List of Foods You Can’t Eat on the Keto Diet:
- Starchy vegetables and high-sugar fruits
- Sweetened yogurt
- Honey, syrup or sugar in any form
- Chips and crackers
- Baked goods including gluten-free baked goods
Don’t get too discouraged. Dietitians Stone and Laura Dority, M.S., R.D., L.D., with Keto Knowledge LLC, say that no foods are really off-limits on the keto diet. It’s about total carbohydrate intake and how you choose to “spend” your carbs. Generally, you should stay under 20-40 grams of carbohydrates per day. “The exact amount needed to achieve ketosis can vary on the individual, though, with carb prescriptions ranging from 10 to 60 grams per day. This total is for net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber),” says Stone.
Dority adds, “Individuals who are really active can eat more carbs (maybe more at the 40-gram level) than someone who is sedentary.”
High-Carb Foods That Most People Avoid on the Keto Diet
Cereal, crackers, rice, pasta, bread and beer are high in carbohydrates. Even whole-wheat pasta and the new bean-based pastas are high in carbs. Consider alternatives like spiralized vegetables or shirataki noodles, which are healthier low-carb options. Sugary breakfast cereals and healthy whole-grain cereals are high in carbohydrates too and should be avoided or minimized. “A slice of bread is 11 grams of carbs on average so technically you could have one slice a day maybe but that’s spending all your carbs on pretty poor nutrition so I wouldn’t recommend it when for the same carbs you could have A LOT of veggies,” says Dority.
Beer can be enjoyed in moderation on a low-carb diet. Dry wine and spirits are better options but all alcohol should be very limited.
Starchy vegetables and high-sugar fruits
Starchy vegetables contain more digestible carbohydrates than fiber and should be limited on the ketogenic diet. These include corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets. Limit high-sugar fruits too, which spike your blood sugar more quickly than berries and have more carbohydrates (get a full list of low-carb fruits ranked from lowest to highest).
Carb counts for high-sugar fruits:
- Banana (1 medium): 24 g net carbs (27 g total carbs)
- Raisins (1 oz. / 28 g): 21 g net carbs, 22 g total carbs)
- Dates (2 large): 32 g net carbs (36 g total carbs)
- Mango (1 cup, sliced): 22 g net carbs (25 g total carbs)
- Pear (1 medium): 21 g net carbs (27 g total carbs)
Carb counts for starchy vegetables:
- Corn (1 cup): 32 g net carbs (36 g total carbs)
- Potato (1 medium): 33 g net carbs (37 g total carbs)
- Sweet potato (1 medium): 20 g net carbs (24 g total carbs)
- Beets (1 cup, cooked): 14 g net carbs (17 g total carbs)
Stick to plain yogurt to limit added sugars (aka carbohydrates). Greek yogurt is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates compared to regular yogurt.
Fruit juice-natural or not-is high in fast-digesting carbs that spike your blood sugar. Stick to water.
Honey, syrup and sugar in any form
Avoid sugar, honey, maple syrup and other forms of sugar, which are high in carbohydrates and low in nutrients.
Chips and crackers
Avoid chips, crackers and other processed, grain-based snack foods, which are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber.
Gluten-free baked goods
Gluten-free does not equal carb-free. In fact, many gluten-free breads and muffins are as high in carbohydrates as traditional baked goods. They usually lack fiber too.
Foods and Drinks You Can Sometimes Have on the Keto Diet
You can technically have any food on the keto diet if it falls within your daily carbohydrate goal, but these foods fall in the middle between high-carb and low-carb.
Milk is an excellent source of calcium, potassium and several B vitamins. But, 1 cup has 12 grams of sugar (lactose). Choose almond, coconut or another low-carb milk instead.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are high in fiber and protein and are part of a heart-healthy diet but are also high in carbohydrates. They may be included in small amounts on a ketogenic diet. However, it’s often recommended to avoid them altogether.
Pros of the Ketogenic Diet
“There is solid evidence to support use of the ketogenic diet in individuals with epilepsy who have seizures that are drug resistant,” says Dority. In the short term, people who follow the diet report weight loss. Dority says, “There is certainly some good recent research showing promise in disorders such as autism, traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, migraines and Alzheimer’s (to name a few but the list could go on), as well as some great research on ketogenic diets and type 2 diabetes reversal including dramatically reducing insulin needs, fasting blood sugar levels, lowering A1C and obtaining significant weight loss.”
Cons of the Ketogenic Diet
“Like most highly restrictive diets, it is difficult to meet nutritional needs while doing keto,” says Stone. “It often comes with uncomfortable side effects like constipation and the ‘keto flu.’ Also, the long-term health consequences are not well understood.”
The Bottom Line
It’s not a one-size-fits-all prescription, and it’s crucial to work with a dietitian to ensure you’re getting essential nutrients while maintaining ketosis. There’s promising research on the benefits of the ketogenic diet for many conditions, but some people can’t keep it up for the long haul, plus the long-term effects are poorly understood. If you decide to go keto, work with a dietitian to help you create a plan.