11 Foods Successful Keto Dieters Never Eat
A lot of tasty foods are OK for keto eaters—avocado, fish, and butter, for example. Some other delicious foods might be keto friendly, but people who've had weight-loss success on the keto diet think you should avoid them anyway. Here's why.
People on the ketogenic (keto) diet are fastidious carbohydrate counters. After all, most keto eaters aim to eat around 20 net—or total—carbs in a day. With a number that low, every single bite counts. Low- and no-carb foods may be particularly alluring for that reason, but Jessica Rosen, certified holistic health coach and co-founder of Raw Generation, says you should be wary. “Not all zero-carbohydrate foods are smart choices for a keto dieter,” Rosen says. “Artificial sweeteners may not have any carbs or calories, but they can negatively impact the healthy bacteria in your gut. That can lead to fat storage and digestive issues,” she says. “Degrading one’s gut bacteria can be particularly detrimental if you’re eating a diet high in difficult-to-digest proteins and fats.” (Here’s how the keto diet affects your body.)
If you assume the keto diet consists of eating limitless breakfast meats, your idea of healthy keto eating may need some fine-tuning. “Processed meats such as sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and canned meats should be avoided as much as possible as they are loaded with carcinogens,” Rosen says.
“These processed meats have zero carbs so people think they are fine to eat on keto,” says keto expert and global integrative health coach Karissa Long. “But these ultra-processed meats typically contain nitrites. When nitrites are exposed to high heat in the presence of protein—that is, the meats they have been added to—they can turn into compounds called nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens.” Rosen advises you instead pick “organic, grass-fed meat whenever possible.” It will help make sure you get all the benefits of the keto diet.
The average ketogenic dieter aims to get at least three-quarters of their macronutrients from fats. That includes sources like avocado, dairy, fish, nuts, and seeds. Many people rely on cooking oils for daily fat intake, too. These include canola oil, grapeseed oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil. However, Long says these may not be the healthiest choice. “These refined cooking oils are made by highly intensive mechanical and chemical processes to extract the oil from the seeds,” she says. “This process removes the natural nutrients from the seeds and creates a final product which oxidizes easily. The oxidation factor makes these oils more likely to break down into cancer-causing free radicals within the body, especially when heated.” Long says the consumption of these refined oils “has been linked to widespread inflammation within the body, elevated blood triglycerides, and impaired insulin response.” (Check out other things everyone gets wrong about the keto diet.)
Here again, sugar-free sweets may seem like a dream come true, especially when a craving for candy, brownies, or ice cream, hits, but just because they’re low-carb or keto-friendly doesn’t make them right for you.
“Many people lean on foods that are low- or zero-carb and will eat anything as long as it fits the keto macros, but I always stress food quality first,” says New York Times bestselling author and certified nutrition consultant Diane Sanfilippo, author of Keto Quick Start. (Here’s how one woman quit sugar with the keto diet.)
Social media is loaded with accounts dedicated to keto eating on the go. Many of these include fast food hacks for people who don’t have time—or don’t like—to cook. While popular, Sanfilippo says this is something you should avoid with your own keto eating plans. “I don’t eat fast food despite many keto options like bunless burgers,” Sanfilippo says. “I prefer to stop into a grocery store on a road trip if I’m in a pinch and need a bite without time or a restaurant in sight. I scope out easy, ready-to-eat options like roasted deli turkey, prosciutto, quality goat cheese, and some veggies.” You can also plan ahead and bring leftovers from these delicious keto diet plan dinners.
While keto eating may focus on fat consumption, protein is also important in your daily diet. Although you may think you need to eat protein-enhanced products in order to reach your daily goal, you could be setting yourself back. “Many keto eaters start eating lots of protein products as these are very trendy right now,” says Philip Oubre, MD, a functional medicine doctor in Austin, Texas, who frequently recommends the ketogenic diet. A true keto plan is 60 to 90 percent fat depending on preference, Dr. Oubre says. The remaining percentages fall to protein (10 to 30 percent) and carbohydrates (less than five percent). (Look for these keto diet-friendly snacks on Amazon.)
Most beers and cocktails are entirely off limits because the carb counts are too high, but some clear liquors and wines frequently get the thumbs up among keto dieters. However, if you’re really trying to stick to a clean keto lifestyle, Keith Kantor, PhD, a nutritionist and dietitian and CEO of the Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating and Drinking (NAMED) program, says you should avoid alcohol and wine altogether. “Red wine appears on a few of the keto-approved food lists, but in order to experience the benefits of being in ketosis, you should avoid red wine,” says Dr. Kantor says. “Alcohol can hinder the body’s ability to effectively burn fat as fuel.” (Learn about the main reasons people fail on the keto diet and how you can succeed.)
When you want to slip in a little something sweet, you may be tempted to reach for ultra-dark chocolate, a food that’s frequently touted as keto-friendly. But be careful what you nibble, Dr. Kantor says. “Dark chocolate should also be avoided or only consumed as a special treat, not regularly,” he says. “Even the highest percent of dark chocolate has some sugar in it, and if your body has a difficult time remaining in ketosis, it will throw off your metabolism, excluding you from the health benefits of being in ketosis.” (Stock up on these keto-approved foods at Costco instead.)
These popular snacks loaded with butter, peanut butter, cocoa, and other ingredients come in both savory and sweet forms. They’re touted as the surest way to reach your daily fat total. But are they necessary? No, says Stephanie Laska, author of Dirty, Lazy Keto. In fact, she avoids them entirely. “First of all, they’re gross,” Laska says. “Who wants to eat just fat? Rather, I feel it is beneficial to enjoy fats with regular food.” Laska says butter on Brussels sprouts is a much better investment in her health. “I also want to burn fat from my booty, not from my coffee loaded with heavy whipped cream,” Laska says.” (Follow this keto diet menu for beginners.)
Most milk and milk products like yogurt are off limits for keto eaters because the natural sugars in dairy can quickly top your carb counts. Heavy cream, however, isn’t a high-carb dairy food, so it’s popular in keto dishes, drinks, and more. That doesn’t mean it should be in yours, says Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD, and nutrition director at Trifecta. “There is little to no nutrition in this food,” Satrazemis says. Plus, people who are dairy sensitive may find that it doesn’t agree with their stomach, adds Satrazemis adds. (Here are the 13 warnings doctors have about starting the keto diet.)
Keto snacks and packaged foods
The food products market is brimming with new products aimed to please the palates of keto eaters who miss sweets, snacks, and foods that are just too high in carbs for everyday eating. But just because they’re touted as keto-friendly specifically doesn’t mean a keto eater should buy them.
“Anything that contains more food-like substances than actual food is not really worth it to me—unless they are satisfying a serious craving,” Satrazemis says. “If I can’t visualize the ingredients and process of making it myself at home, I tend to skip it. These options may fit my macros, but they can be low in nutritional value and tend to not satiate me the same way whole foods do.” Try making these keto diet recipes a part of your weekly meals instead.