Eating only 20 – 30 grams of carbs a day means you’ll have to avoid high carb foods such as starchy veggies, grains and fruits. Avoiding these high carb foods is the first step in understanding what foods to avoid on the ketogenic diet. As you are learning which foods to avoid, you’ll also start to read food labels and identify what is most important to look out for on a food label.
Secondly, when following a well-formulated keto diet, you should also pay attention to the quality of proteins and fats you are eating.
In this blog post, I will break down the foods to avoid into:
- High carb foods to avoid;
- Unhealthy proteins and inflammatory fat; and
- Dairy products to avoid.
Before we jump into this post, it goes without saying that processed and junk foods should be avoided, no matter what diet you’re on.
Take some time at the beginning of your keto diet to learn how to read food labels. You will quickly familiarise yourself with the carb content of food items if you keep a food diary app. Don’t forget about the ingredient list too. Even though a food time may seem low in carbs, it may have harmful ingredients that are best to avoid on keto.
Carbohydrates aka sugar aka glucose – Carbohydrates are not just bread, pasta and grains. It includes fruits and vegetables too. When we eat carbs, whether it is a slice of bread or a banana, it turns into sugar in the body, aka glucose. Our bodies don’t differentiate between the sugar you add to your coffee or the sugar from the oats you’re eating. Once it hits the bloodstream, it is glucose.
High-carbohydrates – Starchy Veggies
Starchy root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beets, pumpkin, sweet potato) are high in carbohydrates. Below are some examples of starchy vegetables and the carbs they contain per cup. Generally, if it grows underground, it is considered high in carbs and should be avoided.
High-carbohydrates – Fruits
Fruit producers cultivate fruit for sweetness. They have improved and introduced new fruit varieties to make fruit better and sweeter than ever before. Simply ask your grandparents if the peaches in their orchard were as juicy and sweet as the ones we buy in the stores today. Fruit is called “nature’s candy” because it contains high amounts of sugar. Take a medium-size banana. Did you know there are three teaspoons of sugar in a medium-sized banana?
Although some fruits are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, you should avoid them on keto. The high sugar content will kick you out of ketosis. Below are some examples of the sugar content per cup of fruit.
High-carbohydrates – Grains
Grains are food such as wheat, oats, barley, and rye. One may consider that “ancient grains” such as couscous, quinoa, millet and amaranth are healthier carbohydrates. Unfortunately, they are still high in carbohydrates and will definitely kick you out of ketosis. They typically contain between 30g to 50g of carbs per cup.
Beans and legumes contain even higher amounts of carbs per cup than some of the grains listed above.
Protein to avoid on keto
When choosing your protein sources, watch out for the following types of protein.
- Factory farmed animals such as fish, pork, chicken.
- Grain-fed meats such as lamb, beef, chicken.
- Factory-farmed fish and pork products are high in omega–6 fatty acids (that are inflammatory in too-large amounts).
- Processed meats like hot dogs and deli meat.
The nutrient profile of factory-farmed and grain-fed animals are lower than in free-range animals. Fish farmed in a factory contain higher amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory compared to wild-caught fish. And processed meats contain preservatives, large quantities of salt, and filler carbs.
Eggs – a good source of protein – Eggs are a great source of protein and have a nutrient-dense profile. Eggs are rich in fats, protein, vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, D, E, B5, B12, zinc and selenium. Buying the best quality eggs, you can get your hands on is worth it. Consider this. A hen (or any animal) stuck in a cage and fed grains will lay less nutrient-dense eggs than a free-ranging and pastured hen.
Processed Fats to avoid on keto
Before I started keto, I bought and mainly used sunflower oil and margarine. Olive oil and butter is expensive, so why buy them if there is a cheaper alternative, right? Vegetable oils like cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, soybean and canola oils and margarine are refined fats and oils. This means that they have been “refined” or purified, meaning it’s been altered. During the refining process, the structure of the oils are changed, and chemicals are often added. These refined oils are pro-inflammatory and contain PUFs (polyunsaturated fats) that easily oxidise through heat and light.
Equally as bad for your health is margarine. Margarine and butter-like spreads are chemically created through hydrogenation. These types of fats are also used to make cookies, pastries, cakes and other processed foods. These hydrogenated and trans fats are extremely bad for your health and best avoided if you want to lower inflammation in your body and eat healthy.
Refer to our list of healthy fats to include in your diet. Oils such as olive oil and coconut oil are pure and unprocessed. Coconut oil, virgin olive oil, macadamia oils, avocado and really, 100% butter are excellent fat sources to add to your keto diet.
Dairy Products to avoid on keto
It is a huge surprise for most people new to keto when they learn that dairy products, e.g. milk, should be avoided on keto.
Some dairy products such as milk (especially low or fat-free milk), fat-free yoghurts and fat-free cheeses have a higher carb content than full-fat dairy products.
In fat-free or lower-fat products, food manufacturers remove the fat and replace it with sugar. Fat-free yoghurt, for example, contains 7 grams of carbs per 100g compared to double cream yoghurt, which has only 5g.
On a side note: The carbs in double cream yoghurt are fermented carbs (sugar) and do not have the same glycemic effect as what fat-free or other types of carbs would have. During the process of fermentation, the bacteria eats the sugar (lactose). The key for yoghurt is, the more sour the yoghurt, the better.
Other reasons to avoid dairy
Lactose-intolerance: If you suspect that you have a dairy intolerance, cutting dairy out for a week or two may be helpful to see if your symptoms go away.
Weight loss plateau: Some people just don’t tolerate dairy well, and eating too much dairy can be why you are not losing weight on keto or have reached a plateau. Try cutting out dairy for a while and see if you start to lose weight again.
I want to end off this post to say that you should never feel that following keto is too restrictive for you. Yes, we all want to follow a well-formulated and healthy keto diet, but when we are new to keto, we may look at the foods to avoid list and feel our food options are minimal.
Generally, it’s not that keto is restrictive. There is a huge variety of foods we can eat. The issue is rather our lack of creativity, experience or desire to cook. We don’t have time to cook and eat convenient foods that are quick to prepare. I mean, who wants to make a pasta sauce from scratch if you can buy it in a bag, right?
Give yourself time to get used to this new lifestyle. Try out new recipes like this zucchini fritters and this golden cauliflower rice. Get creative, and who knows, you may even start to enjoy cooking.
Lastly, start with what you can afford. If you don’t have the budget to buy grass-fed, free-range beef right now, then buy the best quality you can afford. As mentioned above, eggs are nutrient-dense and a great source of protein and fat on keto. Buy good quality eggs!