A ketogenic or “keto” diet is a high fat, low carb, and moderate protein diet where carbs are typically limited to 20-50 g per day. Net carbs is the relevant quantity to keep track of, calculated as net carbs = total carbs – fiber – sugar alcohols (e.g., erythritol).
This page provides a guide for planning your meals including breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, and snacks. You’ll also find discussion of time-saving tips and foods to avoid.
Not quite what you’re looking for? If you want a grocery shopping list, check out this list of keto friendly foods. If you’re curious why people decide to follow a low carb diet and the benefits of doing so, read this low carb diet guide for beginners.
- Carb-heavy foods like bread, french toast, waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, biscuits, and cereal — unless they’re specifically low carb versions made without wheat flour.
- Drinks with a lot of sugar, like fruit juices, hot chocolate, frappuccinos, and sodas. Coffees and teas with added sugar.
- Black coffee, or coffee with a splash of heavy whipping cream or mixed with some nut milk (my favorite is cashew milk). To sweeten your coffee, I recommend sugar-free alternatives like Nestle’s French Vanilla Creamer Singles made with sucralose.
- Drinks like sugar-free teas, tea lattes, and smoothies.
- Eggs in various forms — hard-boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, frittatas, egg bites, deviled eggs, omelettes, and crustless quiches.
- Enjoy the eggs with meats like bacon, sausage, ham, and smoked salmon as well as vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, and onions. Cheese is also great.
- Fast through breakfast, with a low-calorie coffee at most. By fasting, you have one less meal to worry about, and you save precious time in the mornings by not having to eat. This should be easy for you if you’re generally not hungry in the mornings.
- Buy low carb drinks by checking out this Keto Starbucks Guide.
- Soups that contain grains, potatoes, or beans.
- Salads with chickpeas, croutons, dried fruit, or beans.
- Anything with bread, like sandwiches, wraps, melts, paninis, and burgers.
- Low carb soups, including cauliflower cheese soup, vegetable beef soup, cabbage soup, and broccoli cheddar soup.
- Make your own salad with low carb fixings, such as chicken, steak, seafood, leafy greens, boiled eggs, cheese, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, peppers, celery, olives, and nuts. Use caesar or ranch dressing.
- Follow a recipe to make salads like chicken bacon avocado salad, Mediterranean chopped salad, tuna salad, and avocado egg salad.
- Wrap any salad in a low carb tortilla, which are typically 5 or 6 g net carbs per wrap. Look for brands like Kroger, Mission, and La Banderita in U.S. stores.
- Prepare your lunches using bags of pre-cut ingredients from your grocery store. For example, buy pre-shredded packs of chicken breast, pre-chopped onions, or pre-shredded cabbage.
- Skip all chopping work by assembling your salad using your local grocery store’s salad bar.
- Make a week’s worth of salads, soups, or stews ahead of time, like on a Sunday. To keep the salad as fresh as possible, store the dressing separate from the salad. Soups and stews can be divided into individual portions and refrigerated/frozen.
- Lunch can be leftovers from your previous day’s dinner. Even though I usually only cook for two, I welcome dinner recipes that make multiple servings so that I can enjoy leftovers the next day.
- Flour and corn starch are common thickeners for soups and stews. If used in a small quantity, they are fine because the carb impact per serving is low. However, two ways to avoid them completely is to (1) use a pinch of xanthan gum, or (2) boil the soup or stew until enough liquid has evaporated to significantly thicken the soup (this could take 10 to 20 minutes).
- Grain-based foods, like bread, sandwiches, burgers, lasagna, pasta, pizza, flatbread, breaded meat, rice, burritos, tacos, potstickers, quinoa, cous cous, etc.
- Starchy vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beans.
- Anything that isn’t just meat and vegetables, including sugary sauces and dressings.
- Any kind of protein, like chicken, beef, pork, seafood, or other meats. Cook it any way you like, such as baking, sauteing, or grilling. Some examples of my favorite meaty dishes include cheesy baked chicken breasts, pressure cooked butter chicken, and pan-seared salmon fillets.
- Low carb vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, brussels sprouts, asparagus, celery, and cabbage. You can make balsamic roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower “mac” and cheese, and creamed spinach.
- Stir fry dishes are great. Just toss a bunch of vegetables like bell peppers and onions with your protein of choice, add a sauce, and you’re done.
- Casseroles are also easy and hassle-free. Just add meat, vegetables, and cheese to a high-sided baking dish — see examples like ground beef and broccoli casserole or eggplant casserole.
- If you’re short on time and need to eat out, order dishes like steak, a meaty entree-sized salad, or a burrito bowl sans rice and beans.
- If you’re looking for a quick meal to grab from the grocery store, look for rotisserie chicken from the ready-made hot food section and a pre-cut bag of broccoli florets in the produce section.
- Traditional desserts or sweets, unless specifically labeled as low carb. They are likely made with sugar and/or wheat-based flour.
- Bakery items marketed as “gluten free” or “low fat” — these desserts are typically not low carb and have just as many carbs as the traditional versions.
- You can make a low carb version of almost any dessert, such as fudge, cookies, cheesecake, and ice cream. Many of them taste remarkably similar to the “real thing,” if not better, and definitely satisfy any sweet cravings.
- Make keto fat bombs, which are snack-sized bites intended to be very low in carbs and high in fat. My favorite ones are enjoyed frozen and made with primarily cream cheese.
- Almond flour is the most popular low carb flour, with coconut flour second. Both can be easily found at major U.S. supermarkets as well as online. Most low carb desserts involve replacing all-purpose wheat flour with one or the other.
- There are a variety of low carb sweeteners; the most convenient ones measure the same as sugar. I prefer dry erythritol-based sweeteners by the brands Swerve and Lakanto. Most of these sweeteners are difficult to find in stores and your best bet is to buy them online.
- Most desserts keep well so you can conveniently make a large quantity ahead of time and enjoy the occasional treat throughout the week.
- Buy store-bought low carb ice creams, available in major U.S. supermarkets by brands like Halo Top, Enlightened, Rebel, and Low Cow. Some are even dairy free.
- Buy low carb chocolate bars by brands like Lily’s and Choc Zero.
- Buy fresh berries, such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Watch how many you eat because they pack 5-10 g net carbs per 1/2 cup serving.
- Processed snacks, like potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, crackers, granola bars, and fruit snacks. They are usually full of carbs. When in doubt, check the product’s ingredients label and nutrition facts to calculate net carbs (ideally under 5g per serving).
- Make parmesan crisps with just 2 ingredients. These cheese crisps can take the role of croutons in salads, or oyster crackers in soups.
- Make almond flour crackers, and use them instead of traditional tortilla chips for dips.
- Buy roasted nuts and seeds, including almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans, and pumpkin seeds. If you have access to a Costco membership, the Kirkland brand is very affordably priced for nuts.
- Buy cheese crisps by brands like Whisps, Moon Cheese, and Parm Crisps. They are usually almost 100% cheese and quite low in carbs.
- Buy pork rinds, also known as cracklins and chicharonnes. These fried pork rinds work great as a crispy, zero-carb snack if you don’t mind the smell. You can also smash them into fine bits and use them as breading for meat, in place of panko breadcrumbs.
- Buy seaweed snacks, which are lightweight packages of thin sheets of seaweed. They’re fantastic when lightly salted.
- Buy beef jerky, but watch out for ones with added sugar. Always check the nutrition label to see how many net carbs are included per serving.
- Buy protein bars such as Quest bars. They’re usually sweetened with erythritol. I don’t like the taste of keto protein bars, but many people enjoy them.
- Buy deli-style pastrami, salami, or turkey slices. You can wrap them up with a stick of cheese inside.
- Select non-perishable snacks if you’re traveling and want to stay in ketosis. You can conveniently bring them along on road trips or camping without needing to keep them refrigerated.
This example has a total of about 1500 calories, 20g net carbs, and 80g protein. These numbers can be tweaked to one’s preferences by adjusting the portion sizes.
- Coffee With Creamer
1g net carbs
- Salsa Chicken Soup (2 servings)
11g net carbs
- Tuna Broccoli Casserole (1 serving)
6g net carbs
- Peanut Butter Fat Bombs (quantity 2)
1g net carbs
- Macadamia Nuts (1/4 cup)
1g net carbs
In the above example, the soup, casserole, and fat bombs can all be made ahead of time. You can choose a weekend day to make all of these dishes, refrigerating or freezing individual portions. Over the next couple of days, enjoy them for lunch or dinner by reheating them in the microwave.
Breakfast is only coffee, and the creamer is assumed to be either unsweetened nut milk (1g net carbs for 1 cup) or heavy whipping cream (1g net carbs for 2 tablespoons). The snack chosen here is a handful of macadamia nuts — I like the roasted and lightly salted variety.(back to top)