Bored with the same old ‘meat and cheese’ keto menu?
When it comes to high-quality fat content, there’s more to a ketogenic diet than grass-fed steak and butter. In fact, consuming too much fatty animal foods and oils can wreak havoc on your microbiome, leading to inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. Plus, if you’re eating too many inflammatory calories you simply won’t lose weight.
Don’t sabotage your keto agenda by going overboard with animal protein and dairy. You can diversify your diet and eat a range of tasty foods, while increasing your healthy fat content. This list of keto-friendly foods can help you reach your keto goal, while delivering a wealth of nutrients to the body to keep it lean and healthy:
1. Fiber-Rich Vegetables
Don’t be scared to add color to your plate. Most vegetables contain very few digestible (net) carbs, which is total carbs minus fiber. For example, the net carb count for non-starchy vegetables ranges from 1 gram to 8 grams per cup. Cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and cauliflower will add an array of important nutrients to your meals, without threatening your keto diet.
As long as you stay away from the fried varieties, fish can make a keto-friendly meal. Salmon and fatty fish are rich in B vitamins, potassium, beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and selenium, yet virtually carb-free. Other high-protein sources to add to your weekly rotation are wild-caught catfish, cod, flounder, halibut, mackerel, mahi-mahi, snapper, trout, and tuna.
One of the healthiest foods, eggs contain less than one gram of carbs each and can help you stay full for hours. They're also high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help protect eye health. Spoon egg salad into a lettuce leaf for a keto-approved wrap, whip up a tomato egg frittata or toss hard-boiled eggs on top of a big green salad. The possibilities are endless for this super-versatile protein source.
Avocados contain 2 grams of net carbs per serving and are high in fiber and several key nutrients, including potassium. These healthy-fat fruits are another versatile food that can add a fresh dimension to keto meals. Chop an avo and add it to your chicken salad or egg salad. Use one as a ‘taco’ and stuff it with your favorite fillings. You can even mix an avocado with cacao powder to make chocolate pudding.
5. Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are rapidly absorbed and taken directly to the liver, where they can be used instantly for energy. They can also be converted into ketones, compounds that can be used as a rapid fuel source by the body. When adding coconut oil to your diet, do so gradually to minimize digestive side effects like stomach upset or diarrhea.
6. Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is high in good-for-you compounds like oleic acid, a heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat and antioxidants known as phenols. As a pure fat source, olive oil contains zero carbs. It’s the perfect base ingredient for homemade salad dressings. Because it isn't as stable as saturated fats at high temperatures, use olive oil only for low-heat cooking or on foods that have already been cooked.
Perfect for snacking, salads or on top of low-carb guacamole, olives provide the same health benefits as olive oil. Olives vary in carb content due to their size. However, half of their carbs come from fiber, so their digestible carb content is very minimal. A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of olives has a net carb count of 1 gram for 7–10 olives, depending on their size.
8. Plain Greek Yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt is a high-fat, high-protein food that will help you feel full long after meal time. To upgrade the protein content, dress up your yogurt bowl with chopped nuts, powdered peanut butter or hemp seeds. Those who have a sweet tooth will find that a dash of cinnamon, cacao powder or pumpkin spice helps to satisfy cravings.
9. Nuts and Seeds
Most nuts and seeds are low in carbs and contain healthy fats and protein -- although the amount of each varies quite a bit. Choose from walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and pistachios. Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds and chia seeds are also on the keto-approved food list. Nuts and seeds are great as a satisfying snack, as a crunchy topper on salads or as “breading” for chicken and fish.
While pursuing a keto agenda, there’s no need to fear all fruit. Berries -- including blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries -- are actually low carb and high in filling fiber. To create a colorful and antioxidant-rich yogurt parfait, add about a half of a cup of berries. Or, for a no-guilt dessert bowl, mix up a medley of fresh berries and top with shaved dark chocolate (at least 85% cacao).
A Win-Win Strategy
Don’t fall for the hype: Eating a whole foods diet high in quality fats but also nutrient-dense plant foods is a win-win strategy for reaching your keto goals and promoting good health.
Even on a strict keto plan, you’ve got lots of room to add a delicious variety of foods to your plate. If good overall health and weight loss is part of your keto agenda, then non-starchy vegetables play an important role in helping you get those results. Diversifying your food keeps the keto diet flavorful and interesting, making you more likely to stick with it.
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