What to eat on the keto diet

Just because a food is healthy doesn’t mean it’s keto friendly – in fact sometimes, it’s the exact opposite. Discover what you can and can’t eat when you’re doing keto.
Published 16 September 2019

The keto diet is a bit of a fussy eater. It doesn’t hate dairy, but while butter is approved, yoghurt usually isn’t. Likewise with vegetables – you can (and should!) eat them when you’re doing keto, but while green leafy vegetables get the tick of approval, corn doesn’t. Walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts also make the grade, but you should probably forget about eating peanuts. Confused?

The thing to remember is that, for the most part, as well as including plenty of fat-rich foods, whether something is allowed or not on keto all comes down to its carbohydrate content. Remember that the aim of keto is to restrict carbs so that only 5-10 per cent of your energy needs come from them, which pushes your body into a state of ketosis, where it burns fat instead of carbohydrates, for fuel. While protein should provide 10-20 per cent of your daily energy, the majority (70-80 per cent) should come from fat and fat-rich foods.

It’s a ratio that means you’d need to place a strong emphasis on fats at every single meal, as well as when you’re choosing snacks, if you wanted to have a chance of eating enough fat every day.

Where it gets a little confusing on the carbohydrate front is that while some foods are obvious sources, like pasta, potatoes and bread, carbohydrates are also present in a whole lot of foods that you might not expect, such as vegetables, legumes and fruit. And sometimes in surprisingly large quantities, which is what makes yoghurt, corn and yep, you guessed it, even peanuts, unsuitable for keto.

Keto approved foods

Several different versions of the keto diet exist, which means there isn’t a universally approved food list, but the following gives you a general idea of what is and what isn’t ‘allowed’.

Fat: 70-80%Protein: 10-20%Carbohydrates: 5-10%
Oils – coconut, olive, etc.
Animal fats – duck fat, lard, etc.
Pork rind
Some nuts (macadamia nuts, walnuts, almonds and pecans)
Organ meats
Deli meat
Oily fish
Low-lactose dairy foods, like cottage cheese, ricotta and hard and matured cheeses
Non-starchy vegetables, including leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, capsicum, onion, garlic, mushrooms, cucumber, celery and zucchini

Keto banned foods

PeanutsHigher-lactose dairy foods, like yoghurt and milkBread
Flour and flour-based baked products (including cakes, muffins, crumpets and biscuits)
Foods that are high in added and natural sugars
Most fruits
Starchy vegetables, like potatoes, corn, beetroot and pumpkin

Keto breakfasts

Fast options like toast, oats, or a bowl of cereal and fruit are off the table, which means you’d need to rely on more preparation-heavy options for the first meal of the day, like:

  • Bacon and eggs
  • An omelette made with keto-friendly vegetables and cheese
  • Chia and berry puddings
  • Potato-free cheese frittata
  • Poached eggs with sliced avocado and keto-friendly vegetables cooked in oil

Keto lunches

Easy (not to mention portable) meal options, like a healthy wholegrain sandwich, don’t cut it on keto, so it requires being more creative like:

  • Rice-free sushi rolls with salmon and avocado
  • Nicoise salad
  • Cauliflower and broccoli soup, topped with crispy pancetta
  • Avocado stuffed with a seafood cocktail mix
  • Bento-style lunchbox filled with keto-friendly foods

Keto dinners

It’s not enough to create a low-carbohydrate meal for dinner – evening meals have to deliver on the high-fat requirement, too:

  • Zoodle bolognese
  • Roast chicken (with skin) and keto-friendly vegetables
  • Nut-crusted fish with salad or vegetables
  • ‘Eggplant pasta’ lasagne
  • Lettuce tacos with meat sauce, avocado and cheese

Keto snacks

In order to meet keto’s high-fat requirement, between-meal snacks should always provide a serve of fat:

  • Vegetable sticks with nut butter or mashed avocado
  • A tin of tuna
  • A green smoothie, made with leafy greens and coconut milk and avocado
  • A handful of keto-friendly nuts
  • A handful of olives