What You Can (and Can’t) Eat on a Keto Diet

In case you’ve somehow missed it, the keto diet is the latest fad taking over the weight loss world. Followers (including Kourtney Kardashian and Halle Berry) claim the high-fat, low-carb eating plan has helped them shed pounds almost immediately — all while chowing down on bacon and cheese.

Nutritionists, including the Good Housekeeping Institute’s own Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, remain more skeptical. The diet’s aim of inducing ketosis — a metabolic process where the body uses fat instead of carbs for energy — can backfire tremendously. Besides the lack of long-term scientific research, this restrictive plan takes a lot of willpower, and any weight you may lose while on it will likely return when you stop. RDs and other experts like U.S. News and World Report agree that Mediterranean-style eating plans have more research behind them and produce better, more long-lasting results.

If your friends have gone #keto and you’re curious about what that exactly entails, the basic premise is fairly simple. The diet focuses on eating mostly fat, limited amounts of protein, and almost no carbs at all. The “do” list includes: meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables that grow above ground, nuts and seeds, fats and oils, and some dairy products. In terms of drinks, most keto diet guides advise people to stick to water and skip diet soda, even though it’s artificially sweetened. (No Diet Coke — sorry!)

While giving up soda may sound not so hard, the rest of the banned list might. 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!

If you’re still tempted to try it, consult with your doctor before embarking on any extreme weight loss plan. While the keto diet can include some healthful foods (we’re all about broccoli), many others get nixed (bye, bananas and sweet potatoes). Get more specifics on what you can and can’t eat on keto below:

What You Can Eat on a Keto Diet

  • Meat: chicken, pork, steak, ground beef, lamb, bacon, ham, turkey, sausage (in limited amounts and fattier cuts)
  • Fish: salmon, snapper, trout, tuna, cod, catfish, halibut
  • Seafood and shellfish: clams, oysters, lobster, crab, scallops, mussels
  • Eggs
  • Some vegetables: cauliflower, cabbage, avocado, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, asparagus, cucumber, onion, mushroom, spinach, lettuce, green beans, olives
  • Most fats and oils: butter, coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, lard, avocado oil, mayonnaise
  • High-fat dairy: heavy cream, cheese (soft and hard), cream cheese, sour cream
  • Nuts and nut butter: almonds, peanuts, peanut butter, almond butter, macadamia nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts
  • Spices
  • Water
  • Unsweetened Tea
  • Coffee with no sugar and maybe a small amount of cream
  • Berries (sparingly): blueberries, blackberries, raspberries
  • Artificial sweeteners (sparingly): stevia, sucralose
  • Alcohol (sparingly): hard liquor, dry wine, champagne

What You Can’t Eat on a Keto Diet

  • Fruit: apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, watermelon, peaches, melon, pineapple, cherries, pears, lemons, limes, apricots, grapefruits, kiwi, plums, figs, mango, papaya, tangerines, dates, raisins
  • Root vegetables: potatoes (both sweet and regular), carrots, yams, parsnips, yuca
  • Sweets: candy, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, ice cream, cookies, pudding
  • Grains and starches: wheat, rice, rye, oats, corn, quinoa, barley, millet, bulgur, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains
  • Products made from grain: cereal, bread, pasta, rice, corn, oatmeal, crackers, pizza, popcorn, muesli, flour
  • Legumes: beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils
  • Alcohol: beer, cider, sweet wines, sweetened alcoholic drinks
  • Juice, smoothies, soda, and sweetened tea and coffee
  • Sweetened sauces and dips
  • Milk and low-fat dairy
  • Sweeteners: cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, Splenda, aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, high-fructose corn syrup
  • Some oils: canola oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil
  • Low-fat and low-carb products