarella, brie, goat cheese and cream cheese.
- Nuts and seeds: Macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, peanuts and flaxseeds.
- Nut butter: Natural peanut, almond and cashew butters.
- Healthy fats: Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut butter and sesame oil.
- Avocados: Whole avocados can be added to almost any meal or snack.
- Non-starchy vegetables: Greens, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers.
- Condiments: Salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice, fresh herbs and spices.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid foods rich in carbs while following a keto diet.
The following foods should be restricted:
- Bread and baked goods: White bread, whole-wheat bread, crackers, cookies, doughnuts and rolls.
- Sweets and sugary foods: Sugar, ice cream, candy, maple syrup, agave syrup and coconut sugar.
- Sweetened beverages: Soda, juice, sweetened teas and sports drinks.
- Pasta: Spaghetti and noodles.
- Grains and grain products: Wheat, rice, oats, breakfast cereals and tortillas.
- Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, corn, peas and pumpkin.
- Beans and legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans.
- Fruit: Citrus, grapes, bananas and pineapple.
- High-carb sauces: Barbecue sauce, sugary salad dressings and dipping sauces.
- Certain alcoholic beverages: Beer and sugary mixed drinks.
Though carbs should be restricted, low-glycemic fruits such as berries can be enjoyed in limited amounts as long as you’re maintaining a keto-friendly macronutrient range.
Be sure to choose healthy food sources and steer clear of processed foods and unhealthy fats.
The following items should be avoided:
- Unhealthy fats: Margarine, shortening and vegetable oils such as canola and corn oil.
- Processed foods: Fast food, packaged foods and processed meats such as hot dogs and lunch meats.
- Diet foods: Foods that contain artificial colors, preservatives and sweeteners such as sugar alcohols and aspartame.
Sugar can be found in a wide variety of beverages including juice, soda, iced tea and coffee drinks.
While on a ketogenic diet, high-carb drinks must be avoided just like high-carb foods.
Thankfully, there are many tasty, sugar-free options for those on the keto diet.
Keto-friendly beverage choices include:
- Water: Water is the best choice for hydration and should be consumed throughout the day.
- Sparkling water: Sparkling water can make an excellent soda replacement.
- Unsweetened coffee: Try heavy cream to add flavor to your cup of joe.
- Unsweetened green tea: Green tea is delicious and provides many health benefits.
If you want to add some extra flavor to your water, try experimenting with different keto-friendly flavor combinations.
For example, tossing some fresh mint and lemon peel into your water bottle can make hydration a breeze.
Though alcohol should be restricted, enjoying a low-carb drink like vodka or tequila mixed with soda water is perfectly fine on occasion.