If you're thinking about trying a new diet to shed some pounds, the keto diet is probably the first thing that's come to mind. The idea of maintaining ketosis has taken over the weight loss space ever since celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian and Halle Berry touted the keto diet in years past, pushing an extremely high-fat (and nearly zero-carb!) diet plan to the forefront of the discussion. Being curious about the keto diet is only natural, because let's be real: There are very few other diets where copious amounts of bacon and cheese are on the menu.
Simply listing the different ingredients you can and can't eat while working your way through the keto diet doesn't explain how exactly it works. The diet's main principle is maintaining ketosis, a metabolic state that pushes your body to burn fat for daily fuel rather than glucose sourced from carbohydrates. Originally designed to help patients fight epilepsy, the keto diet supposedly guides you into ketosis by eliminating some significant food groups that you normally interact with every day — mainly, items containing sugars and carbohydrates, as these don't allow your metabolism to use fat as a main energy source.
Sugar and carbohydrates don't sound like they're part of a healthy meal to most — but in reality, they can be found in some pretty nutritious items you'll have to cut out of your diet entirely. It's why nutritionists and health experts may be critical of the keto diet, especially since deprivation requires tons of willpower that might be counterintuitive to your needs. While the keto diet could result in serious weight loss for those who can stick to the diet's plan, if you know you simply can't give up bread or fruits, it's okay — Stefani Sassos, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian within the Good Housekeeping Institute, says that the Mediterranean diet or 'flexitarian' meal plans could also help you lose weight in the long run.
If you've seen a friend transform their body while on the keto diet, read up on what it entails below before you take a swing at achieving ketosis. Like all diets, Sassos points out that the keto program doesn't guarantee sustained weight loss (in fact, some people report ballooning in weight afterwards) and that you should discuss any long term diet changes with your healthcare provider.
What You Can Eat on a Keto Diet:
Get ready for a whole lot of fat, some protein, and just about zero carbs throughout your day. Keto-approved fridges and pantries include plenty of meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, nuts, fats and oils, and some veggies that grow above ground.
- Plenty of meats: Chicken, pork, steak, ground beef, lamb, bacon, turkey, ham, and sausage (in limited amounts).
- Fatty seafood: Salmon, snapper, tuna, halibut, cod, trout, catfish, scallops.
- Shellfish: Crab, clams, oysters, lobster, mussels.
- Most fats and oils: Eggs, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, lard, avocado oil (and plenty of avocados!), mayonnaise.
- High-fat dairy: Heavy cream, soft and hard cheeses, cream cheese, and sour cream.
- A selection of vegetables: Cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, green beans, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, asparagus, cucumber, onion, mushroom, spinach, lettuce, and olives.
- Most nuts: Almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, as well as their retrospective butters (look for natural varieties that aren't sweetened).
- A selection of berries: Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries.
- Some of your favorite beverages: Unsweetened coffee and black tea is OK. Dry wine, champagne, and hard liquor should be enjoyed sparingly.
- All spices and some sweeteners: Enjoy stevia and sucralose every once in a while.
What You Can't Eat on the Keto Diet:
It's a pretty exhaustive list, and probably includes some of your favorites: Bread, rice, pasta, fruit, corn, potatoes, beans, baked goods, sweets, juice, and beer all get the axe. Basically, you have to avoid most sugars and starches. Whole grains like oatmeal don't even make the cut!
- Almost all fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, watermelon, peaches, melon, pineapple, cherries, pears, lemons, limes, grapefruits, plums, mango, and more.
- Most grains: Wheat, rice, rye, oats, corn, quinoa, barley, millet, bulgur, amaranth, buckwheat, and sprouted grains.
- Starches: Bread (all of it!), bagels, cereal, pasta, rice, corn, oatmeal, crackers, pizza, popcorn, granola, muesli, flour. There are some work arounds that dieters can still enjoy, like faux tortilla wraps that are made from cheese.
- Legumes: Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, lentils.
- Real sweeteners and sugar: Cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, Splenda, aspartame, saccharin, and corn syrup. You'll have to settle for sugar alternatives, including natural substitutes like this monkfruit sugar replacement.
- Sweet treats: Candy, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, tarts, pies, ice cream, cookies, pudding, and custard. Dieters can shop for dessert alternatives like this keto-friendly ice cream that won't impact your blood sugar levels in a single serving.
- A selection of cooking oils: Canola oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil.
- Alcohol: Beer, cider, sweet wines, and sweetened alcoholic drinks. If you're going to spring for wine, keep it as dry as possible — the bottle should have less than 10g of sugar in its entirety.
- Bottled condiments: Ketchup, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, some salad dressings and hot sauces that contain added sugar.
- Low-fat dairy: Things like skim milk, skim mozzarella, fat-free yogurt, low-fat cheese and cream cheese should be swapped for higher-fat counterparts.
If you're tempted to go keto, consult with your doctor before embarking on any extreme weight loss plan. While the ketogenic diet can include some healthful foods (we're all about broccoli), many others get nixed (bye, bananas and sweet potatoes).
*With additional reporting by Caroline Picard.