The ketogenic diet is one of the very popular diets of our time today, and for good reason.
With exciting benefits, like weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, less hunger cravings and more, it’s no wonder why lots of people seem to be hopping on the keto bandwagon.
But there’s just one thing. Being a low carb high fat diet (LCHF), you need to exclude certain carb-rich foods from your plate, in order to be able to enter the state of ketosis.
This criteria may seem a bit restrictive for some people, and you may feel like you’re missing out.
Well it doesn’t have to be that way. Even though you need to exclude certain high carb foods, you can still enjoy some of your favorite foods, thanks to a few low carb swaps and substitutes.
In this article, you’ll discover what foods to avoid on a ketogenic diet, as well as the best low carb substitutes to use instead.
You’ll see that with the right things in place, sticking to keto will be a walk in the park.
What Is The Keto Diet?
These days it is harder to have NOT heard about keto and other low carb diets, seeing just how popular they are.
Put simply, the ketogenic diet, which is also known as the LCHF diet, as the name implies, is a low carb, high fat way of eating.
Unlike regular low carb diets where you just focus on cutting carbs, keto has an extra goal. The goal is to reduce your daily carb intake to a point where your body starts burning fat for fuel.
This state is called nutritional ketosis, and comes with lots of benefits, which may include;
- Weight loss – one of the main reasons why people use it
- Better cholesterol levels – improved HDL to LDL levels
- Reduced hunger cravings – less fighting hunger pangs
- Better energy levels
- Improved insulin sensitivity, and lower blood sugar levels
- Mental clarity and more
But to achieve ketosis, your daily carb intake needs to be below a certain point. For most people, this tends to be around 30g net carbs per day, or about 50g total carbs (including fiber).
Sticking to this daily carb limit, puts your body in the fat-burning state, where you primarily burn fat for fuel, instead of glucose.
Foods To Avoid On Keto
A lot of foods are naturally low in carbs, which is great. There are tons of low carb foods you can enjoy on keto, from fruits, to veggies, to nuts, seeds, and more.
Our complete keto diet food list shows you the best foods to eat on the ketogenic diet.
Just as it’s important to know the foods to eat, it’s also important to know the foods to avoid, as they are either unhealthy, or will push off ketosis.
But not to worry. A lot of these foods have healthier low carb alternatives, which you can enjoy without missing out on anything.
Here are some foods to avoid.
Grains, especially whole grains can be super healthy, and a good source of fiber and nutrients. Unfortunately, grains also have a high carb content, making them unfit for a ketogenic diet.
For example, a 100g serving of oats contains over 50g of net carbs, which is way above the recommended 30g daily net carbs for ketosis. Same thing goes for other grains, like quinoa, barley, rice and wheat.
Similar to grains, legumes can be a good source of nutrients, fiber, and plant-based protein. But they’re also quite high in carbs too, and are generally not fit for ketosis.
For example, a 1 cup serving of lentils, can contain as much as 40g of total carbs, which is way above your recommended daily limits, considering you’ll eat other things during the day as well.
However, not all legumes seem to be off the list. Green beans, and black soybeans, seem to be a special exception.
A 100g serving of green beans for example, delivers only about 4g net carbs, and a similar serving of black soybeans seems to deliver just about the same thing.
This one’s pretty much a no-brainer. The point of keto is to consume less carbs. Sugar, is the exact opposite of that, and therefore isn’t allowed on keto.
This includes most sodas and beverages, fruit juices and so on. Some other sources of sugars should also be excluded. Things like blackstrap molasses, honey, maple syrup, etc.
But don’t worry. That doesn’t mean you won’t get to satisfy your sweet tooth. The keto diet has its own way of sweetening things without throwing you off ketosis.
Actually a lot of fruits. Most fruits even. Fruits tend to be generally sweet, and contain moderate to large amounts of natural sugar. And while they’re great, it may be a problem for people trying to maintain ketosis.
But like I said, this doesn’t apply to all of them. Some fruits are actually low in carbs, and can be enjoyed on a keto diet in moderation. Fruits like watermelon, berries, and lemons and so on can actually be enjoyed on keto.
Check out our guide to fruits on the keto diet, to know the best fruits to enjoy.
Luckily, lots of vegetables are naturally low in carbs, and can be enjoyed freely on a ketogenic diet. However, a few of them have a high carb content, and may not be suitable for ketosis.
Veggies like potatoes, yams and cassava are relatively high in carbs, and best avoided. Some other veggies seem to be in somewhat of a gray area, and although being high in carbs, they can be enjoyed in moderation.
Some good examples are corn and pumpkin. Although they have a much higher carb content per 100g compared to other low carb veggies, you can still enjoy them in moderation, without falling off ketosis.
Check out our guide to veggies on the keto diet, to know the best low carb vegetables to enjoy.
The Best Low Carb Substitutes To Enjoy
Cutting carbs doesn’t necessarily mean you have to miss out on your favorite foods. The good news is that a lot of these high carb foods, have healthier low carb alternatives you can enjoy, and still remain in ketosis.
Here are some of the popular keto-friendly substitutes and swaps to use.
Regular flour is technically a grain, which isn’t exactly keto-friendly. But there are some really amazing keto friendly flours you can use when baking. And they’ll give you the same amazing texture and taste you’re looking for.
1) Almond flour – most popular keto baking substitute. A one ounce serving packs just about 2.5g net carbs.
2) Coconut flour – second most popular keto baking flour. A quarter cup (1/4 cup) contains about 7g net carbs.
3) Flax meal – made from flaxseed, which are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. A 100g serving delivers just 2g net carbs.
4) Almond meal – Similar to almond flour, 3g net carbs per ounce.
5) Psyllium Husk Powder – very rich in fiber. It packs about 2.5g net carbs per 1 oz.
Regular pasta is loaded with carbs, and is a regular staple in almost every home. And cutting it out completely, may seem like a task. Except it doesn’t have to be.
Try out some of these keto pasta substitutes.
1) Zoodles – also known as zucchini noodles, made from spiralized zucchini. It works great, is way more nutritious and won’t throw you off ketosis. 1 cup zucchini contains about 2g net carbs.
2) Shirataki noodles – these contain zero net carbs per serving. They contain 6g of fiber per an 8 ounce serving.
3) Spaghetti squash – they have a texture that can closely mimic spaghetti in some cases. A 100g serving delivers almost 5g net carbs
There are also some commercial brands of low carb pasta you can buy as well.
Rice is another staple in almost every home. Like pasta, moving on might be a tough journey. But again, it doesn’t have to be, when you have these low carb rice substitutes.
1) Cauliflower rice – the ultimate low carb rice substitute. The texture and taste of riced cauliflower is very close to regular rice, but without the extra carbs of course. Cauliflower contains only 3g net carbs per 100g serving
2) Shirataki rice – similar to shirataki noodles, and packs only about 1g net carbs or less per serving.
3) Cabbage rice – chopped up cabbage can make a nice low carb substitute as well. Cabbages contain about 3g net carbs per 100g serving.
4) Broccoli rice – although it doesn’t look the part, broccoli can still act as a healthier low carb swap for regular rice. A 100g serving of broccoli contains about 4g net carbs.
Don’t worry. You can still tickle your sweet tooth every once in a while, thanks to these low carb sugar alternatives.
- Monk fruit
Luckily, these low carb sweeteners have very little to no carb content. Depending on which one you use, be sure to check out the proper conversion charts, in order to know the appropriate amounts to apply.
5) Cooking oils
While most oils tend to be carb-free, certain types of cooking oils are preferred over others on keto. This is more from a health-centered standpoint, than a ketosis-centered one.
While the keto diet emphasizes a high fat consumption, it tries its best to ensure the fats you’re getting are healthy, as not all fats are created equal.
Popular keto cooking oils include
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- MCT oil
Your regular store-bought cow milk isn’t exactly keto friendly. With a net carb count of 12g per cup of 2% milk, it doesn’t fit well into the keto lifestyle.
Here are some of the best keto milk alternatives.
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
- Hemp milk
- Cashew milk
- Macadamia nut milk
Other Keto-Friendly Substitutes
Here are some other low carb and keto friendly substitutes you can enjoy in place of their high carb counterparts.
- Tortillas – lettuce wraps, or keto-friendly tortillas
- Mashed potatoes – mashed cauliflower
- Bread – keto-friendly bread (thanks to the low carb flours)
- Breadcrumbs – pork rinds or other low carb flours
- Cereal – keto friendly cereals (check out these 14 amazing keto cereal recipes)
- French fries – turnip fries, jicama fries
- Pizza crust – cauliflower pizza crust
Here’s a very helpful keto sweetener conversion chart to refer to.