Going on a low carb diet is exciting, especially if there are weight loss goals involved. The keto diet, in particular, is an excellent way to lose weight, prevent disease, and improve mental health. When considering going on the ketogenic diet, it’s important to know which foods to avoid. Having a general understanding of which foods will kick a body out of ketosis (we explain how ketosis works in the Body Reboot book), and discerning which foods are keto-friendly will make dieting a lot easier. To draw a line in the sand between what to eat and what to avoid we’ve provided a list of some of the foods to stay away from. Do well on this high fat, low carb diet by having a plan in place!
When you go on the ketogenic diet one of the first things you should avoid are packaged and processed foods. Not only do processed foods have a lot of hidden carbs, but according to Ruled.me, processed and packed foods also come stuffed with trans fats, preservatives and other junk you should avoid.
Processed/Packaged Food Products, Condiments, and Ingredients That Should Be Avoided on Keto
Manufacturers tend to stuff packaged products with extra sugar, trans fats, preservatives, and other junk to make their food less perishable and more palatable.
In general, it is best to avoid packaged and processed foods like:
Sugar-sweetened gum and mints
Ice cream and other frozen treats
Even most packaged foods that are labeled as “low-carb” or “zero-carb” should be approached with caution. Many of these products try to trick you with small servings sizes that look keto-friendly while a reasonable serving has a much higher net carb content. These products also typically use gluten, artificial additives, or other ingredients that may not be good for your health.
Diet Doctor explains why sugar is a big no-no (in their words). It makes sense, but sugar, in all honesty, will kick you out of ketosis. If your body isn’t burning fat you’re going to have a hard time losing weight and plus, you won’t feel good eating all of that sugar anyway.
Sugar: This is the big no-no. Cut out all soft drinks, fruit juice, sport drinks and “vitamin water” (these are all basically sugar water). Avoid sweets, candy, cakes, cookies, chocolate bars, donuts, frozen treats and breakfast cereals.
Read labels for hidden sugars, especially in sauces, condiments, drinks, dressings and packaged goods. Honey, maple syrup, and agave are also sugars. Ideally try to avoid or limit artificial sweeteners as well.
Even though you’ll be naturally eating high-fat foods that have protein in them, Ruled.me says you should focus on eating more fat as opposed to protein. Some protein sources, in particular, should be avoided.
Protein intake plays a crucial role in helping you build muscle and curb cravings, but not all protein sources are both keto-friendly and healthy.
Some of the high-protein foods that should be avoided for best results on keto include:
Milk and all low- and reduced-fat dairy products. This includes low-fat yogurts, fat-free butter substitutes, reduced fat cheese, evaporated skim milk, low-fat cream cheese, and other similar dairy products.
Factory farmed meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood. Although many of these foods are keto-friendly from a fat, protein, and carb content perspective, they may not be optimal for overall health because they tend to be nutritionally inferior to pasture-raised animal products and wild caught seafood.
Instead of eating the foods listed above, opt for full-fat, pasture-raised dairy products (e.g., full-fat yogurt with no sugar added, butter, heavy cream, and sour cream), wild-caught fatty fish, and pasture-raised meat and eggs.
Eating Well explains how grains aren’t the best to eat on a low carb diet. Even though whole-grains are healthy, on a low-carb diet it’s best to avoid grain and instead, opt for low carb veggies instead.
Cereal, crackers, rice, pasta, bread and beer are high in carbohydrates. Even whole-wheat pasta and the new bean-based pastas are high in carbs. Consider alternatives like spiralized vegetables or shirataki noodles, which are healthier low-carb options. Sugary breakfast cereals and healthy whole-grain cereals are high in carbohydrates too and should be avoided or minimized. “A slice of bread is 11 grams of carbs on average so technically you could have one slice a day maybe but that's spending all your carbs on pretty poor nutrition so I wouldn't recommend it when for the same carbs you could have A LOT of veggies,” says Dority.
Of course, sugar is really bad for you, and chips and crackers fall into the same camp. Most cookies have sugar, and even though chips have a lot of fat, they mostly consist of carbohydrates. Eating Well further discusses why chips and cookies should stay off your keto menu:
Avoid chips, crackers and other processed, grain-based snack foods, which are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber.
Gluten-free baked goods
Gluten-free does not equal carb-free. In fact, many gluten-free breads and muffins are as high in carbohydrates as traditional baked goods. They usually lack fiber too.
What about margarine? Butter is keto-friendly, but margarine, according to Diet Doctor, should be avoided. It doesn’t have a lot of health benefits and it can also cause asthma.
Margarine: It’s industrially produced imitated butter with a very high content of omega-6 fat. It has no obvious health benefits, and many people feel that it tastes worse than butter. It might be linked to asthma, allergies and other inflammatory diseases, possibly because of the high omega-6 content.
Good Housekeeping has a list of many foods that you should stay away from eating, from sauces to root vegetables.
candy, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, tarts, pies, ice cream, cookies, pudding, custard
black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, lentils
Sweetened Sauces and Dips
ketchup, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, some salad dressings and hot sauces
potatoes (both sweet and regular), carrots, yams, parsnips, yuca, beets, turnips
juice, smoothies, soda, sweetened tea and coffee
Similarly, Woman’s Day also has a list on what to avoid — a few of these are surprising! To succeed on the keto diet, it’s best to eat keto-friendly foods and stay away from the following foods:
Make it easier to stay within the macronutrient framework of the keto diet by steering clear of these foods, Hyman says:
Beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts
Grains, such as rice, pasta, and oatmeal
Low-fat dairy products
Added sugars and sweeteners
Sugary beverages, including juice and soda
Traditional snack foods, such as potato chips, pretzels, and crackers
Most fruits, except for lemons, limes, tomatoes, and small portions of berries
Starchy vegetables, including corn, potatoes, and peas
Trans fats, such as margarine or other hydrogentated fats
Most alcohols, including wine, beer, and sweetened cocktails
Ultimately, as Ruled.me reminds us, even though there are obvious foods to avoid, sometimes you need to listen to your body. Depending on what you eat, you’ll need to gauge whether your body stays in ketosis or not. Regularly test your ketones (the fat you’re burning instead of glucose) and determine what you need to change and improve to meet your health goals.
To make the keto diet easier to follow, we must choose foods that are accessible and enjoyable, foods that make it is easy for us to meet our fat and protein needs while keeping net carbs low. When you consider the foods you eat from this perspective, it makes it easier for you to figure out what is “keto-friendly” for your diet.
On a practical level, here is a step by step process you can use to figure out if you can fit a specific food or product into your keto diet:
Follow a standard keto diet for a few weeks to get a baseline of how low I need to keep my carbs to sustain ketosis (for most people, this is below 25 grams of net carbs).
Gather relevant info (i.e., fat, protein, fiber, and net carb content) about the food product in question.
Figure out what you need to cut out or add in to fit the new food into your diet. What adjustments should you make to stay below the carb limit that tends to keep you in ketosis?
If the food is high enough in net carbs that you cannot stay within your carb limit, then it is not keto-friendly and you should avoid it. If you can fit the food into your keto diet while meeting your other nutritional needs (i.e., fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber), then that food is keto-friendly for you.
In general, foods that have around 10 grams of net carbs or more will be much more difficult to fit into your keto diet. This is why any food with more than 6 grams of net carbs per serving will typically find itself on the “do not eat” or “eat in moderation” list for a standard keto diet.
Now that you know some of the foods you should avoid eating on the ketogenic diet, we would encourage you to do your own research to learn more about the keto diet. For an excellent overview of the diet and how you can get started, we discuss all of this and more in the Body Reboot book. If you want a free copy of the book simply helps us cover the cost of shipping and visit this page to snag your free copy today!
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