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Ketogenic Diet Foods to Avoid

I see a ketogenic diet as a lifestyle and I would have liked to say that there are no foods to avoid on a ketogenic diet.

In an ideal world I would have told you to eat any food, but just eat all foods in moderation. That is kind of what we are told all the time. Isn't it? 🙁

The reality though is that there are plenty of foods that we should never have eaten in the first place and now to just say eat them all in moderation is therefore not a valid or useful argument.

Whilst on a ketogenic diet the foods to avoid can be summarized as all sugary and starchy food. This is a topic I intend to cover only once, as I prefer to focus on what we should be eating and doing, rather than what we shouldn't be.

If you feel the same and want to rather check out what you should be eating, then check out our list for a comprehensive shopping list and our ketogenic diet checklist that summarizes it all.

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases made through these links. This is at no additional cost to you and helps me to create this content.

Now, let's look into the different categories of food we shouldn't be eating and why.

Ketogenic diet foods to avoid

Ketogenic Diet - Foods to Avoid

Sugar and Candy

Avoid all sugar. This may sound easier than what it really is as sugar is added into most sauces, processed foods and even canned vegetables. But let's start somewhere...

  • All table sugar no matter the color or type
  • Any food with added sugar including all processed food
  • Fructose - Sugar found in fruit
  • Jams and preserves
  • Most sauces - Check labels carefully
  • Most salad dressings
  • All syrups
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • All candy bars
  • All cotton and hard candy
Avoid sugar - Keto diet

Pastries and Baked Goods

You need to cut these all, but it doesn't mean you can't enjoy healthy alternatives.

Foods to avoid on a ketogenic diet
  • Pastries
  • Brownies
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Donuts
  • Muffins
  • Really all traditional cakes

Grains and Starches

I know for most people this is a tough one as we are so used to grabbing a sandwich. It is a big one though.

  • All rice - white, brown, basmati
  • All pasta
  • All breakfast cereals
  • Barley
  • Millet
  • Oatmeal
  • Amarath
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Rye
  • Couscous
  • Muesli
  • Corn Starch
  • Flour from any of the ingredients above
  • All whole grains
  • All foods made from any of the above like:
  • Pizza
  • Tortillas
  • Croissants
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Porridge


Keto No No


Keto - No baked goods

Legumes

Legumes and beans are not allowed on a ketogenic diet. This makes it much harder for vegetarians and vegans to follow.

Beans and the keto diet
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas (No hummus)
  • Baked beans
  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lima beans

Starchy Vegetables

These vegetables are not allowed as they all raise blood sugar and insulin.

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes/yams
  • Squashes and butternut
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Beets
  • Carrots
Starchy vegetables

What About Fruit?

Rather than list all the fruits that we shouldn't be eating on a low carb diet. Check out the list of the fruits we can eat here...

Not being able to eat most fruits makes me somewhat sad, but when I focus on how well I feel when my insulin levels are under control, I really am okay with it. I do have the occasional fruit, maybe an apple or a kiwi fruit.

I have cut down completely on my fruit intake, except for berries and lemon, but occasionally I have a strong craving for bananas. When this happens I have them. I know I can also look for a different source of potassium, but I feel strongly that a keto lifestyle requires me to listen to my body and that when my body tells me strongly that I need something I listen.

Update: I don't crave bananas anymore. I now find them extremely sweet.

These cravings are different to the out of control cravings I used to have when I fueled my body with sugar and starchy carbs.

If I had to go on a starch binge tomorrow and have cravings after that, I will know what they are. They are very different to my body's real need for a nutrient that I may have neglected.

One of the big benefits of removing these highly addictive foods from my diet, is that I no longer have out of control cravings.

Dairy

Dairy is allowed on keto. But it is mostly cream, butter and some cheeses. Always make sure that they are full cream.

Keto diet what not to eat
  • Flavored milks and yogurts
  • ​Low fat or skimmed milk and yogurt
  • Milk or yogurt with added sugars or sweeteners
  • Ice cream
  • Cottage cheese
  • Full cream milk (Limit because of natural sugar content

Packaged and Processed Snacks

Who doesn't love popcorn? And now that we know we should be eating butter, it sounds really tempting to have popcorn with lots of butter.

But of course butter is only good for us when it is not eaten with carbs.

So let's have a look at what snacks to avoid on a ketogenic diet.

  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Potato and tortilla chips
  • Rice cakes
  • Flavored and coated nuts
  • Cheesy and flavored crackers
  • Granola and breakfast bars
  • Protein bars
  • Any boxed or packaged snacks
Snacks to avvoid on a ketogenic diet

If you do crave popcorn, you can try these low carb alternatives.

Drinks

The best drink on a low carb diet is water. Sugar laden drinks have lots of carbs and lots of sugar.

Drinks not to have on low carb diet
  • Sodas
  • Diet sodas
  • Juices
  • Flavored teas and coffees
  • Frozen coffees
  • Milk shakes
  • Sports and energy drinks
  • Cordials
  • Root beers
  • Cocktails
  • Beers
  • Wine
  • Malts
  • Alcopops 

What Now

Now that you know what foods to avoid on your ketogenic diet, focus on what you CAN have.

There are lots of amazing real foods and snacks that you can enjoy every day.

Once you know how good it feels when you eat healthily, you won't miss these foods. And if you miss any of them, then check out some of these amazing recipes.

Noline
 

Noline is a chartered accountant and therapeutic reflexologist who converted to the keto lifestyle after losing 55 pounds without counting calories or starving herself. She is a student of Professor Tim Noakes and the Nutrition Network and feels compelled to share the low carb lifestyle with as many people as possible. She does this at Essential Keto where she shares resources, recipes and her experiences, whilst working on losing that last 10 pounds.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 12 comments
Leif Beech - July 19, 2019

Thanks very nice and informative article!

Reply
    Noline - July 24, 2019

    You are welcome Leif. Thank you for reading our blog. Let us know if you have any questions about the best keto foods.

    Reply
Katie H - November 5, 2018

I’m sure the answer is no but is soy not allowed either? Or ok in small doses??

Reply
    Noline - November 9, 2018

    Hi Katie

    The short answer is no.

    The net carbs in soy is low, so if your main focus is to stay within your macros then you could probably eat some soy. Also for vegetarians it may be tough to get their protein in, so again soy may be okay.

    There are so many problems eating soy though. First it tends to be highly processed, has a negative effect on hormones and can irritate the gut. Read this article by Louise from the Keto Summit for why soy is not keto.

    Reply
Lynn - August 4, 2018

Is drinking caffeine free green tea (iced) ok? If so, can a natural sweetener like Stevia or Truvia be used?

Reply
    Noline - August 7, 2018

    Yes Lynn green tea is a good option and stevia is a good low carb sweetener to use. Enjoy…

    Reply
Nate - June 19, 2018

Are protein shakes ok, when mixed with water or 2% milk

Reply
    Noline - June 25, 2018

    Hey Nate, check the ingredients of your protein shake. If the cabs are low and it does not have artificial sweeteners then yes, no problem.

    Personally I’ll mix it with water. The net carbs in milk is high (about 11 grams per cup)

    I am also not a fan of 2% milk. With keto we want high fat, so occasionally when I do have milk, I only drink full cream milk.

    Reply
Lourdes Martinez - January 21, 2018

Why avoid diet drinks if they have no calories or sugar? What about sugar-free chewing gum… is it allowed in the Keto diet?

Reply
    Noline - January 24, 2018

    There are 2 schools of thought on artificial sweeteners.

    Personally I am in the no camp especially when it comes to artificial sweeteners like aspartame. There are way too many studies showing how bad it is. It also tends to make me hungry. For me one of the biggest advantages of keto is that I am not constantly hungry.

    My experience with chewing gum is that it also makes me hungry. It creates the impression in my brain that it is time to eat.

    For me personally it is more about the quality of my food rather than the calories. I do still use sugar alcohols like xylitol in my baking, but I am working on limiting them.

    The other school of thought focus on calories and have no problem adding sugar free gum and zero calorie drinks. Lots of people have these Zevia Zero drinks.

    The keto diet is very individual. The best is to follow the basic guidelines, but work out what works best for you and adapt as you need to.

    Hope that helps…

    Reply
Mary Robinson - November 10, 2017

I love how it makes me feel, I’m excited and hyper all day long. I can’t shut up. I’m a type 2 diabetic, my sugar stays at 169 and below so if I take my medicine I’ll bottom out, so I pay very close attention to what I eat.

Reply
    Noline - November 21, 2017

    Hi Mary, thank you for sharing your experience with us. I am so happy that Keto is working for you. Stay healthy…

    Reply

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