Keto Diet Grocery List: A Dietitian’s Guide

Keto Diet Grocery List: A Dietitian’s Guide

Are you looking for a keto diet grocery list that will help you lose weight, without compromising your health?

The ketogenic diet is an ultra-low-carb, high-fat diet initially developed for the treatment of severe childhood epilepsy. But, more recently, the diet has been used successfully to facilitate weight loss and aid in the management of type two diabetes. Keto is also gaining traction with ultra-endurance athletes.

While the keto approach has grown in popularity, there are still many misconceptions regarding the best foods to eat on the ketogenic diet. In this article you’ll learn:

  • What is the ketogenic diet and how does it facilitate weight loss?
  • What foods can and can’t you eat on the ketogenic diet?
  • What are the healthiest foods to eat on the ketogenic diet?
  • You can download our FWDfuel Ketogenic Diet Food List pdf & Pro Tip Guide for expert support when starting your keto journey!

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet minimizes carbohydrate intake and maximizes fat intake to induce ketosis — a metabolic state during which your body switches from burning carbs as the primary fuel, to burning predominantly fat and ketones.

Ketones are high-energy compounds produced when your body is deprived of carbohydrates. When you eat very few carbs, your body’s blood glucose levels (free carbohydrates) and stored glycogen levels (chains of carbohydrates) become very low.

As a result, your body looks for an alternative fuel and its next best option is, you guessed it—fat. The mitochondria in your liver start to convert both dietary fats and stored fats into ketones, which can then be used as an alternative fuel to glucose. As ketones are water-soluble, unlike fats, they can pass easily into the bloodstream and even cross the blood-brain barrier providing fuel for the brain.

Ultimately, the ketogenic diet facilitates weight loss by forcing your body to burn stored fat. In a recent systematic review of eleven clinical trials, researchers found that a ketogenic diet helped patients lose on average 2.2 kg more than a traditional low-fat diet.[1]

Macronutrient Breakdown on the Ketogenic Diet

Fat is the cornerstone of the ketogenic diet because you need to eat fat to burn fat. If you eat too many carbs, your body will resort to burning glucose as the primary fuel. So don’t believe the fat-makes-you-fat myth!

But just how much fat should you eat? The ketogenic diet involves eating approximately:

  • 70-75% of daily calories from fat
  • 20-25% of daily calories from protein
  • 5-10% of daily calories from carbohydrates.

Remember, these percentages should be used as a guideline only. Even on the keto diet, everyone has different macronutrient needs depending on their individual lifestyle. But as a basic beginners rule, you can start by limiting your carbohydrate intake to between 25-50 grams per day, and replacing lost calories with high amounts of fat and moderate amounts of protein.

Foods to Eat on the Ketogenic Diet

Eat low-carb foods like meat, fish, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, occasional high-fat dairy, and natural plant-based fats.

Diagram of recommended foods to eat on a ketogenic diet and their respective net carbohydrates.

The bold numbers in the above diagram indicate the number of net carbs, i.e., digestible carbs per 100 grams of each food. The best foods have less than 3 grams of net carbs per 100 grams, while reasonably good options have between 3-6 grams per 100 grams.  

Foods to Keep Off your Ketogenic Diet Food List

To remain in a ketogenic state you will need to keep your carb intake below 25-50 grams per day. (And in certain situations, elite endurance athletes can go slightly higher.) This means limiting high-carb foods containing sugars and starches.

Diagram of foods to avoid on a ketogenic diet such as fruits, dried fruit, candy, etc.

Avoid eating bread, pasta, rice, noodles, fruit, cakes, candy, chocolate bars and starchy vegetables grown below the ground. Please keep in mind that the amount of carbohydrate listed above next to each item is only if you consumed the SMALLEST serving size. Which, let’s be honest, most of us do not do!

What to Drink on the Ketogenic Diet

Drink plenty of water, as much unsweetened tea as you like (if you tolerate caffeine) and coffee in moderation, but use milk sparingly if at all. Avoid soft drinks, juice, flavored milk, and alcohol.

Diagram of showing both the types of drinks to avoid as well as ideal drinks to include on a ketogenic diet.

The Complete Keto Diet Grocery List

Now that you have a basic understanding of what you can and can’t eat on the keto diet let’s delve into the most healthy options.

Meat and Poultry

Meat and poultry are staples on the ketogenic diet. Both are essentially carbohydrate-free and provide a complete source of protein with all essential amino acids needed for the growth, maintenance, and repair of your body. Meat is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, iron, and vitamin B12, which are essential for healthy red blood cells and energy.

But you need to choose your meat wisely. Pre-marinated and processed meats, such as sausages, bacon, deli cuts, and skewers can contain additional carbs- and chemicals for that matter! Instead, select unprocessed varieties, such as fresh chicken fillets, whole turkey, or sirloin steak. If possible, choose grass-fed, organic options. These meats contain no hormones or artificial chemicals and have higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.[2]

Remember, the ketogenic diet is high fat—not high protein—so you don’t need to consume large amounts of meat. As a general rule of thumb, limit protein to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Ideally, you would work with a licensed dietitian (anyone can call themselves a nutritionist as this term is not regulated. Only licensed individuals may call themselves a dietitian) for a more accurate recommendation based on your health and lifestyle. However, I know some of your out there are just winging this so that is my suggestion to start.

If you over consume protein, any excess amino acids will be converted into glucose through a process known as gluconeogenesis, ultimately sabotaging your efforts to reach ketosis.

Rewind…GlucoNeoSayWhatNow? Gluconeogenesis (Pronounced GLU-CO-NEO-GENEH-SIS) is the process of making glucose from dietary proteins, and it occurs in the liver. You may have heard: carbohydrates are the body’s and brain’s preferred energy source. Hence, when given the opportunity, your body converts dietary proteins into glucose. So don’t over consume protein! If you’re worried about preserving muscle mass, don’t stress, your body is not designed to start breaking down muscle protein, especially when you’re eating enough fat and overall calorie intake is meeting your exercise demands.

NOTE: To keep fat intake high, you will see that some experts suggest eating fatty meats over lean meats. I, on the other hand, recommend focusing more on increasing your plant-based fats such as avocados and olive oil in order to reach a state of steady ketosis. The goal here is not to lose weight while destroying overall health in the process.

However, I will mention something briefly for my meat lovers.

It’s true all meat naturally contains saturated sat. But saturated fats have been painted in a bad light. Saturated fats were once believed to increase LDL “bad” cholesterol in the blood, which then builds up on the artery walls and causes a heart attack or stroke. However, this theory is not backed by sound scientific evidence.[3]  

Over the past decade, experts have realized that natural saturated fats should no longer be feared. In the most recent systematic review of saturated fats and cardiovascular disease 15 randomized controlled trials including 59,000 participants were analyzed. Researchers found that reducing saturated fat had no effect on death or death from cardiovascular disease. The results also demonstrated that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, including Omega-3s, decreased the risk of cardiac events by 14%. This does not mean that saturated fats are “bad,” just that certain types of unsaturated fats are protective, while saturated fats appear to have no effect.[4]

Let’s also make it clear that the living conditions and diet in which that saturated-fat containing animal ate, makes a difference. After all, you are what your animal eats. And lastly, a diet full of sat-fat laden meats AND processed, refined snacks loaded with sugar and additives is a recipe for disaster, no matter how you slice it. No one’s heart or general health for that matter is going to thrive on that combo.

So the overall message is: fat is your friend, but you need to choose your friends wisely.

Fish and Seafood

Fish and seafood are very keto-friendly foods, especially fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Fish is virtually carb-free, yet rich in vitamins D and B2, as well as minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus.

Fatty fish is an important source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the maintenance of a healthy heart and brain. Two of the most critical Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are EPA and DHA. These Omega-3 fatty acids may help lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.[5]

DHA is especially important for optimal fetal brain and vision development. If you’re pregnant or nursing, I recommend eating 2 to 3 servings of cooked fish per week, opting for varieties that are low in mercury. Mercury can have adverse effects on the nervous, digestive and immune system. If possible, choose wild-caught Alaskan salmon, Pacific sardines, or farmed rainbow trout. Eating fatty fish can also protect against age-related cognitive decline and reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.But not all that glitters is gold. Certain types of seafood contain some carbs. For example, shellfish like crab and prawns are carbohydrate-free, while mussels and octopus contain between 4-7 grams per 100 grams. For a complete list of the most keto-friendly fish and seafood, download the FWDfuel Starter Guide & Keto Diet Grocery List PDF.

I also recommend avoiding crumbed or battered varieties, as these can contain additional carbs and when deep fried are high in trans fats. Eating lots of trans fat is one of the most significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. (Yes, time to throw away those keto-friendly pork rinds.)

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs

Eggs are an excellent, inexpensive source of high-quality protein and the perfect way to start the day on the ketogenic diet. One large egg contains roughly 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and a negligible 0.6 grams of carbohydrate. What’s more? Eggs contain a healthy balance of almost all known nutrients, except vitamin C.

For the biggest nutritional boost choose organic, free-range eggs and for the very best quality look for “pasture raised” on the label.[6] Remember, we are what our animals eat and chickens were meant to roam free and eat worms and insects, not a feed of GMO corn or wheat. There really is a huge difference in the nutritional quality of cheap eggs and high quality, pasture-raised eggs.

OK, I digress. Eat eggs whatever way you like—boiled, poached, fried or scrambled. But cook with healthy oils, and load them up with veggies, like mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, and good fat like avocado. Eating an omelet for breakfast will make you feel full and more satisfied throughout the day—it’s proven by studies!

You might be wondering, but eggs contain cholesterol? Yes, this is true. One large egg contains roughly 186 milligrams of cholesterol—all within the yolk. The old-school thought was that eating cholesterol would raise your blood cholesterol and lead to heart disease. Thus, eggs were considered too high in cholesterol to consume regularly.

However, much like the unnecessary demonization of saturated fat mentioned earlier, research now shows eggs aren’t that bad after all. We now know that dietary cholesterol has a minuscule effect on blood cholesterol. Cholesterol is actually made in our liver each day, and its production is moderated by the different types of fat in our diet. [7]

In fact, studies show that eggs are brimming with heart-healthy fats including anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, research has demonstrated that eggs actually modify LDL “bad” cholesterol in a way that reduces your risk of heart disease. [8]

And yes some of you are exclaiming, but wait! What about the most recent study that just came out saying eggs are bad again? To that I say (after studying diet and lab results of my patients and clients for almost 10 years) at the end of the day, you have to take suggestions like this on a person by person basis. I say this for three reasons.

  1. Genetics play a big role
  2. You must look at the individual’s ENTIRE diet a long with those eggs. Are they eating pre-packaged “healthy” foods , diet soda, restaurant food etc. each day or each week? All of this matters and nutrition must be viewed as a big picture.
  3. QUALITY, QUALITY, QUALITY. Major studies such as the one mentioned above as well as many others that have been done on saturated fat, never truly studied the quality of the animal being consumed. Were the chickens penned up and living in filth and feces while eating grains sprayed with chemicals, or were they free to roam in beautiful green pastures that allowed them to snack on their natural diet of insects?!

Non-starchy Vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables are the foundation of a healthy ketogenic diet and should accompany every meal, fresh or frozen. Typically grown above the ground, non-starchy vegetables are low in carbohydrates, and provide a rich source of nutrients without adding many calories.

Load your pantry up with green leafy vegetables, like lettuce and spinach, and cruciferous vegetables, like kale, cauliflower, and broccoli. These vegetables are high in fiber for healthy digestion and contain powerful antioxidants that help fight off free radicals.

Avoid “starchy” vegetables, that typically grow low to the ground, such as parsnip, potato, and pumpkin. One serving of root vegetables, like yams, can quickly put you over the daily carbohydrate intake. When first starting out, also limit more colorful options, like peppers and eggplant, as these have slightly higher sugar content.

Overall, aim to eat an abundance of veggies—either raw or cooked—and generously drizzle them with olive oil. You can also use low-carb vegetables as substitutes for higher-carb foods. Try making  “zoodles” from zucchini, blend cauliflower to mimic mashed potatoes, or make lettuce cups instead of corn tacos.

High-Fat Dairy

High-fat dairy, including butter, cream, yogurt, and cheese are commonly recommended on the Ketogenic diet. Consuming dairy in moderation (if well tolerated) can help transition your body into a ketogenic state. However, proceed with caution. Dairy foods naturally contain trans fats, which have been linked consistently over the last three decades to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. [9]

These fats elevate overall blood triglycerides, while also increasing LDL “bad” cholesterol and reducing HDL “good” cholesterol. Dairy foods have also been linked to inflammatory conditions, like arthritis and acne—but that’s a whole nother kettle of fish!

I recommend avoiding milk, as natural sugars in cow’s milk can quickly add up. Just one glass contains 12 grams of carbs. It’s also best to avoid low-fat yogurt due to added sugars. Full-fat varieties, like plain Greek yogurt, are better options and may be consumed in small quantities.

However, since the ketogenic diet is so high in fat already, we really want to do our best to make the most heart-healthy choices, and as a result, you should really try to limit dairy and focus more on plant-based fats, such as avocado oil, olives, and seeds. Coconut milk and almond milk are excellent non-dairy milk alternatives that are safe to consume on the ketogenic diet. These milk substitutes contain few carbohydrates, as long as you choose unsweetened options. To learn more about the best plant-based fats to include in a healthy ketogenic diet, check out our FWDfuel Ketogenic Diet Food List & Pro Tip Guide.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds should be a staple item on the keto diet grocery list. Nuts and seeds contain very few carbohydrates and are loaded with healthy fats, particularly monounsaturated fats. Consuming nuts on a regular basis has been linked to lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. One of the largest nut studies to date found that those who consumed a handful of nuts five or more times a week had a 20% lower risk of heart attack.[10]

Another study found that regularly consuming a handful of tree nuts can lower risk of all-cause mortality among diabetics by 27%. [11] What’s more? Nuts and seeds are high in fiber, making them the perfect portable snack to ease hunger and reduce overall consumption.  

While nuts and seeds are generally low in net carbs, some varieties have more than others. (Note: Net carbs = Total carbs – Fiber). For example, a handful of brazil nuts, which is around 28 grams, only has just 1 gram of net carbs, while a handful of cashews has 8 grams of net carbs. Chia seeds only have 1 gram of net carbs, while the equivalent in pumpkin seeds has 4 grams.

It’s also important to choose raw nuts that are not roasted in toxic oils, pasteurized, or coated in sugar or flavorings. Roasted nuts indeed are tasty, but overheating can destroy healthy fats. If possible, opt for organic varieties, which are free from pesticides and antimicrobials.

With that said, be careful not to binge on nuts! Nuts are energy dense, which can lead to a calorie surplus. Nuts are also high in polyunsaturated fats, which can have a pro-inflammatory effect. To learn more about the best nuts and seeds to stock up your pantry with download our Ketogenic Diet Food List & Pro Tip Guide.

Oils, Sauces & Dressing

The majority of your calories on the keto diet should come from fat. A decent portion of fat can be obtained through eating meat, fish, and dairy. However, you can also increase your intake of heart-healthy fats by sautéing, baking and drizzling with unrefined oils.

When cooking, it’s crucial you choose an oil with a high smoke point, which refers to the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke and burn. When oils are heated beyond their smoke point, beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals are lost. Overheating can also impart harmful free radicals. [12]  

Cooking on most conventional stoves typically involves heats between 250 – 400°F. Therefore, it’s best to cook with oils that have a smoke point above 400°F, like avocado oil, peanut oil, and coconut oil.

For medium heat cooking, as well as preparing salad dressings and marinades, I recommend using olive oil, as long as it is extra virgin olive oil. This means the oil has NOT been refined or overly processed. Extra Virgin olive oil has one of the highest monounsaturated fat contents, and many studies show it’s one of the best options for heart health.[13]

Steer clear of pre-made salad dressings, especially those labeled diet or low-fat as these often contain added sugar. Instead make your own using a combination of olive oil, flaxseed oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and dijon mustard. Also avoid using high-sugar sauces, like ketchup, barbeque sauce, and sweetened salsa. Great low-carb, high-fat alternatives include pesto, guacamole, and aioli. For a full list of the best oils and sauces, check out our Ketogenic Diet Food List & Pro Tip Guide.

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are a terrific way to flavor foods on the ketogenic diet. Powdered herbs and spices are low-carb and have incredible health benefits. Turmeric, for instance, fights inflammation and cinnamon is packed full of antioxidants that combat aging. When possible, I recommend using fresh herbs instead of dried as these have at least 3 times the nutritional value.

However, the carbs in herbs and spices can quickly add up, especially if you’re sprinkling your favorites on every meal. In fact, some of the most commonly used herbs and spices have more than 3 grams of carbs per tablespoon:

  • Oregano – 3.3 grams
  • Garlic powder – 6 grams
  • Onion powder – 5.4 grams
  • Chili powder – 4.1 gram
  • Turmeric powder – 4.4 grams

Sweeteners

If you’re serious about reaping the rewards of ketosis, sugar is off the table. I know this sounds daunting. But there’s good news: once you’re keto-adapted, your cravings will almost magically disappear. You will no longer crave dessert after every meal, nor will you “need” sugary snacks in the mid-afternoon. But let’s face it, we all have a sweet craving from time to time. So what are your safest sugar alternatives?

Definitely not artificial sweeteners. These intensely sweet chemicals wreak havoc on our digestive and immune system, and really have no place in a healthy diet. Stevia, a natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant is a better option. Another choice is sugar alcohols, assuming your gastrointestinal tract is a fan.

These organic compounds are derived from natural sugars, including fruits, vegetables, and cornstarch. They taste very similar to sugar but have far fewer calories. Why? Sugar alcohols have a similar chemical structure to sugar, and therefore, activate our sweet receptors in just the same way. However, they aren’t entirely absorbed during digestion so don’t provide many calories.

The downside? Since alcohol sugars are fermented in the gut, overeating can result in discomfort and diarrhea. One of the best sugar alcohols is erythritol, as there appears to be no fermentation in the stomach.[14] However, I strongly suggest limiting these as much as possible to avoid any dependence. Other good options to use on the odd occasion are xylitol and sorbitol. Xylitol has been used in products, like toothpaste from many years, and is known to fight tooth decay.

Note: If you’ve finally reached ketosis, but you’re struggling with unpleasant “keto breath” don’t undo all your hard work with sweet chewing gum or breath mints. There are plenty of sugar-free gums on the market. Most contain harmful artificial sweeteners and flavors, but you can find gums containing sugar alcohols, such as XyloBurst Gum and Epic Dental Mints with Xylitol.

Get Keto Adapted Today

The ketogenic diet can help you lose weight and can provide several health benefits, including more energy, fewer cravings, better cognition, and greater glucose control. If you are looking for a little extra guidance before getting started, check out the FWDfuel Keto Diet Grocery List and Pro Tips.

I have spent many years teaching the ketogenic diet and as a result, I know firsthand the most common questions asked and the biggest pitfalls made. The FWDfuel Keto Guide & Pro Tips PDF Guide contains a list of ideal food choices as well as tips and tricks for beginners hoping to experience keto success off the bat. Download today and begin your journey towards a healthy life in ketosis!

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26768850

[2]https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-9-10?fbclid=IwAR01MjgGcX_tdkgN1gexqJzFQD4WxJ8LST8UDvq_Th4PxDQ164FdhtBwOh4

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20888548

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26068959

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6085127/

[6] https://www.wageningenacademic.com/doi/abs/10.3920/978-90-8686-821-6_10

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19343078

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23021013

HFD [9] https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2139.long

[10] http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/70/20/2519.full

[11] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.314316

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22668846

[13]https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/B328CCD8A46011BBEF1BA556D574DE15/S0007114515000136a.pdf/virgin_olive_oil_a_key_food_for_cardiovascular_risk_protection.pdf

[14] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273230096901105

About The Author

Kylene Bogden

Kylene Bogden is one of the most well respected Functional Sports Dietitians in the United States. As a high school and collegiate sprinter, she experienced recurrent injury and fatigue. After years of constant struggle, she eventually learned that an abundance of processed foods and poor fueling strategies were the root of her performance issues. Kylene's personal journey as an athlete fueled her passion for finding a more progressive approach to sports nutrition. Since then, she has helped thousands of individuals dramatically improve overall health and athletic performance by taking a whole food approach. To learn more about Kylene's story and how a functional nutrition approach can help you to achieve your goals, simply click on the contact us link in the upper right-hand corner today!

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