Keto food pyramid: what foods to eat and what to avoid on a keto diet?

Keto food pyramid

Are you a keto diet lover and want to know about the keto food pyramid i.e what foods to eat on keto? and what foods to avoid on keto? 

Then you are in the right place. Scroll below and find the A-Z guide about keto-friendly foods.

The ketogenic diet & Ketosis

The ketogenic diet and ketosis

A ketogenic diet or a keto diet is a very low-carb but a high-fat diet. It involves massively reducing your carbohydrates intake and substituting it with lots of fat.

More specifically, the keto-friendly diet focuses on eating

  • 5% – 10% calories from carbs (total carbs minus grams of fiber),
  • 15% – 30% of calories from protein
  • At least 65% – 75% of the calories from fat (or more) to ensure the production of ketones in the liver.

Keto diet shares a lot of characteristics with both ‘Atkins’ and ‘low-carb diets’. Then you might be wondering, what then? Yes, then this reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called “Ketosis”.

In this state, your body slowly becomes very efficient at melting fat for energy and turning fat into ketones in your liver, the energy produced thereby can be supplied to the brain. As a result, you lose fat and weight.

Other proven benefits of a keto diet and ‘ketosis’ include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Improved fat burning
  • Clear skin
  • Anti-aging benefits
  • Reduced risk of chronic disease
  • Abundant energy
  • Reduced inflammation

 

What is a Keto food pyramid?

what is a keto food pyramid?

Now you might be wondering, I got what is a ketogenic diet, but exactly is a keto food pyramid? A pyramid built with keto foods? !!!The answer is probably “yes” in terms of listing of food

A keto food pyramid is an assortment of “Quantity & Quality of different types of food sources” based on the ketogenic diet principle of obtaining your 5% macros from carbs, 25% calories from proteins and 70% calories from fats.

Foods groups at the top

The food groups at the top are those which should make up the majority of your diet. These generally include:

  • Healthy fats and oils
  • Lean meat, fish and eggs

 

Foods groups in the middle

Certain sections — such as meats and poultry — are further classified into subsections to help dieters understand how much of their diet should be made of lean proteins versus fatty proteins.

Food groups at the bottom

As for the ones all the way at the bottom, these foods should still be included in your diet, but in much smaller quantities. These generally include:

  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Vegetables low in carbs
  • Nuts and berries etc

You can eat certain foods freely, while you should consume some in limited quantities to maintain low carb intake. The keto food pyramid also outlines some food and beverage products that can be consumed or avoided altogether.

Remember: the quality of food matters
For example:  As discussed above, 70% of calories in the form of fat should ideally come from healthy sources on a keto diet. So foods like eggs, coconut, fish and olive oil are known as the backbone of keto dieting.

So, it’s not just about macronutrient ratios – the quality of the food from which these macros come from is at the heart of the keto food pyramid.

In the following section, I will be going over each of the sections of the keto food pyramid and list what are the best sources of each type of food.

1. Reaching your Fat intake: the big wide bottom of the Pyramid

Fats at the bottom of keto food pyramid

As explained above, the majority of your calorie share (70-80%)should come from healthy fats, the lowest bottom two layers of the keto food pyramid. 

Again, in the category of fats,  Saturated and monounsaturated fats are the most stable and have the highest smoke points, making them ideal and safe for cooking. In fact, the majority of your fat consumption should come from these particular types of fat.

Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, are unstable and aren’t suitable for cooking in high heat. These are best for flavoring or very light cooking.

Healthy fats & oils sources for keto

Healthy fats & oils for the keto diet

Following is an array of what are the best sources of each type of fats required in a keto diet.

Healthy Saturated Fats

  • Ghee
  • Coconut oil 
  • Chicken fat
  • Lard
  • Tallow
  • Butter

 Healthy Monounsaturated fats

  • Olive oil
  • Macadamia oil
  • Avocado

 Healthy Polyunsaturated fats

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Nut oils
  • Sesame oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Avocado oil

Fats & oils to avoid on keto

  • Soybean oil
  • Canola oil
  • Vegetable oils
  • Margarine
  • Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Corn oil

 

Something to keep in mind: 
Some of the above-mentioned oils might seem healthy because their names are associated with vegetables, seeds, and legumes, but they’re actually all bad for your health. 

Studies have found that these oils are linked to inflammation, poor gut health, high cholesterol levels, coronary heart disease, and even an increased risk of cancer.

2. Keto food pyramid Middle: Reaching your protein intake 

protein in the middle of keto food pyramid

Proteins occupy the lower top of the keto food pyramid just below healthy fats and oils and they must contribute at least 20-25% of your daily calories in it.

But there is one big misconception in fitness enthusiasts; That you can cross off multiple nutrients in just those foods alone. This way of eating is high in both fat and protein. That’s not the case at all.

A standard keto diet, with the exception of a high-protein version, means only a moderate amount of protein is consumed. So you can figure out yourself as to why are you not even near to ketosis doing a 50-50 split with protein and fat.

 

Healthy proteins to eat on a keto

Healthy protein sources on keto

Ideal sources of protein falling under the second tier of the keto pyramid include:

  • Shrimp
  • Scallops
  • Cod
  • Halibut
  • Mahi
  • Oysters
  • Clams
  • Crab
  • Mussels
  • Lobster
  • Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Cold cuts

Some other fattier cuts yet rich in protein nutrients include:

  • Organ meat (hearts, liver, tongue, and kidney)
  • Steak
  • Veal
  • Lamb
  • Cured meats like salami and pepperoni
  • Beef
  • Pork (pastured, not farm-raised)
  • Bacon (beware of added starch and preservatives)
  • Lamb
  • Goat
  • Venison
  • Wild-caught fish and seafood
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Eggs

Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean you should completely abandon fatty cuts of meal altogether. In fact, you can but they should not be on your plate daily. Rather, a good healthy balance will include a mix of fatty and lean cuts of meat.

Protein sources to avoid on keto

  • Hot dogs
  • Sausages
  • Breaded meats and fish
  • Meat products that have starchy or sugary sauces

 

3. Top of the keto food pyramid: Maintaining your 5%-10% carb limit

Carbs on top of keto food pyramid at 5-10% consumption level

On keto, your smallest macronutrient is always carbs, which is why it’s much higher on the Keto Food Pyramid. But that doesn’t mean you should pay any less attention to them.

In fact, carbs balance is very tricky i.e if you don’t pay enough attention to where you’re at carb-wise during the course of the day, you will certainly find it tough to reach ketosis. 

For most people to reach the ideal state of ketosis, a range of 20-50 grams of net carbs per day is a desirable goal to aim for.

In keto, vegetables particularly ‘non-starchy vegetables’ are very popular. There is, in fact, according to fitness experts no limit to the number of non-starchy vegetables you can eat while the net carbs are next to nothing and the caloric content is extremely low in them.

 

Vegetables/Carbs to eat on a keto diet

vegetables and carbs to eat on a keto diet

  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach
  • Chives
  • Radicchio
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • Celery
  • Asparagus
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Bok choy

 

Vegetables/Carbs to avoid/limit on the keto food

Some of those vegetables particularly, starchy vegetables like potatoes. Others that you should eat in limited proportion because they are relatively high in carb content are:

  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Leek
  • Winter squash (such as pumpkin)
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Bean sprouts
  • Peas
  • Artichokes
  • Rhubarb
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Fennel
  • Turnips
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers

Also, read: Low carb lunch ideas you need to try on a keto diet

4. Dairy on keto

Dairy foods to eat on keto

I know you might be wondering what I like dairy i.e you want cheese, milk, etc on your bucket list, then what about them on keto? Well, the good news is that you can enjoy your favorite cheese if you choose the right kind of dairy, eat in moderation and practice portion control.

That’s why You’ll find dairy towards the bottom of the pyramid and that’s also done for good reason: dairy is not something you want to load upon. Let me give you a simple example: Take for instance milk, there’s close to 13g of carbs in just one glass alone.

However, you need not lose heart because consuming dairy only can help you reach your fat and protein goals for the day so it’s not necessarily bad when eaten in moderation.

 

Dairy food to eat on a keto diet

  • Sour cream (full fat)
  • Hard cheeses (like parmesan, gouda, blue cheese)
  • Soft cheeses (whole mozzarella, brie, Monterey Jack)
  • Cream cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Ghee
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Fermented yogurts, Greek yogurt, and kefir

For dairy avoiders: And for readers who don’t like dairy, you can opt-out of this category altogether without jeopardizing your chances of reaching ketosis.

 

5.Nuts on a keto diet

Nuts to eat on keto diet

Yes, most nuts are rich in fat and/or protein. But many also deliver a side of carbs. So without the right portion control, you can easily go over budget within minutes. So choose your nuts wisely.

The best nut on keto is no doubt, is macadamia. They contain 75% of fat(about 21.2 g of fat per serving) and contain only 2g of carbs, making them an ideal snack in the category of nuts.

Keto friendly nuts are

  • Hazelnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Chestnuts
  • Pecans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Walnuts

6. Fruits in keto diet

fruits to eat on a keto diet

Fruit shares this same characteristic with nuts: only a small amount of the right kind packs an antioxidant-rich boost for your health while too much natural sugar can ruin your chances of reaching ketosis.

List of fruits to eat on keto

  • Blackberries,
  •  Raspberries,
  •  Strawberries
  •  blueberries

The above-mentioned list of fruits is not only rich in powerful anti-inflammatory vitamins, but they’re also lower in net carbs. To illustrate my point to you in a better way, consider the net carbs in just 1 cup:

  • 6g in blackberries
  • 7g in raspberries
  • 8g in strawberries
  • 17g in blueberries

Fruits to avoid on keto

Tropical fruits like

  • Bananas
  • oranges, 
  • Apples etc

You need to remember that as long as you control their portion then these are also safe to consume on a keto diet.

How to determine your individual macro needs?

How to determine your individual macros need?

 But as you become completely aware of what foods to eat on a keto diet, you come across another problem. You are asking yourself, “How much of each macro is right for you?”

 Step 1: Understanding the macro breakdown

understand your macros needs

With simple math, you can quickly figure out your needs. The first step is simple; On a keto diet, your typical macro-nutrients are divided as

  • 70% to 80% fats
  • 20% to 25% protein
  • 5% to 10% net carbs

But the specifics of how many grams of each food group can vary depending on factors such as 

  • your age, 
  • gender, 
  • body goals
  • and activity levels.

 

Step 2: Figuring out your exact calorie needs

figure out your calorie needs

While setting a weight loss goal and following keto diet religiously, failing to figure out their daily caloric needs and sticking to them is a common mistake people make. 

Finding out the exact number of calories you should be getting form proteins, fats and carbs is a very important step in setting your fitness direction right.   

To determine your calorie needs, you need to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is just a fancy way of saying how many calories it takes just to run your body at rest.

From there, figure out how many calories you need to support your activity level, both during and outside of work, and not just limited to exercise. This will be called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

Step 3: Finding your macros by using your calories

find your macros by using your calories

In this final step, now when you have your individual calorie count, you can simply multiply the standard keto macro breakdown to find out how many calories and grams you need of each one.

But there is one caveat.

If you don’t plan to follow a standard keto diet, then you have to adjust these numbers or if you are planning to follow a high protein diet or cyclical version instead, which are ideal for athletes specifically.

In short, all your meals must be 100% aligned to help you achieve our nutrients goals. And for that, meal planning is crucial.

But since I have given a comprehensive list of all kinds of recommended food on the keto food pyramid, this should not be a problem if you are really determined to achieve your fitness goals.

Types of Ketogenic diets

Types of ketogenic diet

The following are different types of a ketogenic diet depending on the variation in foods and macronutrients variations.

1.The standard ketogenic diet (SKD)

This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains:

  •  75% fat, 
  • 20% protein and 
  • only 5% carbs 

2. High-protein ketogenic diet

 This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet but includes more protein. It typically contains:

  • 35% protein
  • 5% carbs
  • About 60% fat

3.The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD)

As the name indicates, this diet cycle periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.

4. The targeted ketogenic diet (TKD)

This diet gives you the flexibility to add carbs around workouts as per your choice.

Keep in mind: Targeted or cyclical keto diets are relatively more advanced and not adopted by most of the people rather they are only used by professional athletes and bodybuilders.

In this post, the information provided is applicable to an only standard ketogenic diet(SKDd), though some principles can be applicable to other types of ketogenic diets.

Keto diet myths

Keto diet myths

But before I leave here, all you have learned today might not be helpful if you have some ketogenic diet myths that need to be debunked to make you a pro in keto food decision matters. 

So here is a list of common keto myths that might be keeping you back from your fitness goals.

 

Myth 1 – There is no limit to your protein intake on a keto

Keto myth 1: There is a limt to your protein intake keto

This is one of the most common myths as far as the keto diet is concerned implying that as long as you keep your carbs level in control, you can take as much protein as you want

Busting the myth

The reality is when you eat too much protein it results in gluconeogenesis. This causes your body to convert excess amino acids (proteins) into glucose, which will prevent ketosis (a.k.a. fat-burning mode).

People often ignore the fact that a ketogenic diet isn’t a low-carb, high-protein way of eating. Rather, Fat needs to be your primary fuel source and that means finding pure-fat sources that don’t include protein, such as butter or ghee and the foods listed above.

So,  the best choice for you is that  whenever you are going to eat meat, fish, or other sources of protein, always choose higher-fat options such as the foods.

 

Myth 2: Keto diet makes you deficient in minerals, fiber, and vitamins

Keto myth 2: keto diet makes you deficient in minerlas, fiber and vitamins

This is also another common  myth about the keto diet

Busting the myth:

This is not entirely true because if done correctly, the keto diet consists of all the essential micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and fiber) that your body needs for optimum performance. But a quick question arises in your mind that how is it possible to avoid fruits and still be healthy?

The answer is: try to eat low-carb vegetables that offer all the vitamins and minerals you can get from fruit, minus all the sugar. The list of these is as follows.

  • Spinach and Arugula
  • Herbs and Spices
  • Radicchio
  • Bok Choy and Swiss Chard
  • fiber your diet with garlic and kosher salt
  • Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc
  • seeds like chia and flaxseed
  • fruits like berries, blueberries, respherries, blackberries

 

Myth 3: Eating fat will make you fat

Keto diety myth 3: eating fat on keto diet will make you fat

Busting the myth:

This is the most common  misconception in ketogenic diet industry but I believe it is because of decades of market-based bias giving support for low-fat diets. However, modern research plainly rejects it.

Actually, the truth is that these are actually the processed high-carb and sugar-laden foods that cause weight gain and the health complications associated with obesity.

Once you get rid of the processed carbs and sugars, and swaps them with high-quality fats in foods like avocados, salmon, and full-fat dairy, your body stops storing all the excess glucose (coming from a higher-carb diet) as body fat

Moreover, eating fat keeps you satiated, curbs cravings, and naturally suppresses your appetite, so you’re likely to consume fewer calories overall. And as you continue, your body eventually transitions into ketosis, where it begins to use fat to produce ketones for fuel, providing improved energy and mental clarity.

A less popular keto diet myth
Another related myth that you need to bust is that you don’t necessarily have to meet your fat intake to get yourself in keto.

Yes, it is true that animal products are good source of ketogenic fats but there are hundreds of plant-based fat sources to include in a well-balanced and diverse ketogenic diet.

Your must-reads:

  1.  How to afford keto cheaply?
  2. How to afford paleo cheaply?
  3. vegan or paleo: what is best for your health & fitness?

FAQs

Q 1: Can I eat sauerkraut on a keto diet?

Answer: yes, you can.

Sauerkraut is made with fermented cabbage. It is low in calories and carbs and rich in fiber. Not only it makes keto friendly diet for weight loss purposes but it also has been found to help absorb nutrients easily i.e it helps in digestion too. 

Q2: Is there portion control on ketogenic diet? 


Answer: yes, there is a portion control in a ketogenic diet. Fats, carbs, and protein need to be portion-controlled because some fats are high in carbs too and similarly, proteins if consumed in excess quantities can trigger ‘glucogenesis” the conversion of excessive protein in sugar or carbs.

Also, not all carbs sources are created equally, there are definitely some carbs sources that perfectly fit into a ketogenic diet but some are to be consumed in very little quantities as they have high average carb content. 

Q3: Are eggs good for ketosis?

Answer: yes, eggs are good for ketosis, they fit perfectly into the category of lean proteins in the keto food pyramid and also feature in keto allowed foods for a fat category.

Q4: What can’t you eat on keto?

Answer: The list of food to avoid on keto is:
1. Sugary beverages
2. Traditional snack foods
3. Most fruits
4. Starchy vegetables
5. Trans fats
6. Most alcohols
7. Beans, peas
8. Grains

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