11 Foods Successful Keto Dieters Never Eat
Some delicious foods might be keto-friendly, but people who've had weight-loss success on the keto diet think you should avoid them anyway.
Keto foods to avoid: Zero-carbohydrate foods
People on the ketogenic (keto) diet are fastidious carbohydrate counters. After all, most keto eaters aim to eat around 20 net—or total—carbs in a day. With a number that low, every single bite counts. Low- and no-carb foods may be particularly alluring for that reason, but Jessica Rosen, certified holistic health coach and co-founder of Raw Generation, says you should be wary. “Not all zero-carbohydrate foods are smart choices for a keto dieter,” Rosen says. “Artificial sweeteners may not have any carbs or calories, but they can negatively impact the healthy bacteria in your gut. That can lead to fat storage and digestive issues,” she says. “Degrading one’s gut bacteria can be particularly detrimental if you’re eating a diet high in difficult-to-digest proteins and fats.” So what can you eat? Check out the best keto diet menu for beginners.
Keto foods to avoid: Processed meats
If you assume the keto diet consists of eating limitless breakfast meats, your idea of healthy keto eating may need some fine-tuning. “Processed meats such as sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and canned meats should be avoided as much as possible as they are loaded with carcinogens,” Rosen says.
“These processed meats have zero carbs so people think they are fine to eat on keto,” says keto expert and global integrative health coach Karissa Long. “But these ultra-processed meats typically contain nitrites. When nitrites are exposed to high heat in the presence of protein—that is, the meats they have been added to—they can turn into compounds called nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens.” Rosen advises you instead pick “organic, grass-fed meat whenever possible.” (Experts answered our most pressing keto diet questions.)
Keto foods to avoid: Refined oils
The average keto dieter aims to get at least three-quarters of their macronutrients from fats. That includes sources like avocado, dairy, fish, nuts, and seeds. Many people rely on cooking oils for daily fat intake, too. These include canola oil, grapeseed oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil. However, Long says these may not be the healthiest choice. “These refined cooking oils are made by highly intensive mechanical and chemical processes to extract the oil from the seeds,” she says. “This process removes the natural nutrients from the seeds and creates a final product which oxidizes easily. The oxidation factor makes these oils more likely to break down into cancer-causing free radicals within the body, especially when heated.” Long says the consumption of these refined oils has been linked to widespread inflammation within the body, elevated blood triglycerides, and impaired insulin response.
But in general, if you’re trying to cook healthier, these are the safest cooking oils to use.
Keto foods to avoid: Sugar-free candy
Sugar-free sweets may seem like a dream come true, especially when a craving for candy, brownies, or ice cream hits. But just because they’re low-carb or keto-friendly, doesn’t make them right for you.
“Many people lean on foods that are low- or zero-carb and will eat anything as long as it fits the keto macros, but I always stress food quality first,” says New York Times bestselling author and certified nutrition consultant Diane Sanfilippo, author of Keto Quick Start. Here are 12 silent signs your body needs you to eat more carbs.
Keto foods to avoid: Fast food
Social media is loaded with accounts dedicated to keto eating on the go. Many of these include fast food hacks for people who don’t have time—or don’t like—to cook. While popular, Sanfilippo says this is something you should avoid with your own keto eating plans. “I don’t eat fast food despite many keto options like bun-less burgers,” Sanfilippo says. “I prefer to stop into a grocery store on a road trip if I’m in a pinch and need a bite without time or a restaurant in sight. I scope out easy, ready-to-eat options like roasted deli turkey, prosciutto, quality goat cheese, and some veggies.” Learn how fast food actually affects your immune system.
Keto foods to avoid: Protein products
While keto eating may focus on fat consumption, protein is also important in your daily diet. Although you may think you need to eat protein-enhanced products in order to reach your daily goal, you could be setting yourself back. “Many keto eaters start eating lots of protein products as these are very trendy right now,” says Philip Oubre, MD, a functional medicine doctor in Austin, Texas, who frequently recommends the ketogenic diet. A true keto plan is 60 to 90 percent fat depending on preference, Dr. Oubre says. The remaining percentages fall to protein (10 to 30 percent) and carbohydrates (less than five percent). These 7 things happen to your body when you don’t get enough protein.
Keto foods to avoid: Red wine
Most beers and cocktails are entirely off limits because the carb counts are too high, but some clear liquors and wines frequently get the thumbs up among keto dieters. However, if you’re really trying to stick to a clean keto lifestyle, Keith Kantor, PhD, a nutritionist and dietitian and CEO of the Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating and Drinking (NAMED) program, says you should avoid alcohol and wine altogether. “Red wine appears on a few of the keto-approved food lists, but in order to experience the benefits of being in ketosis, you should avoid red wine,” says Dr. Kantor says. “Alcohol can hinder the body’s ability to effectively burn fat as fuel.” Find out if natural wine is actually healthier for you.
Keto foods to avoid: Dark chocolate
When you want to slip in a little something sweet, you may be tempted to reach for ultra-dark chocolate, a food that’s frequently touted as keto-friendly. But be careful what you nibble, Dr. Kantor says. “Dark chocolate should also be avoided or only consumed as a special treat, not regularly,” he says. “Even the highest percent of dark chocolate has some sugar in it, and if your body has a difficult time remaining in ketosis, it will throw off your metabolism, excluding you from the health benefits of being in ketosis.” Here are some benefits of eating dark chocolate.
Keto foods to avoid: Fat bombs
These popular snacks loaded with butter, peanut butter, cocoa, and other ingredients come in both savoury and sweet forms. (Try our fave Almond Butter Energy Bites recipe.) They’re touted as the surest way to reach your daily fat total. But are they necessary? No, says Stephanie Laska, author of Dirty, Lazy Keto. In fact, she avoids them entirely. “First of all, they’re gross,” Laska says. “Who wants to eat just fat? Rather, I feel it is beneficial to enjoy fats with regular food.” Laska says butter on Brussels sprouts is a much better investment in her health. “I also want to burn fat from my booty, not from my coffee loaded with heavy whipped cream,” Laska says.”
Keto foods to avoid: Heavy cream
Most milk and milk products like yogurt are off limits to keto eaters because the natural sugars in dairy can quickly top your carb counts. Heavy cream, however, isn’t a high-carb dairy food, so it’s popular in keto dishes, drinks, and more. That doesn’t mean it should be in yours, says Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD, and nutrition director at Trifecta. “There is little to no nutrition in this food,” Satrazemis says. Plus, people who are dairy sensitive may find that it doesn’t agree with their stomach, adds Satrazemis. Read up on why these celebrities (including Riverdale’s Camila Mendes) are done with dieting.
Keto foods to avoid: Keto snacks and packaged foods
The food products market is brimming with new products aimed to please the palates of keto eaters who miss sweets, snacks, and foods that are just too high in carbs for everyday eating. But just because they’re touted as keto-friendly specifically doesn’t mean a keto eater should buy them.
“Anything that contains more food-like substances than actual food is not really worth it to me—unless they are satisfying a serious craving,” Satrazemis says. “If I can’t visualize the ingredients and process of making it myself at home, I tend to skip it. These options may fit my macros, but they can be low in nutritional value and tend to not satiate me the same way whole foods do.” Next, find out what Jillian Michaels really thinks about the keto diet.