What can you not eat during Keto?

The ketogenic diet, commonly known as keto, is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits. By severely restricting carbohydrate intake, your body enters a metabolic state called ketosis. During ketosis, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. The keto diet has been shown to aid weight loss, reduce seizures in epileptic children, and improve biomarkers for health. However, in order to achieve ketosis, it’s important to restrict your intake of high-carb foods. This article will provide a comprehensive list of foods to avoid on keto.

Why Limit Carbs on Keto?

The main premise of keto is to put your body into ketosis. This is accomplished by restricting carbs to 20-50 grams per day. Typically, carbs are restricted to less than 50 grams daily for nutritional ketosis. Here’s why limiting carbs is crucial on keto:

  • Forces your body to burn fat rather than glucose for energy
  • Promotes fat burning and weight loss
  • Stabilizes blood sugar levels
  • Reduces appetite and cravings

When carb intake is very low, your body becomes efficient at burning fat stores for energy instead of carbs. This metabolic state of ketosis leads to many of the health benefits associated with keto. To reap the benefits of ketosis, carbs must be kept low enough to induce this fat-burning state.

Foods to Avoid on Keto

There are many foods that should be avoided or limited on keto due to their high carb content. Here is an overview of foods that can sabotage ketosis:


All grains are generally avoided on keto due to their high carb content. Here are some specific grain products to steer clear of:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Millet
  • Sorghum

Grains are avoided because they contain high amounts of carbohydrates. One slice of bread may contain 15-20 grams of net carbs. Pasta and rice are also very high in carbs. Even whole grains like oats, quinoa and brown rice should be avoided on keto.

Starchy Vegetables

Certain starchy vegetables are high in carbs and should be limited. You’ll want to avoid:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Winter squash
  • Corn
  • Peas

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets all contain around 15-20 grams of net carbs per serving. Even small portions of these starchy veggies can add up quickly, so they should be minimized.


Most fruits are too high in natural sugars to include in a keto diet. With around 15 grams of carbs per serving, fruit can easily surpass the carb limit. Steer clear of:

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Oranges
  • Watermelon
  • Berries

Berries are the only exception since they are lower in sugar than other fruits. But even berries should be portioned due to their carb content.

Sugary Foods

It’s obvious to avoid sugar and sugary foods on keto. Here are some high-sugar foods that can spike blood sugar and insulin levels:

  • Candy
  • Ice cream
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Soda
  • Juice
  • Smoothies
  • Syrups
  • Jams and jellies
  • Honey
  • Chocolate

Desserts, sweetened beverages and sugary condiments can contain 20-30 grams of carbs or more per serving. Even small amounts will quickly knock your body out of ketosis.

Starchy Vegetables

Certain starchy vegetables are high in carbs and should be limited. You’ll want to avoid:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Winter squash
  • Corn
  • Peas

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets all contain around 15-20 grams of net carbs per serving. Even small portions of these starchy veggies can add up quickly, so they should be minimized.

Beans and Legumes

All beans and legumes are too high in carbs for keto. Here are some to avoid:

  • Kidney beans
  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • White beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans

Just 1/2 cup of beans or lentils can contain 15-30 grams of carbs. This makes beans and legumes an unsuitable food for keto. Exceptions include green beans and snow peas which have lower carb counts.

Low-Fat and Diet Products

Low-fat and diet products often replace fat with carbs or sugar:

  • Low-fat salad dressings
  • Fat-free cookies
  • Low-fat ice cream
  • Diet soda
  • Sugar-free candy

Check labels carefully and avoid products with added sugars. Even though they are labeled as “healthy”, they can contain hidden carbs.


Most alcoholic beverages should be avoided on keto due to the high carb content:

  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Mixed cocktails
  • Liqueurs
  • Hard ciders

Dry wines and clear liquors like vodka, gin, tequila and whiskey contain minimal carbs and can be enjoyed in moderation.

Processed low-fat meats

Some processed meats have added sugar and should be avoided:

  • Low-fat deli meats
  • Sausage with added dextrose
  • Hot dogs with added sugar
  • Flavored bacon

Check the ingredients list carefully and opt for unprocessed cuts of meat without added sugars. Processed meats can contain up to 5 grams of carbs per serving.

Packaged Snacks and Meals

Many convenience snacks and packaged foods contain hidden sugars or carb-laden ingredients:

  • Crackers
  • Chips
  • Pretzels
  • Protein bars
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
  • Pasta mixes
  • Rice dishes
  • Breaded frozen foods

Avoid anything pre-made or packaged. Read labels carefully and reject items with sugar, wheat and other high-carb ingredients. Prepare meals using single-ingredient whole foods instead.

Keto Snack Options

While the above foods should be minimized or avoided, there are still many tasty keto-friendly snack options. Here are some go-to snacks for keto dieters:

  • Nuts like almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts
  • Seeds such as pumpkin, chia and flaxseeds
  • Nut butters
  • Hard cheeses
  • Celery and nut butter
  • Cucumber slices
  • Olives
  • Guacamole
  • Berries
  • 90% dark chocolate

When choosing packaged snacks, read nutrition facts and aim for under 5 grams of net carbs per serving. Some suitable packaged snacks include pork rinds, cheese crisps, and low-carb protein bars.

How to Read Food Labels for Keto

Reading nutrition labels is a must on keto to verify carb content. Here’s what to look for:

  • Serving size
  • Total carbs
  • Fiber
  • Sugars
  • Net carbs = Total carbs – Fiber

Aim for under 10 grams of net carbs per serving, or 5% of calories from carbs. Also ensure sugar is low, ideally under 5 grams. This will help identify any hidden added sugars.

Net Carbs Calculation Example

Here’s an example using a nutrition label for almonds:

  • Serving size: 28 almonds (1 oz)
  • Total carbs: 6g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Net carbs: 3g (6g total carbs – 3g fiber = 3g net carbs)

For a 28-almond serving, there are just 3 grams of net digestible carbs. This makes almonds a great low-carb snack.

Foods to Eat on Keto

While many foods need to be reduced or removed on keto, there are still plenty of delicious keto-friendly foods you can eat. Foods that should be emphasized include:


  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Bacon
  • Ham

All types of unprocessed meat are excellent for keto. Fatty cuts are encouraged.

Fish and Seafood

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Shellfish

Fish and shellfish are nutrient-dense protein sources perfect for keto. Aim for wild caught whenever possible.


Eggs are a versatile and nutritious keto-friendly food. Enjoy them cooked any style.

Non-starchy Vegetables

  • Leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Bell peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans

These low-carb veggies provide important nutrients. Load up on leafy greens and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower.

High-fat Dairy

  • Cheese
  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Heavy cream
  • Sour cream
  • Butter

Choose full-fat dairy rather than low-fat options. Full-fat dairy is rich in healthy fats and very low in carbs.

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

Nuts and seeds make excellent high-fat, high-protein snacks. However, they are easy to overeat so track your portions.

Healthy Fats and Oils

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Lard
  • Tallow
  • Duck fat

A keto diet should be high in healthy fats from plant and animal sources. Use liberally for cooking and dressing foods.

Low-carb Condiments

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Spices
  • Mustard
  • Pesto
  • Mayonnaise
  • Hot sauce
  • Salsa

Use salt, herbs, spices, mustard, mayo, pesto, salsa and hot sauce to add flavor without carbs.

Final Tips for Success

Here are some additional tips to stick to keto and avoid common pitfalls:

  • Read labels and track carbs using a food diary
  • Meal prep keto foods to ensure low-carb options are on hand
  • Plan your meals and grocery shop accordingly
  • Opt for whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible
  • Watch portions of nuts, dairy and condiments
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid sweeteners and low-carb junk foods

With a little planning and preparation, restricting carbs and sticking to a keto diet can become second nature. The key is to focus on nutritious, whole food sources of fat and protein while avoiding sugar and starchy foods.


The keto diet requires restricting intake of high-carb foods to achieve ketosis. Breads, grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, beans, dairy, alcohol and sugar should all be minimized or avoided. Read labels carefully and aim for under 50 grams of carbs daily. Emphasize meat, fish, eggs, healthy fats, non-starchy vegetables and low-carb condiments. With appropriate food choices and portion control, the keto diet can be an effective way to burn fat, improve health, and lose weight over the long term.

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