The ketogenic diet is a diet that takes its name from the fact that the body switches to using ketones as a primary energy source . These ketones are produced in the liver from broken down fat particles. It will therefore not surprise you that a ketogenic diet mainly consists of the consumption of fat.
Your body starts using fat as an energy source, because consumption of carbohydrates is kept to a minimum. In a typical regular Western (American) diet, about half of the calories consumed (50%) consist of carbohydrates, 35% consist of fat and 15% consist of proteins (1) .
With a ketogenic diet, the above macronutrient ratios (ratio between carbohydrates, protein fat) are shaken considerably.
With a ketogenic diet, carbohydrate consumption is reduced to 5% of your daily calorie consumption. This means that you will eat between 20-50 grams of carbohydrates one day.
The ketogenic diet has the reputation that it is a fairly ‘hardcore’ diet in the sense that it puts an entire group of nutrients ‘offside’. This is because the purpose of the diet is to put your body in a ketogenic state; ketosis.
Ketosis is a natural reaction of your body to survive when you eat little. Your body produces so-called ketones during this process. These are substances that arise when the liver breaks down fats.
So you are going to lose fat by eating more fat !!
With which types of food you can achieve the best results you will now read.
Macro nutrients in the ketogenic diet
Before we discuss the different food groups, it is important to discuss the composition of different nutrients within the ketogenic diet.
To get and stay in ketosis you will need to keep your macronutrients in the right balance . The image below shows that the distribution of your macronutrients consists of approximately 70% fat (fats), 25% proteins (protein) and 5% carbohydrates (carbs) .
This amounts to approximately 20 to 30 grams of net carbohydrates per day . To calculate the number of net carbohydrates, take the total number of carbohydrates minus the non-digestible carbohydrates (fibers and polyols).
Besides the fact that it is important to minimize your carbohydrate intake, it is equally important not to get too many proteins. Your protein intake must be moderate, not high.
Now you may think:
“But proteins are not carbohydrates, why should I pay attention to this?”
Because the body prefers glucose as an energy source, it has a mechanism that is able to convert proteins into glucose. This process is called gluconeogenesis .
You want to avoid this process within a ketogenic diet for two reasons:
- When the body uses proteins as fuel, this prevents your body from falling into ketosis. So you will not experience the benefits of ketosis, your body remains dependent on glucose as fuel instead of fat.
- In addition, it is not desirable for your body to convert proteins into glucose because you can lose your own muscle mass in this way. Muscles consist of proteins and when gluconeogenesis occurs, your body breaks down muscle mass to use as fuel. So instead of burning fat, your own muscles are burning!
So now let’s see which DOs exist in the ketogenic diet, and DON’TS are also covered .
On a keto diet you get most of your calories from fats . Of course you can take your own preferences into account. You can incorporate oil and fat into your meals in all sorts of ways; in dressings and sauces, for example, but also simply through a knob of butter on a piece of meat.
Fats are essential for our bodies , but if you eat too many of the wrong types, they can also be dangerous. With a keto diet you have to deal with different types.
Different foods usually combine various types of fat, but the unhealthy fats are easy to avoid.
Three types of fats are permitted within the ketogenic diet : saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats. Let’s see which foods are included.
It is possible that the alarm bells will ring at your place now, and that you think:
“Saturated fats?!? But aren’t they unhealthy ?! ”
For years, saturated fats have been in a bad light because they were thought to be bad for the cardiovascular system.
However, recent scientific studies have shown that there is no connection between the consumption of saturated fats and cardiovascular diseases (2) . In fact, there are even proven health benefits related to healthy saturated fats.
Recommended sources of saturated fats within the ketogenic diet:
- Coconut oil
- Cocoa butter
- Palm oil
- Red meat
Unlike saturated fats, monounsaturated fatty acids have had a good reputation for years. Scientific research has shown that they are good for your HDL cholesterol and better insulin sensitivity (3)
Recommended sources of monounsaturated fats within the ketogenic diet:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Macadamia nuts and macadamia oil
Polyunsaturated fats carry proven health benefits that are attributed to the presence of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are essential nutrients, which means that your body can only get them through food.
However, it is very important to monitor the correct ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. The ideal ratio is 1: 1.
In the standard Western diet, however, this ratio is 1:30, an overdose of omega-6! This has an anti-inflammatory effect and is therefore not desirable .
Try therefore to focus on the consumption of healthy omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish and you can supplement this with a fish oil supplement or, even better, with krill oil .
Recommended sources of polyunsaturated fats:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Flax seed and linseed oil
- Fatty fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel)
- Chia seed
- Nut oil
- Avocado oil
- Hemp oil
When heating the above oils (excluding avocado oil) free radicals are created that are harmful to your body. The oils oxidize and lose their healthy properties!
If you like to cook your food, choose non-hydrogenated lard, beef fat, ghee or coconut oil, since they have a higher smoke point than other types of oil. As a result, you will experience less oil oxidation, which means that you will get more of the essential fatty acids.
As stated earlier in this article, about 20-25% of your daily calorie intake should consist of proteins in a ketogenic diet.
It is important to pay close attention to this, because too high protein consumption will cause your body to switch to a process called gluconeogenesis. This means that your body breaks down proteins into amino acids and then turns them into glucose.
The result of too high protein consumption is therefore that your body will use glucose as a fuel, so that you do not get or remain in ketosis.
A tip with which you can ‘balance’ proteins with fats is by balancing the proteins in your meals with fatter side dishes and sauces. If you want to eat lean beef, be extra careful with the protein portions.
Beef jerky and other lean beef snacks can tap quickly for your proteins, so make sure you always combine these types of products with something greasy – cheese for example!
Recommended sources of proteins are:
Beef (preferably fattier parts):
- Minced meat
Pork (preferably fattier parts):
- Minced meat
- Pork loin
- Pork chops
- Attorney patches
- Chicken (preferably dark meat such as thighs)
- A D
- Other wild poultry
Fish (the fatter the better):
Shellfish / seafood:
Organ meat is not everyone’s favorite. It can be the taste or texture of the meat that sometimes takes some getting used to. Yet organ meat is full of vitamins and nutrients. It is not for nothing that the liver is called ‘ mother nature’s multivitamin’ .
So try to eat kidneys, liver, tongue or heart. Properly prepared it can be very tasty and therefore very nutritious.
Nut butters are also good ways to get proteins and fats. Opt for unsweetened and fatter varieties such as almond, hazelnut and macadamia butter.
Beware of over-consumption because otherwise you will get too many omega-6 fatty acids. Macadamias have the best ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids of all nuts.
For many years, eggs have had a bad reputation for cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. According to the now outdated Disc of Five, one could eat a maximum of three eggs per week, because otherwise the cholesterol level would be negatively affected.
But what appears ? Eating an egg every day reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease(4). So let the omelettes, poached eggs and boiled eggs come!
Below you will see a list of some of the most commonly eaten protein sources in the keto diet and their respective nutritional values. Keep in mind that you still need to balance your protein intake in relation to your fat consumption.
|Keto protein source||Calories||Fat (g)||Net carbohydrates (g)||Protein (g)|
|Ground beef (115 g, 0/20)||280||23||0||20|
|Ribeye steak (115 g)||330||25||0||27|
|Bacon (115 g)||519||51||0||13|
|Pork chop (115 g)||286||18||0||30|
|Chicken thigh (115 g)||250||20||0||17|
|Chicken breast (115 g)||125||1||0||26|
|Salmon (115 g)||236||15||0||23|
|Minced lamb (115 g)||319||7||0||19|
|Liver (115 g)||135||5||0||19|
|Egg (1, large)||70||5||0.5||6|
|Almond butter (2 tbsp)||180||16||4||6|
If you use a ketogenic diet then you will want to get the majority of your carbohydrates through vegetables such as leafy vegetables, (green) asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and almost all other vegetables that grow above the ground.
The rest of the carbohydrates you get will come from nuts, seeds, dairy and with occasional red fruit such as raspberries and berries.
Fruits and vegetables
The best types of vegetables for a ketogenic diet are high in nutrients and low in carbohydrates. These are, as you probably already guessed, especially the (dark) green leafy vegetables. Everything that looks like spinach or kale falls into this category and is the best you can add to anything you want.
Try to choose cruciferous vegetables that grow above the ground and that are leafy and green. If possible, choose organic; there are fewer pesticide residues on it, but if organic doesn’t work, don’t worry. Studies show that organic and non-organic vegetables still have the same nutritional value. Both frozen vegetables and fresh are fine.
You should avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips and corn because of their high carbohydrate content.
Below is a nutritional table for the most eaten vegetables that fit into a ketogenic diet. Keep in mind that the weight of all items in the table is the same, which can lead to a crooked image of the amount of carbohydrates.
For example: during a meal you can eat around 175 grams of broccoli as a side dish, but of course you do not eat 175 grams of blueberries with your breakfast; such a quantity would be enough for a pudding for four people.
|Keto fruit / vegetable (175 g)||Calories||Fat (g)||Net carbohydrates (g)||Protein (g)|
You can use many different dairy products within the keto diet, as long as they are full fat. Organic and raw products are also preferred over pasteurized.
Below is a nutritional table of the most common dairy products that are eaten with the ketogenic diet. By far the most commonly used products are cream (for tea / coffee) and cheese (for extra fat during meals).
Dairy products that you absolutely want to avoid are the low-fat dairy products, because the valuable fats have been extracted from them, while the fats have to serve as fuel for our bodies.
Below is a table with the most common products that are consumed during a ketogenic diet.
Note: the nutritional values in the table are based on portions of around 28 grams.
|Keto dairy source (28 g)||Calories||Fat (g)||Net carbohydrates (g)||Protein (g)|
|Full fat cream||100||12||0||0|
Nuts and seeds
Nuts can be a great source of fats, but don’t forget that they contain so many carbohydrates that they can tap considerably.
It is also important to note that nuts also contain proteins . Nut flour in particular can quickly yield substantial amounts of protein – so be careful with the amount you use.
Nuts can also contain a lot of omega-6 fatty acids , so also in this regard it is good to be aware of the amount that you consume. In general, it is best to opt for the fatter types of nuts with relatively few carbohydrates.
Ideal keto nut: The Macadamia
The king of nuts is the macadamia. This nut has the best fatty acid ratio of all nuts.
Where some nuts quickly lead to a skewed ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the macadamia is distinguished by not having much of the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
In addition, the macadamia is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats.
The only disadvantage of this super nut is the price, macadamias are unfortunately not as cheap as a bag of salted peanuts from the lower shelves of the supermarket.
Other fatty, low-carbohydrate nuts are Brazil nuts and pecans.
A category of nuts that you can consume moderately are the fat nuts with an average amount of carbohydrates :
- Pine nuts
In addition, there is also a category of nuts that are high in carbohydrates and that you should therefore rarely or never eat! :
- Cashew nuts
- Pistachio nuts
Below you can see a nutritional value table of some of the nuts used during the Keto Diet. Remember that snacking will slow your weight loss:
|Keto nut source (2 oz./ca. 50 g)||Calories||Fat (g)||Net carbohydrates (g)||Protein (g)|
Nuts and seeds flour is a perfect substitute for regular flour. Seeds and nuts appear regularly on a keto diet in recipes for cakes and desserts. Nuts (in the form of almond flour) and seeds (in the form of linseed flour) are common, but must be eaten in moderation.
In general you can mix different flour types to get a realistic structure in baking recipes. By combining flour types and experimenting, you can create recipes with considerably fewer carbohydrates.
Remember that different types of flour also have different properties. For example, from coconut flour you would only need half the amount of almond flour that you use for a recipe. Coconut flour absorbs much more moisture and usually requires more liquid.
By the way, you can not only use these flour types in baking recipes, but also instead of breadcrumbs if you want to bake or deep-fry products and even as a pizza base!
If you use your creativity, there is always a way to turn a favorite dish into a low-carb version.
Below you will find a table with nutritional values of the most consumed nuts and seeds on a ketogenic diet.
|Keto nuts / seeds for baking (2 oz./ca. 50 g)||Calories||Fat (g)||Net carbohydrates (g)||Protein (g)|
|Chia seed flour||265||17||3||8|
Water and other drinks
The ketogenic diet has a diuretic effect, this means that your body drips moisture faster. Simply put: you have to pee more often.
This means that you not only lose more fluid, but also electrolytes . Dehydration symptoms are common to most people in the beginning. If you are susceptible to urinary tract or bladder infections, it is especially important that you are prepared for this.
A good way to prevent the loss of electrolytes and dehydration symptoms is to use salt and water in combination.
Water and Sea Salt, an effective duo
The eight recommended glasses of water a day? Drink it and a few more. Assuming that we are two thirds water, hydration plays an essential role in our everyday life. We recommend that you drink more than 3.5 liters of water per day if possible.
By adding a little salt (preferably pink Himalayan salt) to the water you can compensate for the loss of electrolytes. In addition, the water is absorbed into your body faster this way.
In his book Own The Day, Own Your Life , one of the most important tips that American health expert Aubrey Marcus gives to start a new day full of energy is as simple as it is effective.
He calls it the ‘Morning Mineral Cocktail’:
- 350 ml of filtered water
- 3 grams of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
- 1/4 th lemon squeezed in the water
The loss of electrolytes and minerals can be absorbed by using more sea salt.
Sea salt contains more than 60 (!!) minerals and trace elements.
In addition to sodium, chloride and iodine, it also contains phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bromine, boron, zinc, iron, manganese and copper.
Together these minerals are essential for a healthy functioning body. For example, sodium ensures the binding of water in the body, in the body cells and beyond. This ensures good hydration.
And now you probably think:
“THREE grams of salt ?! But what about my blood pressure ?! We have to get less salt, right? ”
Salt has been given a bad name over the last few decades because it raises your blood pressure and thus promotes cardiovascular disease.
However, several scientific studies have been conducted where a restriction of salt consumption has NOT proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (5) These included large-scale studies with no fewer than 11,346 and 3,681 test subjects (6) (7) .
Certainly in the case of a ketogenic diet, where you drift more salt through the urine you will have to eat MORE salt to supplement your minerals.
Broth is also a good way to supplement your electrolytes. The best way is to draw a broth from bones (marrow pipe, etc.) yourself because you will get the valuable nutrients from the bones and bone marrow in this way. It is also a natural source of collagen.
Many people choose keto-proof coffee (the famous Bullet-Proof Coffee !) Or tea in the morning to boost their energy levels, in combination with added fats. Although this is completely fine, it is also important to limit drinks with a taste. This is all the more true in the case of caffeine, since too much of it can slow down your weight loss; so try to stick to a maximum of two cups of coffee or other caffeine-containing drinks.
Coconut or almond milk
You can use the unsweetened versions that are for sale in the supermarket to replace your favorite dairy drink. Ideal for smoothies.
Although they do not contain carbohydrates, some sweeteners can cause insulin spikes because they are sugar related. This can therefore lead to more appetite for sugars and carbohydrates. In addition, sweeteners are often artificial and therefore not recommended.
Choose spirits. Beer and wine contain too many carbohydrates. Regular use of alcohol inhibits weight loss.
Herbs and spices
Seasoners and sauces are a risky part of a ketogenic diet, but people regularly use them to add flavor to their dishes. The easiest way to stick to your diet is to avoid processed products.
There are many low carbohydrate flavorings and products on the market and it is impossible to name them all. Some of them are great, but the majority contain sweeteners with a high glycemic index – which you want to avoid.
Herbs contain carbohydrates, so make sure you count them. Sea salt is preferable to table salt, since the latter type may contain dextrose (powder). Most ready-made spice mixes contain added sugars, so read the labels so that you know what you are buying. If you have a choice, in the case of herbal mixtures, never opt for added sugar.
Below you will find an overview of a number of usual herbs and spices that people use on a keto diet. Always remember that herbs contain carbohydrates and that you will have to adjust your diet accordingly.
- cayenne pepper
- chili powder
You can use both salt and pepper to flavor your meals without having to worry about the nutritional values.
Seasonings and sauces
(source: foodmanufacturing.com) When it comes to sauces, gravy and spices on a ketogenic diet, there is a large gray area. If you want to eat strictly keto, you should avoid all ready-made sauces and spices, except those listed below. They may contain added sugars or sweeteners that do not fit within the ketogenic diet.
If you feel like making your own sauces and gravy, consider investing in guar gum or xanthan gum. These are thickeners that are known in the world of modern cooking techniques and that are useful when you want to thicken low-carb but rather watery sauces.
Fortunately, there are many sauces that you can choose from that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates . If you need a sauce, consider making a beurre blanc or hollandaise sauce, or just brown some butter to top off your meat.
Although it sounds great for your health and in theory, it may well be that for you, as for many other people, it does not fit into your schedule to make everything yourself. Although it differs from brand to brand ( always read the labels ), you can in principle use the following ready-made flavorings during the ketogenic diet:
- ketchup (choose a variant without or with little added sugar)
- hot sauce
- mayonnaise (choose a variant based on free-range eggs and avocado oil if possible)
- sauerkraut (choose a variant without or with little added sugar)
- relish (choose a variant with no or little added sugar)
- Worcestershire sauce
- salad dressings (take the fattier types such as ranch or caesar dressing and unsweetened vinaigrettes)
- syrup with a taste (take the permitted sweeteners)
Rather be on the cautious side when it comes to ready-made keto flavor makers. Make your sauces and gravies with thickeners and try to make your own flavorings if possible. Always check the nutritional values and ingredients carefully to ensure that the product meets your dietary requirements.
What you can do the very best is to stay away from everything that tastes sweet – so you keep your cravings to a minimum, which is at the basis of a successful application of the Keto Diet. However, if you really want something sweet, there are some options to choose from.
If you are looking for sweeteners, try to find liquid versions, as they do not contain binders (such as maltodextrin and dextrose). You will find these in mixtures such as Splenda, for example, and can have a huge impact on carbohydrates. If you follow the keto diet, you can keep it better with sweeteners with a lower glycemic index.
Note that this is just a short list of the sweeteners that people use on a keto diet. There are a huge number of brands and mixtures on the market – we often use a mix of stevia and erythritol in our dessert recipes.
However, it is quite possible that you will find something that better suits your personal taste; only use it if it falls under the permitted sweeteners.
In principle, you want to stay away from brands that use fillers such as maltodextrin and dextrose, or from high-glycemic sweeteners such as maltitol. Many products that are claimed to be low in carbohydrates use these sugar alcohols. Many sweets that are ‘sugar-free’ also contain these sweeteners. Avoid them if possible. In your body, these specific sweeteners have the same effect as sugar.
If a sweetener has a low glycemic impact (or a low glycemic index), it has little effect on your blood sugar. The higher the glycemic index, the worse your blood sugar will peak if you consume the substance. Here you can see which ‘0-GI’ sweeteners we recommend:
One of the most used sugar substitutes on the market today. Incredibly sweet without a glycemic impact. The liquid form is preferred.
A very easy but very sweet substitute for sugar that has many misunderstandings. Many people confuse it with Splenda, but sucralose is the pure sweetener. Liquid versions are preferred.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, also called polyol, which occurs naturally in fruits and fermented foods. This is a great replacement with a glycemic impact of zero. It is a special substance because it leaves our body undigested and is separated without absorbing the carbohydrates.
This is a less common sweetener that is usually combined with other sweeteners. Although it is less readily available, this is a well-balanced sweetener.
If you are looking for something that looks more like real sugar, you can use Xylitol. It is a natural sweetener that occurs in the fibers of many types of fruit and vegetables.
This sweetener can be used almost in the same way as sugar and the taste comes close, but it has a slight glycemic impact (13 versus 100 for sugar). It is a great substance, but please keep in mind that it is very toxic to animals and will increase your insulin level slightly. These are the two most frequently mentioned reasons for not using Xylitol.
In this nutritional list of the ketogenic diet all foods are discussed that you can eat within the ketogenic diet. Briefly summarized you can compile your diet from the following foods:
- Meat and animal products such as fish, beef, lamb, poultry and eggs
- Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale
- Vegetables that grow above ground, such as broccoli and cauliflower
- Full-fat dairy, such as cheese, whipped cream and butter
- Nuts and seeds, such as macadamia nuts, walnuts and sunflower seeds
- Avocado and berries, such as raspberries, blackberries and other berries with a low glycemic index
- Sweeteners, such as stevia, erythritol, monk fruit and other sweeteners with a low carbohydrate content
- Fats, such as coconut oil and (un) saturated fats
You will have noticed that in the article the chapters on fats and proteins are a lot more extensive than the chapter on carbohydrates . Not surprising of course, since you will eat very little carbohydrates.
The more you know how to limit this, the faster you will get into ketosis. This requires some adjustment at the beginning. You will need a good meal plan, in which you map out your macronutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates), to ensure that you do not actually get too many carbohydrates.
To avoid excessive consumption of carbohydrates , the following food groups are excluded from the ketogenic diet:
- Cereals such as wheat, corn, rice, muesli, cruesli, pasta, pasta
- Sugar, such as honey, agave, white table sugar
- Fruit, such as apples, bananas and oranges
- Root vegetables, such as (sweet) potatoes and yams
In this article the DO’s (the things that you can eat) are discussed, and the DON’TS (the things that you can’t eat) are also briefly discussed.
To help you even more to achieve the best results with the ketogenic diet, and to point out products that do not belong in the ketogenic diet, we have compiled a list of all products that do not belong in a ketogenic diet.