The ketogenic diet remains one of the most popular diet plans. The keto diet was initially intended for treating certain types of epilepsy, but has been used since the 1970s to treat obesity. Because of its ability to promote substantial weight loss and help those with Type 2 Diabetes improve their blood sugar levels, the keto diet has become a way of living for most people.
More About the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a diet that is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy, but on a strict ketogenic diet, less than 5 percent of energy is from carbohydrates. The drastic reduction of carbohydrates puts the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. During ketosis the body breaks down stored fat into molecules called ketone bodies. These ketone bodies are used for energy, until the body starts to take in carbohydrates again.
A standard ketogenic diet plan recommends a daily carbohydrate intake of 50g of total carbs or about 20-30g of net carbs per day. The majority of daily calories usually comes from fats, while lesser amounts come from protein sources, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
Studies have shown that there are several health benefits associated with the ketogenic diet such as reducing blood pressure, reducing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, improving symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and aiding in the recovery of a brain injury.
Even though the basic format of the ketogenic diet includes a very low intake of carbohydrates, increased intake of fat, and moderate amounts of protein, it can be confusing to know which foods are allowed and which foods need to be avoided. To make things a little easier, here is a list of a few ketogenic diet foods to avoid or limit.
Foods to Avoid or Limit on the Ketogenic Diet:
Foods such as cereal, crackers, rice, bread, and pasta are high in carbohydrates. Consider healthier low-carb alternatives such as spiralized vegetables and shirataki noodles; which are healthier low-carb options.
- Starchy vegetables
Starchy vegetables contain more digestible carbohydrates than fiber and should be limited on the ketogenic diet. This includes corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets.
- Juices & High-sugar fruits
Juices and high-sugar fruits, such as bananas, raisins, and dates, contain more carbohydrates when compared to berries. They can also cause your blood sugar levels to spike.
- Honey, syrup or sugar in any form
Honey, syrup or sugar in any form contain a significant amount of carbohydrates and should be avoided.
- Baked goods
Baked goods, including gluten-free baked goods, are high in carbohydrates and can also cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
That list may seem a little extensive, but don't get too discouraged. It’s all about total carbohydrate intake and how you choose to "spend" your carbs throughout the day. Generally, you should stay under 20-30 grams of carbohydrates per day. The exact amount of carbohydrates needed to achieve ketosis can vary on the individual, so be sure to tailor your diet to your specific needs.
Foods You Can Eat on the Ketogenic Diet
- Fish & seafood
- Low-carb veggies, such as broccoli, zucchini, and bell peppers
- Nuts & seeds
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Unsweetened coffee and tea
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
Foods You Can Sometimes Have on the Ketogenic Diet
Milk is a great source of calcium, potassium and several B vitamins. Even though 1 cup of milk has 12 grams of sugar, you still may be able to fit this into the ketogenic diet. A few other options may include almond, coconut or another low-carb milk.
- Beans & Legumes
Beans and legumes are high in fiber and protein. They are considered to be a part of a healthy diet, but they are also high in carbohydrates. Even though some people may choose to avoid them altogether, you may be able to include them in small amounts.
When starting the ketogenic diet, remember to tailor your diet to your body and its specific needs. The ketogenic diet is not a “one-size-fits-all” type of diet plan. You can technically have any food on the ketogenic diet if it falls within your daily carbohydrate goal. If you have questions or concerns, contact your health care provider or work with a dietitian to ensure you are getting essential nutrients while maintaining ketosis. They will be able to help you create a plan that is realistic and attainable.
Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. United States Department of Agriculture website. Published 2005.
Mawer, R. (2018, July 30). The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner's Guide to Keto. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101
NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/ketogenic-diet
Roehl K, Sewak SL. Practice Paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Classic and Modified Ketogenic Diets for Treatment of Epilepsy. J Acad Nut Diet. 2017;117(8):1279-92.
Andrea Mathis, MA, RDN, LD is an Alabama-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of the healthy food blog, Beautiful Eats & Things. After completing her graduate studies at the University of Alabama, Andrea worked in several different healthcare settings including clinical, public health, and long-term care. Andrea believes in achieving optimal health by incorporating healthier eating habits into your lifestyle and making healthy eating fun! When she’s not running after her two toddlers, she’s going on exciting foodie adventures with her husband!