Food & Nutrition Science

Understanding Foods, Meals Plans and Shopping Lists for the Ketogenic Diet

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been diving into the details behind the ketogenic diet. I’ve written articles about the diet’s history as a cure for epilepsy, and the ways it’s being used today to treat a number of health conditions. I also touched on the pros and cons of the ketogenic diet to dispel some rumors about its impacts on your health.

To be clear, we aren’t advocating for the ketogenic diet either way. It’s our goal to give you the facts so that you can make the right dietary decisions for your situation. For those who decide to follow a ketogenic meal plan, this guide will give you the resources you need to get started.

The Keto-friendly Shopping List

If you’re shopping for keto foods for the first time and aren’t sure where to start, this list can be your starting point. So long as you consume a balanced mix of the following foods, you can create a number of meals that will keep you in ketosis.

You might notice that this shopping list focuses on nutrient-dense whole foods, as they are considered one of the best ways to keep your vitamin and mineral levels high.


High-fat, low-sugar dressings are a great way to boost your fat content, so look for creamy recipes and avoid fruity vinaigrettes.

  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Creamy Caesar
  • Ranch
  • Olive Oil

Fats and Oils

Fats and oils are the key to ketosis, so don’t skimp on quality when you purchase them.

  • Avocado Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Almond Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Fish Oil
  • Flaxseed Oil
  • MCT Oil
  • Full-fat Mayonnaise

Seeds and Nuts

Seeds and nuts are a nutrient-dense packet of energy, and they are a stellar keto snack or recipe addition.

  • Chia Seeds
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Macadamias
  • Pecans
  • Sunflower Seeds

Flours, Meals, and Powders

Wheat-based flours aren’t smart for the ketogenic diet because their glucose content pulls you out of ketosis. However, other varieties of flour can substitute well.

  • Acorn Flour
  • Flax Seed Meal
  • Almond Flour/Meal
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Coconut Flour
  • Protein Powder
  • Sesame Seed Flour

Fruits & Berries

Your fruit intake should be limited on the ketogenic diet, but these low-sugar, low carb options can be eaten sparingly.

  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Lemons
  • Blueberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Limes
  • Green Olives
  • Cranberries
  • Raspberries

Dairy and Dairy Substitutes

Whole milk isn’t recommended for staying into ketosis, but you can fill up on full-fat cheeses and other dairy products, as well as dairy substitutes.

  • Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Unsweetened Coconut Milk
  • Unsweetened Soy Milk
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Heavy Cream
  • Full-fat Sour Cream
  • Whipped Cream
  • Pastured Butter
  • Bleu Cheese / Feta Cheese
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cream Cheese
  • Gouda
  • Mozzarella
  • Ricotta Cheese


Your focus should be on high-fat cuts of meat, rather than processed meat products like bacon, sausage, and lunch meats, as they often have hidden sugars and carbohydrates.

  • Beef Roast
  • 70-90% Ground Beef
  • Steak
  • Spare Ribs
  • Lamb Chops
  • Pork Chops
  • Pork Loin
  • Veal
  • Pastured Chicken
  • Duck
  • Venison
  • Buffalo
  • Salmon
  • Elk
  • Tuna
  • Anchovies
  • Crab Meat
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Shrimp
  • Squid


Low-starch, nutrient-dense vegetables should be incorporated into every keto meal.

  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Avocado
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Chard
  • Green Bean
  • Jalapeño
  • Lettuce (Green Leaf, Romaine)
  • Parsley
  • Radish
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Bell Pepper
  • Onions
  • Squash (Spaghetti, Summer Squash)

If you need some inspiration for cooking keto-friendly recipes, these options provide a place to start.

Oven-Baked Brie: Fill up on hearty fats, fresh herbs, and toasted nuts with this keto-friendly party dish. You can also serve brie as a standalone dessert.

Keto-friendly Garlic Bread: This recipe relies on almond flour to lower the gluten content, and it contains just one carb per piece.

Keto Cheese Chips: If your craving a crunchy snack to use with dip or guacamole, try this two-ingredient recipe that relies on cheddar cheese and paprika powder.

Biltong: This South African take on beef jerky lets you enjoy a spiced meat snack that’s free of sugar but full of flavor.

Keto Chicken Parmesan: This take on a classic recipe omits the bread crumbs but packs on the fat with ghee, heavy whipping cream, pork rinds, and two kinds of cheese.

Low-Carb Blueberry Muffins: These gluten-free muffins use coconut flour to create a soft and fluffy baked good that has a subtle coconut flavor.

Taco Stuffed Peppers: Forget the tortilla; bell peppers make delicious shells for a taco dinner.

Tuna Pickle Boats: The tanginess of dill pickles perfectly complement tuna salad, making this an idea low-calorie, low-carb keto option.

Almond Flour Chicken Tenders: This recipe lets you enjoy chicken tenders without adding the breading to your carbohydrate counts.

Baked Fish with Lemon Butter: Light on fishy taste, this recipe packs in plenty of fats with a keto-friendly serving of protein.

Top 13 Keto Snack Ideas

While the ketogenic diet is known for boosting satiety so that you are less hungry between meals, chances are you will still crave the occasional snack. Some keto-friendly options to curb cravings include the following.

  • Veggie Sticks: Choose low-carb veggies like celery and zucchini (skip the carrots) and dip them in cream cheese, sour cream, guacamole, or other high-fat sauces.
  • Cheese and Meat Wraps: Wrap lettuce and a piece of quality salami around a cheese stick for a filling, fatty snack.
  • Berries: fresh or frozen berries can be served with Greek yogurt or heavy whipping cream. Blueberries are high in carbs, so use them sparingly.
  • Hard Boiled Eggs: Keep some in the fridge for a grab-and-go snack.
  • Beef Jerky: Read labels carefully to ensure you choose a brand with low sugar levels.
  • Sweet and Salty Bacon: Smear a slice of bacon with peanut butter
  • Bulletproof Coffee: Melt a spoonful of butter or coconut oil into coffee or tea for a filling snack and caffeine boost.
  • Mixed Nuts: a (small) handful of walnuts, almonds, pistachios and Brazil nuts can combat hunger.
  • Avocado: Packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, avocados are keto-friendly and can be eaten plain or incorporated into other meals.
  • Greek Yogurt: combine two ounces of whole-milk yogurt with chopped walnuts and cinnamon to taste.
  • Dill Pickles: Entering ketosis increases your sodium requirements, so consider snacking on dill pickles wrapped in slice meat and cream cheese.

Note: If you’re often hungry while in ketosis, this is a sign that you’re not consuming enough fat. Add more to your meals to boost satiety.

Snacks to Avoid for Ketosis

These snack foods might seem healthy, but they aren’t considered keto friendly and should be avoided if you’re following the diet.

  • Specialty Coffees: Lattes and cappuccinos have high milk sugar content, and a 16-ounce latte has 18 grams of carbs.
  • Cashews: Considered to be a high-carb nut, cashews are best avoided.
  • Fruit Juices (even natural ones) and vitamin waters: most are high in sugar
  • Hand Fruit: Bananas alone have 20 grams of carbs.

How to Eat Out While Following the Ketogenic Diet

Anyone who follows a strict eating plan is likely to find eating out overwhelming, and the ketogenic diet is no exception. These strategies for ensuring you commit to ketogenic foods when eating out should make the process easier.

Research the Restaurant Beforehand

Vet out your restaurant options online before you commit. Keto-friendly choices include steakhouses, Middle Eastern and seafood restaurants, and some BBQ joints. Places to avoid include pizza, sandwich, and Italian restaurants.

Chances are you can find the menu, which makes it easier to calculate potential carbohydrate levels. Deciding what you want before arriving prevents you from making a decision you would regret.

Eat Before You Leave

Avoid the temptation of the bread basket by having a light meal before eating out. This will help you stick to your eating plan.

Ask Questions

Carefully vet your meal before ordering it by asking your server questions. It’s important to clarify whether your meat dish will be breaded, what sorts of sauces are served with your food (most contain added sugars) and whether it’s possible to switch out starchy sides for steamed veggies.

Turn Down Carbs

You can alter any restaurant meal by avoiding the carbs. Order a bunless hamburger, pass on sides of potatoes, rice, or fruit, and ask for butter or olive oil on the side to drizzle on top and increase your food’s fat content. And if you order Mexican, skip the chips and tortilla shells.

Sample 5 Day Keto Meal Plan

What does following the ketogenic diet look like in real life? Below is a sample 5-day menu to get you started.

Consider this menu as merely a starting point, and adjust it to fit your dietary preferences as necessary. Your macronutrient levels might be different, so you might find yourself needing to supplement these meals with more keto-friendly fats. By using it as a guideline, you’ll know that you’re starting in the right direction.

Day 1

Breakfast: Bulletproof coffee with two hard-boiled eggs

Lunch: Grilled salmon or tuna served on a spinach salad

Dinner: Taco stuffed peppers

Snack: Keto Cheese Chips dipped in guacamole 

Day 2

Breakfast: Plain, full-fat Greek yogurt topped with crushed pecans

Lunch: Tuna salad stuffed in tomatoes and served with dill pickles

Dinner: Keto Chicken Parmesan with keto garlic bread

Snack: Fudge Fat Bombs

Day 3

Breakfast: Fried eggs with bacon and a side of greens

Lunch: Almond flour chicken tenders

Dinner: Pork chops with cauliflower “rice”

Snack: Tuna Pickle Boats

Day 4

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs in butter on a bed of lettuce topped with avocado

Lunch: Grass-fed iceburger with a side of avocado and cottage cheese

Dinner: Meatballs on zucchini noodles, topped with cream sauce 

Snack: Keto cheese Roll-Ups

Day 5

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs served with avocado

Lunch: Almond milk smoothie with greens, almond butter, and protein powder

Dinner: Baked fish with lemon butter with a side of asparagus or mixed green salad

Snack: Mixed frozen berries and heavy whipping cream

A Final Word

The ketogenic diet may be appropriate and palatable for some, but it’s not for everyone. If you have questions or concerns about this eating strategy, you should speak with a healthcare professional before beginning.

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