What to eat and what to avoid on a ketogenic diet


A few weeks  ago, I felt my ketogenic lifestyle plan was failing. Everyone seemed to be losing more weight than I was, even though I knew that my slow weight loss (6kg in 12 weeks) was probably because I was breastfeeding. I decided to go back to the basics, and create a big list of good and bad foods to help me make better decisions when shopping.

The whole principle behind the ketogenic diet is that it generates energy for your bodily function from fats rather than carbohydrates. This means that your body burns fat, rather than carbohydrates, to generate energy. This also means that you will need to starve yourself of carbohydrates and eat more fatty foods – crazy, I know but it works. The basics of what to eat on a ketogenic diet are pretty simple:

  • Eat very little carbohydrates.
  • Eat lots of fats.
  • Eat moderate amount of protein.

The exact amounts of each macronutrient you need for your body to go into ketosis will vary from person to person, but listed below are some recommendations.

Good fats you can eat on the ketogenic diet

Fats should be the majority of your daily intake on the ketogenic diet, so it is important to ensure that you eat the right kind of fatty foods with your digestive tolerance in mind. The fatty foods that you should be choosing will be filled with healthy nutrients.

  1. Saturated and Monosaturated Fats.

Foods in this category constitute of butter, chicken fat, ghee, avocado, olive oil, and coconut oil

  1. Polyunsaturated Omega 3s

Polyunsaturated Omega 3s are mostly derived from fish and seafood. If however, you aren’t a big fan of fish, you can get some nutritional supplements to help you fill the deficit. You also need to avoid hydrogenated fats such as vegetable oil. If you need to use oil, try using coconut oil or spray the pan lightly rather than saturating your food.

Bearing in mind that organic and grass-fed sources of animal fats are always preferred, here are some great options for building fats and oil into your ketogenic diet.

  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Macademia nuts
  • Mayonnaise
  • Chicken fat
  • Avocado
  • Peanut Butter

Proteins you can eat on the ketogenic diet

Proteins are also an essential part of a ketogenic diet. Eating protein will cause you to be less hungry. While proteins should take significantly less space in your diet than fats and oils, you need them to be able to create enough energy. They will also increase energy and motivational levels, a reoccurring symptom of creation of ketones through ketosis. As with fats, grass-fed and organic sources of proteins are a healthier choice.

Examples include:

  • Fish
  • Red Meat
  • Poultry
  • Pork
  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Shellfish
  • Peanut Butter


Vegetables you can eat on the ketogenic diet

Vegetables are an essential source to your diet as they provide many nutrients that proteins and fatty acids do not. It is best to go for leafy greens grown mostly above ground as these are healthier. Choose organic vegetables or grow your own to avoid pesticide residues.

While vegetables are significantly healthy, be careful to watch out for those that are high in sugar. The best types of kind for a ketogenic diet are vegetables which are dark and leafy such as kale and spinach. Here are some more examples: among others:

  • Asparagus
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Cabbage
  • Coconut
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Tomatoes (Not too much)
  • Mushrooms
  • Romaine Lettuce (note Iceberg lettuce does not have the nutritional value needed)

Dairy Products you can eat on the ketogenic diet

Dairy products can also be a source of protein and vitamin D. However, they should be raw and purchased in full fat, not in low fat. Also, you should consider raw and unpasteurized diary. The key to finding keto-friendly dairy is to always consider the carb and sugar content.

Here are some options:

  • Full fat yoghurt
  • Cheeses (both hard and soft)
  • Sour Cream
  • Unsweetened whole milk yoghurt (limit amounts as it is a little higher in carb)

Seeds and Nuts you can eat on the ketogenic diet

Nuts are a great source of protein and nutrients. They are excellent to snack on and will curb cravings. For the best nutritional value, nuts are best when roasted to remove anti-nutrients. This gives the nut as most nutritional value as can possibly be obtained.

You should also look for nuts that are unsalted. Often times, sunflower seeds and cashews will already come pre- salted. Check the box or container to be sure that you are only getting the nut, and not processed sodium with it.

Examples of healthy nuts to go for are:

  • Macadamia nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower seeds

Remember that nuts are very high in Omega-6 fatty acids. They also add to your carbohydrate intake so you’ll want to limit your intake.

Beverages you can drink on the ketogenic diet

One of the most popular symptoms that occur with ketosis is dehydration. A ketogenic diet has a natural diuretic effect. Water plays a very important role in our body so it is extremely important to keep hydrated.

While on a ketogenic diet, always keep a bottle of water with you. Water is the best beverage to keep hydrated. It’s natural, free of any anti-nutrients, and benefits your body in every way that it needs to. In order to meet dehydration needs, drink at least eight glasses of water a day. If you have had urinary infections or problems or bladder infections in the past, you will want to drink twice the amount of what you believe you need.

Other beverages you can try include:

  • Coffee – black, with cream or coconut milk
  • Herbal teas

Spices you can use on the ketogenic diet

Spices are a very tricky part of the ketogenic diet. Spices do have carbs, so be sure to watch your intake of them. Most commercial spice mixes usually have sugar added to them, so do check the ingredients of any spice blends to avoid added sugar. Also, sea salt is preferred over table salt, which is usually mixed with powdered dextrose.

  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Chilli Powder
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Tumeric
  • Sage
  • Curry powder

What Not to Eat on the Ketogenic diet

Now that we have covered foods that are allowed on the ketogenic diet, let’s take a look at foods that should be avoided on this diet.

On the ketogenic diet, any food high in carbs should be eliminated. Here is a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:

Sugary foods:

  • Sugars – table sugar, HFCS, agave syrup, ice cream, cakes, sweet puddings, sugary soft-drinks, fruit juices, smoothies, ice cream, candy, etc – should be avoided.
  • Grains: Rice, wheat, bulgur, oats are all a no-no. This includes all products made from grains (pasta, bread, pizza, cookies, crackers, etc)
  • Fruit: Most fruits contain a high amount of carbohydrates and therefore should be avoided. Examples are bananas, olives, peaches, grapes, apricots, strawberry, watermelons, blackberry, raspberry, rhubarb and cranberry. Also avoid extracts and juices from these fruits.
  • Processed or packaged foods: Avoid processed or packaged foods as these often come with added artificial additions. Go for natural foods instead.
  • Beans or legumes: Peanuts, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
  • Root vegetables and tubers: Most vegetables that grow below the earth are very high on carbohydrates. Examples are carrots, potatoes, yams etc.
  • Low-fat or diet products: These are highly processed and often high in carbs. They include diet soda and drinks, chewing gums and mints
  • Unhealthy fats: Limit your intake of processed hydrogenated fat such as vegetable oil, etc.
  • Alcohol: Due to a high carb content, many alcoholic beverages are not to be consumed on a keto diet.
  • Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
  • Milk (only small amounts of raw, full-fat milk is allowed): Milk is not recommended for several reasons. Of all the dairy products, milk is difficult to digest, as it lacks the “good” bacteria (eliminated through pasteurization) and may even contain hormones. Secondly, it is quite high in carbs (4-5 grams of carbs per 100 ml). For coffee and tea, replace milk with cream in reasonable amounts.
Comments (2)
  • Very precise,Thanks for the info. Now I know what to eat.

    • Thank you very much – glad to be of help!

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