WHAT ARE THE BEST NO-CARB FOODS?
We totally understand how overwhelming the process of switching to the keto diet can be, especially if you have always eaten a diet high in carbohydrates. If you find yourself apprehensive about diving into the keto diet because you have no clue which foods to eat, then you’ve come to the right place!
Thankfully, we’ve done all the homework necessary to compile a handy no-carb food list for keto! This article will walk you through a complete outline of the best no-carb foods to get you into ketosis and help you reap the benefits of the keto lifestyle!
Trust us, the keto diet is much easier to follow once you know which no-carb foods to shop for when you go to the grocery store. If you need a helpful reminder, use this article to make your keto grocery list, just pull it up on your smartphone, or print it out and bring it along to the supermarket.
Be aware that this guide is meant to show you which foods are appropriate for the keto diet (i.e. foods that contain zero net carbohydrates) per serving, but we encourage you to track your food intake by using an app such as MyFitnessPal, at least for the first few weeks of starting the keto diet to make sure you’re not overeating carbs.
Don’t worry, tracking your food intake with an app is pretty straightforward and generally quicker than having to do all the tracking and calculations by hand.
HOW MANY CALORIES SHOULD I EAT ON KETO? WHAT SHOULD MY KETO MACROS BE?
Are you uncertain about how many carbs, proteins, and fats you should be eating to get into (and stay in) ketosis? As a general guideline, a proper ketogenic diet will contain about 5% of total daily calories from carbs; 75% of calories from fat; and 20% of calories from protein.
Intuitively, the main thing is to limit your carbohydrate intake so your body relies on fat for energy instead of glucose. However, if you want a precise look at your specific calorie and nutrient needs for the keto diet, then we recommend using a keto macronutrient calculator (Team Keto macro calculator is in development).
You can also help your body transition into ketosis quickly by using an exogenous ketone supplement like TeamKeto Exogenous Ketones. (We have an article that explains more about the science behind BHB salts and how to use them.)
NO-CARBS FOOD LIST FOR KETO
After you’ve figured out how much to eat for keto, you’re ready to rock! The next step is to choose what to eat to get into ketosis. Read on to learn all about the best no-carb foods for keto and low-carb diets.
NO-CARB FAT SOURCES
Intuitively, you’ll be consuming plenty of fats and oils as part of your keto diet. Nevertheless, not all fats are created equal, so you need to be somewhat cerebral when shopping for no-carb fat sources.
For example, avocadoes are awesome sources of monounsaturated fats, but they also contain a modest amount of carbs. Hence, avocadoes don’t fit on a no-carb food list. (They do, however, have a place in the keto diet.)
Dietary fats come in two forms: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are most abundant in foods like butter, cheese, coconut, and meat; unsaturated fats are richest in foods like the aforementioned avocado, seafood, almonds, sesame seeds, and olive oil.
As you can see, foods that are high in unsaturated fats also tend to be foods that contain carbohydrates - albeit a relatively low amount of net carbs. As such, no-carb fat sources are somewhat limited.
Since dietary fat is the major component of the keto diet, we advise eating a generous amount of both unsaturated and saturated fats. In general, you’ll want to consume about 25-30% of your total daily fat intake as saturated fat, and the rest should come from unsaturated fats.
For the most part, your diet should be high in monounsaturated fats and essential fatty acids, like omega-3s and omega-6s. The best no-carb foods for these types of fats are oily fish, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and grass-fed butter.
Here’s a comprehensive list of no-carb fat sources:
NO-CARB PROTEIN SOURCES
Assuming you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, chances are your meat and seafood consumption will increase rather substantially to help you meet your protein needs on keto. Thankfully, most animal meats and seafood are carb-free foods by nature.
However, not all meats and seafood are no-carb protein sources. In general, the best no-carb foods for protein are beef, salmon, pork, tuna, turkey, and chicken. The nice thing about the keto diet is you no longer have to be picky about the fat content of meat and seafood. This means fatty steak cuts and even 80%/20% ground beef are suitable no-carb foods for keto.
Here are the best no-carb protein sources to choose from on the keto diet:
There are a few things to watch out for when you’re selecting no-carb protein sources that we previously covered on our how much protein to eat on keto guide, including:
- Processed deli meats (smoked, cured, etc.) that are high in sugar. When in doubt, opt for fresh meat and seafood and always check the food label to be sure there aren’t tons of added sugars.
- Breaded Meats (chicken nuggets, fish sticks, etc.) that are fried with high-carb batter. You will usually find breaded meats and seafood in the frozen food aisle at the supermarket, so be careful to avoid these as they can pack quite a bit of “hidden” carbs into your diet.
- Glazed Meats (teriyaki chicken, brown sugar ham, etc.) that contain sugary coatings. Conventional glazes and sauces are almost always loaded with sugar, cornstarch, and other carb-laden additives.
If you’re craving something like a chicken casserole or other traditional entrees, TeamKeto has a collection of free keto recipes that show you how to make tasty meat and seafood dishes low-carb!
The keto diet works like a natural diuretic because carbohydrates are hydrophilic molecules, meaning they attract water and pull fluid wherever they go in the body. This is why you might feel bloated after eating a starch-rich meal and drinking a lot of water to wash it down.
Naturally, many people find themselves dehydrated when they first start out on keto because they are used to the general recommendation of eight cups of water per day.
For most people, 100-150 ounces of water per day is the proper amount to aim for on keto (maybe even more if you’re an athlete or highly active). A no-nonsense way to assess your hydration: If your urine is clear, you’re good to go; if it's dark yellow (or orange), start drinking water!
Also, remember that caffeine is a strong diuretic; if you drink keto coffee throughout the day be sure to hydrate with water to keep your energy and focus high.
With that in mind, here are the best no-carb beverages to drink on keto:
- Carbonated water
- Keto Coffee
- Tea (unsweetened varieties)
- Diet soda sweetened with stevia
NO-CARB CONDIMENTS AND SAUCES
Just because you’re on keto doesn’t mean you’re stuck eating nothing but bland meat and plain veggies over and over again. In fact, you’ll have the freedom to use a wide selection of no-carb condiments, sauces, and seasonings on keto, including:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Bone broth
- Hot sauce (unsweetened)
- Soy sauce
- Herbs, dried or fresh (basil, thyme, oregano, etc.)
- Spices, dried or fresh (black pepper, red pepper, garlic, ginger, etc.)
- Lemon/lime juice
- Mustard (brown, dijon, yellow, etc.)
Sauces, gravies, marinades, and condiments as a whole are something you’ll need to assess on a case-by-case basis. Some conventional condiments, like yellow mustard and Tobasco sauce, contain zero carbs per serving. On the flip side, barbecue and teriyaki sauces often contain 20+ grams of sugar in a mere two tablespoons (which is not much at all when you measure it out). When in doubt, read the food labels of condiments and sauces so you aren’t overlooking “hidden” carbs that may sneak into your keto diet.
Your best bet is to buy whole spices/herbs/oils and make your own seasonings and dressings at home. For example, you can make a simple and healthy no-carb salad dressing by mixing extra-virgin olive oil mixed with apple cider vinegar and seasonings.
It may seem like a contradiction to use sweeteners on the keto diet, but several non-nutritive, zero-carb sweeteners are suitable for replacing sugar in recipes/drinks:
- Katemfe fruit extract
- Monk fruit extract
- Pure stevia extract
Obviously, you’ll want to avoid conventional sweeteners on keto, such as table sugar, maple syrup, honey, etc. Even one teaspoon of table sugar contains four grams of carbs, which is a modicum compared to the amount most people put in their morning coffee.
Also, be wary of drinks and food items that are "sugar-free" as there’s a good chance they are loaded with fillers like maltodextrin and gut-wrenching sugar alcohols (particularly sorbitol and maltitol). Such fillers and sugar alcohols are common in prepackaged “diet” foods, like protein bars, sugar-free candy, and diabetic food products. Erythritol is the best sugar alcohol in terms of being easy-to-digest, though it technically has a slight effect on blood sugar.
NO-CARB FOODS VS. LOW-CARB FOODS
In the strictest sense, no-carb foods are foods that have absolutely zero carbohydrates. A more loose interpretation is that no-carb foods are foods that have zero net carbs, meaning their total carb content minus the fiber content is equal to zero, which is characteristic of pure fibers like inulin.
WHAT IS NET CARB COUNT?
Net carb count is a term you’ve probably heard quite a bit, and may even see it on some food labels. But what exactly is net carb count? In short, it’s the number of carbohydrates in a food that have an impact on blood glucose levels. Since fiber is not digested and absorbed in the upper GI tract like starch and simple sugars, fiber has a negligible impact on blood glucose levels; if anything, fiber can help reduce blood sugar spikes after a meal that’s rich in starchy foods.
Hence, when you see a food that says it has a low net carb count, it might still contain 15-20 grams of “total carbs,” but most of them come from fiber. To figure out the net carb count of food, you subtract the fiber content from the total carb content.
For example, a food with 6 g of total carbs and 4 g of fiber has a net carb count of 2 g. Note that sugar alcohols are typically treated like fiber for determining net carb count since they travel through the GI tract largely undigested.
VERY LOW-CARB FOODS
The following foods are still keto-friendly, but you’ll need to be a little more picky about the amounts that you eat. The difference between no-carb foods and very-low-carb foods is that the former, by definition, contains zero carbs; the latter may contain anywhere from 1-5 g of carbs per serving since there are no strict criteria of very-low-carb foods.
Surprisingly, shopping for vegetables on the keto diet requires a little bit more thought than you might imagine. Certain vegetables (usually the ones that are brighter in color) can actually knock you out of ketosis in a hurry due to their starch content.
The best veggies for keto are rich in micronutrients and fiber (making them low in net carbs). These are generally leafy greens - like spinach and romaine lettuce - as well as cruciferous vegetables - like broccoli and cauliflower.
If you are able to afford it, opt for natural/organic vegetables as they are cultivated with fewer pesticides. (Don’t sweat it if you can’t buy organic - even “regular” vegetables are still plenty healthy.)
Listed below, you'll find a selection of vegetables that we recommend for the keto diet:
Not seeing a vegetable that you’re looking for? This list is not all-inclusive; you can always verify if a food is keto-friendly by checking through an app like MyFitnessPal.
KETO NUTS AND SEEDS
Nuts, seeds, and foods like nut/seed butter are another great source of fats for the keto diet. They are quite useful for making low-carb versions of otherwise high-carb recipes since you can replace grain-based flours with things like almond flour and soy flour.
However, it’s necessary to be selective about which nuts and seeds you consume since certain varieties aren’t very low in carbs.
Here are some general guidelines for keto-friendly nuts and seeds:
- Fat-rich, low-carbohydrate nuts include macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, and pecans.
- Fat-rich, moderate-carbohydrate nuts/seeds include walnuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.
- Fatty, higher-carb nuts/seeds include pistachios, soy nuts, cashews, and tahini (consumption of these should be limited).
Be careful to monitor your snacking when it comes to nuts and seeds. As we all know, it’s a breeze to mindlessly nosh on peanuts while watching TV. Unfortunately, this can tally up your carb (and calorie) count in a hurry if you’re not paying attention. In fact, a handful of many nuts or seeds can pack well over 200 calories and upwards of 10 grams of net carbs.
LOW-CARB DAIRY FOODS
Are you a cheese lover? How about yogurt? Well, it’s your lucky day! It’s okay to eat certain dairy foods on keto without worrying about being kicked out of ketosis.
In fact, consuming some low-carb dairy foods can be beneficial since dairy is a good source of calcium, vitamin D, fat, protein, and even probiotics that nourish your gut. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good Sunday morning omelet filled topped with cheddar?
Here are the best low-carb dairy foods:
- Aged cheese varieties (cheddar, bleu, mozzarella, etc.)
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Fresh cheese varieties (Pepper jack, Monterey jack, swiss, etc.)
- Greek yogurt
- Heavy whipping cream
- Mayonnaise and mayo alternatives that include dairy
- Ricotta cheese
- Sour cream
That being said, you shouldn’t be consuming a ton of dairy every day, since it can increase inflammation and even kick you out of ketosis if you’re eating large amounts of things like yogurt and cottage cheese. If you are lactose intolerant, stick with hard and long-aged dairy foods as they contain much less lactose.
You’ll generally want to opt for fresh, raw, and/or organic dairy foods.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR CARBS LOW
The main thing to watch out for when you want to keep carbs low is the “incidental” carbs found in veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, and dairy. As a general rule-of-thumb, the more processed the food is, the more carbs it usually contains. For example, fresh cheddar cheese typically only has 2-3 grams of carbs per serving, whereas processed cheddar cheese slices often contain twice that amount.
Always read the nutrition facts/labels of store-bought food items to make sure they are keto-friendly. Be mindful to check the carb content of things like seasoning blends and “low-carb” dressings/sauces; they often contain fillers, sugar, and artificial sweeteners that can negatively impact ketosis.
Also, not all vegetables are intrinsically keto-friendly. While you may be able to eat small amounts of higher-carb veggies, they should not be staples in your ketogenic nutrition plan. Here are the more common higher-carb vegetables to watch out for:
- Bright-colored vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, and certain squash.
- Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.
- Starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and yams.
Likewise, fruits that are high in sugar - like oranges, bananas, and apples - are a no-go for keto. Berries tend to have the most fiber of any fruits, but you should still limit consumption of them. If you’re ever questioning which fruits are suitable for keto, check a nutrition database or app like MyFitnessPal.
Needless to say, eschew dried and candied fruits; they are loaded with added sugars and have no place in a very-low-carb diet.
NO-CARB FOOD FAQ:
Question #1 - I’ve been constipated ever since starting keto. What should I do?
We recommend using an appropriate exogenous ketone supplement like FUEL Exogenous Ketones since beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and magnesium salts can help promote regularity (without the negative effects of stimulant laxatives).Question #2 - Can I eat fast food on the keto diet?
Actually, yes! However, fast food should not be a regular part of your keto meal plan. If you’re traveling and in a pinch for a meal and fast food is the only option, then you can certainly make it work without being kicked out of ketosis.Question #3 - Should I weigh meat and seafood portion sizes before or after cooking?
We recommend weighing meat and seafood when raw for consistency and accuracy. Depending on the cooking method you use, meat and seafood can lose up to 50% of their weight.Question #4 - Is there a limit to how many condiments I can use each meal?
We recommend no more than 2-3 servings of condiments per meal; be especially strict with the use of condiments that contain carbs and sugar (e.g. ketchup, BBQ sauce, etc.).Question #5 - How much fruit can I eat on keto?
There’s no hard rule on this, but to keep carb intake under 30 grams or so per day you’ll likely want to limit yourself to three servings of keto-friendly fruit per day.Question #6 - Can I drink diet soda and sugar-free beverages on keto?
Yes, but they should not be your main form of liquid. There is some evidence that artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and acesulfame-K, may be harmful to the gut microbiome and potentially increase insulin levels. Instead, try adding stevia extract and Pure C8 MCTs to your coffee for a healthy fat boost that satisfies your sweet tooth!
USE THIS NO-CARB FOOD LIST TO GET STARTED!
Now that you know exactly which no-carb foods to eat on the keto diet, head out to the supermarket and let the journey of carb-free life begin!
Something that we should note before you take off is that whole, natural foods should comprise the majority of your diet. It’s okay to eat some processed and prepackaged food, but those shouldn’t be the staples in your keto diet. Remember, whole foods tend to have the most micronutrients and the least amounts of additives.
If you’re at a loss for how to make all of these no-carb foods tasty and convenient for meal prep, then be sure to check out the TeamKeto Recipe Database packed with mouthwatering keto recipes that are sure to satisfy your cravings!