If you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a primer on the keto diet: Our body traditionally uses glucose to fuel both our muscles and our brain. When you cut your carb intake to less than 5% to 10% of your total calories, the glucose deprivation forces your body to instead use fat as fuel in your workouts and forces your brain to release ketones, a backup brain food that has such effects as stopping epilepsy and enhancing mental clarity.
So far, science has found that keto is an option for those looking to trim fat and can also help improve your insulin resistance and cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, and maybe even offset type-2 diabetes. However, another study from The Lancet suggests that limiting carbs can shorten your lifespan, and a large study presented at the 2018 European Society of Cardiology Congress found that people on the lowest-carb diets were the most likely to die from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all other causes.
While we don’t know the long-term effects of the diet, it can help you shed fat quickly and is safe in the short term. If you’re going keto, here are 24 essential foods that are easy to always have in the house.
RED MEAT AND POULTRY
Red meat and poultry contain zero carbohydrates and are loaded with B vitamins and minerals, including selenium, potassium, and zinc. A 3-ounce steak contains 26 grams of protein, and 3 ounces of a skinless chicken breast contains 28 grams of protein. Bonus: Red meat and poultry take on the flavor of whatever they’re seasoned with. The following seasonings are keto-friendly: chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, and pepper.
There’s less than 1 gram of carbohydrates and about 6 grams of protein in one egg. The yolk is the most nutritious part—loaded with B vitamins and antioxidants. Additionally, it’s a myth that the cholesterol in an egg will elevate blood cholesterol levels.
One ounce of sharp cheddar cheese has less than 1 gram of carbs but contains 10 grams of total fat (5.5 grams of saturated fat). Since cheese is high in saturated fat, it’s important to note that eating too much of it can do damage to fat-related blood levels.
Looking for a jolt of nutrition? Make an avocado part of a meal or snack, such as using it as a low-carb substitute for spreads. One cup of avocado packs just 12 grams of carbs, 21 grams of fat, and 3 grams of protein.
Fatty fish get the nod because they’re high in omega-3 fats, which can lower blood fat levels, curb joint pain and stiffness, and help treat depression. So pile your plate with salmon and mackerel twice a week to
Extra-virgin olive oil can move aside because coconut oil is the preferred choice for the keto diet. It’s made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are absorbed by the liver and converted into ketones. Ketones are used as a source of energy during the keto diet. It’s best to use coconut oil when cooking with low heat. This oil pairs well with seafood, baked goods, and Asian recipes.
You can go nuts with nuts on the keto diet. Pecans, Brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts contain the lowest amount of carbs per serving, with 4 to 5 grams of carbs in each 3-ounce serving. When you need a quick fix, nuts can provide you with the right amount of energy to help you continue powering through the day.
Seeds contain a significant amount of essential fatty and amino acids. Seeds are nutrient-dense—containing vitamins A, B, C, and E, plus calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, and manganese—so you don’t have to eat a lot to reap the benefits. Chia seeds (12 grams of carbs per 1 ounce), flaxseeds (8 grams of carbs), and pumpkin seeds (15 grams of carbs) can be eaten as a quick snack or sprinkled on salad.
Dark greens, like spinach and kale, can fuel the body with vitamin K, fiber, B vitamins, calcium, and lutein. The fiber found in leafy greens aids in weight loss and promotes digestion, while vitamin K increases cardiac output—letting you hit the gym more efficiently. One cup of kale contains 6 grams of carbs, and a cup of spinach has only 1 gram.
It can be difficult to find a keto-approved protein powder—one that offers a decent combo of low carbs, high fat, and moderate protein. So the next time you hit up the supp store, keep an eye out for BPI Sports ISO-HD Protein Powder, Perfect Keto Collagen, and Optimum Nutrition Platinum HydroWhey. Perfect Keto Collagen is made of MCTs and collagen—feeding your hard-trained muscles with the right blend of amino acids and fatty acids. antioxidants, which can prevent the free radical damage that’s produced during heavy lifting sessions.
Have no fear: You can still maintain your berry fix while going keto. A half-cup of blackberries or blueberries has 7 to 10 grams of carbs. Bonus: They’re loaded with
UNSWEETENED ALMOND MILK
Skim milk is rich in sugar and carbs, a reason to turn to unsweetened almond milk. One cup of Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk has only 1 gram of carbs and zero grams of sugar. Consider unsweetened almond milk for your next post-workout shake.
Yes, low-carb bread does exist. ThinSlim Foods produces low-carb foods, ranging from sliced bread to bagels. One bagel or one slice of bread from ThinSlim Foods has zero net carbs, so you can still enjoy a classic sandwich for lunch.
Most yogurts are high up on the sugar and carb lists, but full-fat Greek yogurt is approved for keto. One cup of whole-milk Greek yogurt will feed your body with 22 grams of protein and just 7 grams of carbs.
Continue to enjoy pizzas and stir-fries by using cauliflower as the crust or rice. You can grate a head of cauliflower for rice or find it pregrated in the frozen section. One cup of riced cauliflower has only 5 grams of carbs.
When you’re on the go and need to keep your protein up, grab beef jerky. One large piece of beef jerky packs 5 grams of total fat, 2 grams of carbs, and 7 grams of protein. Popular brands to look out for are Krave, Field Trip, and Jack Links,
If you’re looking to change up your snacks or meals, try some cottage cheese. A half-cup of regular cottage cheese contains 4 grams of fat and 12 grams of protein. Enjoy cottage cheese by itself or add it to a salad or a fajita bowl.
They’re supernutritious and can add a punch of flavor to any meal. Pick up some shiitake mushrooms during your next shopping trip— they’re loaded with vitamin B12 and vitamin D, which will aid in energy production and muscle recovery.
Give brussels sprouts a second chance by roasting them, which creates a warm, nutty flavor. One cup of this veggie has 8 grams of carbs and 3 grams of protein.
Keto-friendly spices will add more flavor to a dish without wreaking havoc on your carb profile. Try your choice of basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, or cilantro.
Containing 17 amino acids and an array of B vitamins, coconut aminos provide a sweet-salty flavor. Use them as a salad dressing, dipping sauce, or marinade.
Not only is it nutritious, but spiralized squash has only 7 grams of carbs per cup. It’ll also take on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked in, so keep it simple with coconut oil and a bit of salt and pepper.
Low-carb protein bars do exist, and the options are not limited. You can still get your protein fill when you’re craving something sweet. Add these to your shopping list: Perfect Keto Protein Bars, Quest Nutrition Protein Bars, Keto-Crave Energy Bars, and KetoSlim Protein Bars.
DELI LUNCH MEATS
Deli lunch meat is quick and easy—just add a few slices to a sandwich or create a rollup with