The purpose of following a very low-carb diet is to put your body into and maintain a state of ketosis, where your body uses fat rather than glucose for energy.
In order for your body to enter the correct metabolic state to support ketosis, carbohydrate intake must make up less than 10% of your total daily calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this means limiting carbohydrates to 20 to 50 grams per day.
This can be a challenge because many of the foods considered healthy are high in carbohydrates. Many of these foods should be consumed only in small amounts, while others should be avoided altogether.
This will help you avoid the guesswork and establish the best and healthiest keto diet. Here’s a list of 7 foods to avoid.
1. Baked Goods
Before reaching for a sweet pumpkin muffin or fluffy croissant, remember that these will offset your keto diet efforts.
“You need to limit carbs to a very low amount to maintain ketosis,” explains Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD, nutrition communications specialist, and co-founder of Appetite for Health. “That means any sugar-rich treats or processed foods are pretty much off-limits on keto,” she continues.
Not only will pastries and baked goods put you over your daily intake of carbohydrates on a keto diet. But the extra calories and added sugars in sweets can eventually lead to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
2. Sweetened Yogurt
Upton recommends buying only plain, unsweetened or low-sugar yogurt brands. By doing so, you can avoid sweetened or fruit-flavored yogurts, which can contain up to about 12 teaspoons of pure sugar, according to SFGATE.
A bowl of Greek yogurt can be an excellent source of protein in the morning, which is especially good for a keto diet. According to the USDA, 100 grams of plain nonfat Greek yogurt has about 10 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat and only 4 grams of carbohydrates, making it a great keto-friendly snack if consumed in moderation. It can also be a wonderful source of protein in the morning, which is especially good for a keto diet.
A keto parfait doesn’t have to be bland; you can add toppings to enhance the flavor and add texture without compromising your dieting efforts.
“[For] low-carb alternatives in your diet, you’ll choose berries and other low-sugar fruits,” says Upton. You’ll be able to enjoy the natural sweetness while still staying within the calorie intake of ketosis.
3. Ice Cream
The keto diet is not for the faint of heart, especially for those with a sweet tooth. In reality, a traditional tub of ice cream consists of only a few key ingredients: milk, cream and sugar. As of 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that no more than two-thirds of a cup of regular ice cream should be served.
Today, you can find multiple ice cream brands that have surfaced in grocery stores offering keto-friendly ice cream options. These products are typically low carb, low or zero sugar and often use healthy sweetener alternatives such as stevia, rosemary and sugar alcohols.
4. Beans and Lentils
Beans and soy products are very nutritious foods and are excellent sources of nutrients including fiber and protein.
Unfortunately, despite the high fiber content, one serving of most beans and legumes contains a lot of net carbohydrates.
You must avoid foods that include kidney beans, black beans, lentils and peas.
If you can tolerate these foods, you may be able to include small amounts of these types of foods in your keto diet.
Try small amounts of chickpeas, hummus, peanuts, whole soybeans, or fermented soy products such as tofu or tempeh.
“If eaten regularly, foods high in saturated fat, such as bacon, can lead to elevated cholesterol levels,” Goodson explains.
For a short period of time, having high cholesterol levels may not put the body in immediate danger. Although, a long-term diet consisting of many sources of saturated fat can put a person at risk for cardiovascular disease or even a heart attack.
When eating keto, it’s best to focus on foods that are high in protein and have moderate amounts of healthy fats. But it’s also important to remember that “not all fats are created equal,” Goodson says.
6. Some Salad Dressings
Many commercially prepared salad dressings on the market have a lot of added sugar, unhealthy fats and sodium. While all of these are usually bad for you, it’s especially important to recognize these factors when trying to follow a keto diet.
“[All of these] should be limited and not consumed on a regular basis,” Goodson says.
Adding sodium-heavy dressings to nutrient-rich salads can also cause a person’s blood pressure to spike. In addition, “two tablespoons of Italian salad dressing may contain as much as 350 milligrams of sodium,” Kathy McManus, director of nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Harvard Health. In addition, this sodium content reportedly exceeds the sodium content of a medium-sized serving of McDonald’s fries, according to the same Harvard Health article.
7. Processed Meats
Protein and healthy fats play an important role in the keto diet. While ultra-processed meats – such as deli meats, hot dogs and sausages – have no carbohydrates or sugar, they contain high levels of nitrates that are bad for your heart health in the long run. So, when planning meals with protein and healthy fats in mind, you should try to choose leaner meats to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
“Choose leaner meats to avoid high cholesterol intake,” advises Brittany Dunn, MS, RDN, CD, and chef specializing in sports nutrition.” Eating more lean meats can also limit saturated and trans fats in processed foods and meats.”
The keto diet may have its benefits, but one can only take advantage of these benefits if they stick to the dietary requirements. While being low in carbohydrates and sugar isn’t always easy, avoiding the types of foods mentioned above will give you the best chance. Focusing on foods that are high in protein and fat is also key to committing to this meal plan.