The keto diet is an extremely low carb, high fat diet.
The goal is to achieve a metabolic state of ketosis, in which your body burns mostly fat instead of carbs for energy.
While controversial and not for everyone, the keto diet has been linked to weight loss and potential short-term health benefits like improved blood pressure.
If you’re looking to begin or maintain ketosis, there are some foods to avoid — specifically, foods that are too high in carbs.
The structure of carb molecules is simple, making them easy for your body to break down. Thus, they’re an efficient source of energy. If your body is provided a lot of carbs, especially at once, it will do what’s most efficient: use carbs instead of fat for energy.
On the keto diet, carbs are typically restricted to 20–50 grams per day. Generally, this total doesn’t tally the portion of carbs made up of dietary fiber, as these aren’t digested by your body.
Dark chocolate with a cacao content of at least 70% can be part of your keto diet in small amounts.
Meanwhile, milk and white chocolates aren’t keto-friendly, given their added sugar content:
Look for chocolate that has more than 70% cacao and is low in added sugar. Or opt for dark chocolate made especially for keto diets.
2. Beans and other legumes
Legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas may be challenging to incorporate into your keto diet.
Still, they boast dietary fiber, protein, calcium, and other micronutrients. As such, fitting in small portions might be worth the effort.
Green beans and black soybeans are the lowest in carbs. Try pan-frying them to use sparingly as crunchy toppings on keto-friendly salads or bowls.
Here’s the carb content for popular legumes for reference:
Processed legumes could fit into your keto diet in modest portions, too. For example, in the form of hummus, which is made from chickpeas and tahini, a type of sesame butter. You can also try non-bean-based dips like baba ganoush or guacamole.
3. Certain fresh fruits
Fruits like mangoes, bananas, and grapes are naturally higher in carbs. While delicious and nutrient-dense, they could keep you from reaching or maintaining ketosis.
Although these can’t be staples in a keto diet given their high carb content, they still boast an array of nutrients and dietary fiber, which is good for your digestion and heart health.
As such, you may choose to use them occasionally and sparingly on top of Greek yogurt or a salad. Just be mindful of your portion sizes and daily macronutrient targets.
4. Potatoes and other starchy vegetables
While good sources of vitamin C, potassium, and dietary fiber, white and sweet potatoes ought to be avoided on the keto diet because of their high carb content.
Other nutritious but high carb vegetables to limit include peas and corn.
Starchy vegetables with slightly fewer carbs per serving include beets and carrots. You may be able to include modest amounts of these if they fit your daily carb allowance.
If you’re craving starchy vegetables, try lightly grating them onto a salad or bowl rather than making them the main feature of a dish.
You can also swap these for small or moderate portions of jicama, which is naturally slightly lower in carbs, at less than 3 grams of carbs per 1/4 cup (33 grams).
Mashed or riced cauliflower can also be a good substitute for starchy potato-centered recipes.
As a rule of thumb, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumber, and celery are generally better suited for your keto goals.
5. Dried fruit or trail mix
When fruit is dried, its sugar is concentrated into smaller serving sizes.
For example, a single pitted Medjool date (24 grams) has 18 grams of carbs, 2 of which are dietary fiber.
While dates are nutritional powerhouses, they concentrate too much sugar to reasonably be part of a keto diet.
Similarly, mixed dried fruit packs 31 grams of carbs per 1/4 cup (40 grams), which can easily put an end to ketosis.
These are often blended into trail mix, which also often includes chocolate chips, candies, or sugar-coated nuts. This is another food to avoid, as it can easily put you over your carb allotment for the day.
Instead, aim for fresh berries to satisfy your sweet tooth. These are fairly low carb, with less than 4 grams of carbs per 1/4 cup (38 grams).
6. Light or low fat margarine
Light or low fat margarine is a staple in some weight loss diets. While it’s low carb, it skimps on the fat — your main source of fuel on the keto diet.
Because you need more fat to reach and maintain a ketogenic state, reach for unsalted butter or moderate servings of regular margarine instead.
Here’s how light margarine compares with regular margarine and unsalted butter:
Note that while margarine is higher in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat than butter, some types also have more trans fat, which has been linked to detrimental effects on the heart.
To limit trans fats, avoid margarine with “hydrogenated” written anywhere in the ingredients list.
7. Glazed or honey-baked ham
Honey-baked ham is a bone-in ham usually baked with a honey-butter blend slathered on top and in between slices. After cooking, a dry spiced sugar mix is applied to the outside of the ham and broiled until it forms a crackling glaze.
Glazed ham is similar, but baked with a thick sauce made of a sweet and pungent element like maple syrup and mustard or fruit jam and vinegar.
While delicious, the sugar baked onto or infused into these sweetened hams can keep you from reaching or maintaining ketosis.
Instead, opt for regular deli ham, which has less than 1 gram of carbs per slice (13.5 grams).
8. Sugary sodas
Sodas are essentially bubbly sugar water that provides zero nutrition and a high carb count.
One 12-ounce (372-mL) can of Coca-Cola, for instance, packs a whopping 39 grams of carbs.
Depending on your daily carb allowance, just one drink can easily get you over the limit.
If water won’t cut it, you can enjoy a sugar-free soda without being knocked out of keto. While the long-term health effects of these drinks are controversial, an occasional one likely isn’t harmful.
You can also try sparkling water or still water infused with mint, lemon, or cucumber.
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