Interested in the keto diet and not sure where to start? These 15 high-fat (and healthy) keto diet foods are about to become your new BFFs.
The Best Keto Diet Foods
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You've probably heard about the keto diet, which focuses mainly on fat. "The ketogenic diet (commonly called simply keto), is high in fat, extremely low in carbohydrates, and contains moderate protein," explains Sheri Kasper, R.D.N., L.D.N., dietitian, cofounder of Fresh Communications. That means the best keto foods are generally ones that are very high in fat. "By way of comparison, keto diets are typically around 75 percent calories from fat, 20 percent from protein and 5 percent from carbs," says Kasper. For some perspective, if you look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommendations for an average, healthy person is 20 to 35 percent of calories from fat, 10 to 35 percent of calories from protein, and 45 to 65 percent of calories from carbs.
When it comes to high-quality fat content, dairy earns top marks. "Aged cheeses, like cheddar, are naturally lactose-free and a great addition to the keto diet," she says. "Cheese contains many essential nutrients like protein, potassium, and calcium. And emerging research suggests that fat found in dairy may be a healthy choice." (Good News: The Benefits of Milk Outweigh the Potential Downsides of Dairy.)
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Full-Fat Greek Yogurt
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"Plain, full-fat Greek yogurt is a good keto choice," says Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., cofounder of Appetite for Health. "While it's high in protein, it's also high in saturated fats," she points out. A mix of saturated and unsaturated fats is typical when following a keto meal plan, but experts still agree that saturated fats should be eaten in relative moderation. "However, there are several studies that suggest the saturated fat in dairy foods may not be as detrimental to heart health compared to saturated fats from meats and other sources," says Upton.
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Nuts are definitely a healthy high-fat staple, but "not all nuts are created equal when it comes to the keto diet," says Kasper. "For example, cashews are higher in carbohydrates. Macadamia nuts are a great fit because they are high in healthy fat and low in carbs." (Related: A Keto Meal Plan for Total Beginners.)
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Virgin Coconut Oil
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"Virgin coconut oil is a highly saturated fat, but it also provides some medium-chain triglycerides that are readily burned as fuel," says Upton. "One tablespoon of coconut oil has 117 calories and 14 grams of total fat, 12 of which are saturated. Using virgin coconut oil will help ensure that the oil contains some of the natural plant chemicals that may have other health benefits." Still, Upton cautions that since coconut oil is so high in saturated fat, only use it in small amounts.
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Yup, your bagel's schmear made it onto the keto food list, although you'll need to find a sub for the bagel itself. "This convenient, inexpensive, and low-carb dairy source is wonderful for turkey roll-ups as well as a key ingredient in some keto 'fat bombs' that will satisfy your sweet tooth," says Danielle Aberman, R.D.N., C.H.W.C., a dietitian and co-owner of Migraine Relief Coach. (Related: Is It Possible to Follow the Keto Diet as a Vegetarian?)
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Salmon and Tuna
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"Fatty fish are keto-friendly food choices because they provide high-quality protein and are rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, which help temper inflammation and reduce the risk for many chronic diseases," says Upton. (Related: 15 Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Should Be Eating Regularly)
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Seeds are also something you'll want to include in your diet on the reg. "Seeds are nutrient-dense, high in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and offer a hearty dose of protein," says Kasper. "Pumpkin seeds are a great choice because they are rich in many minerals such as zinc, which supports immunity, and magnesium, which is an anti-inflammatory."
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Bring on the bacon recipes—within reason. "Small amounts of bacon added to most entrées or side dishes make them more tasty and interesting," says Aberman. "I usually have a supply of bacon crumbles ready in my refrigerator. People on the ketogenic diet usually need more sodium, and bacon provides a good source of it." (The decreased sodium comes from possible dehydration connected to the loss of water weight that often comes with a keto diet initially.)
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"Algae is an unsung hero in the keto diet world," says Kasper. "With plenty of omega-3s (where did you think the fish get it?), more than 40 vitamins and minerals, and zero net carbs, algae is a dream food for the health-conscious keto dieter." Throw a scoop of spirulina or chlorella, two kinds of green super powders made from algae, into your smoothie, or grab it in tablet form to take as a supplement. (Need more ideas? Here are 10 Ways to Eat Algae That Aren't Weird at All.)
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Just make sure you get the good stuff. "High quality, cold-pressed olive oil is flavorful, high in monounsaturated fatty acids, and may have anti-inflammatory properties," says Aberman. "Diets high in olive oil have been shown to lower the risk of several diseases." (Related: Can the Keto Diet Ever Be Bad for You?)
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You probably could have guessed avocado would be on the keto foods list since they're one of the easiest and tastiest ways to up your fat intake. "Avocados are rich in healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, plus fiber and antioxidants," says Upton. "Avocados are a great choice as a fat because other fats, like oils, don't have the fiber of avocados." In fact, that fiber content might help you feel fuller longer, she says, which is always a win. ICYMI— or have cut yourself far too many times—here's how to properly cut an avocado.
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Eggs are also one of the best keto foods. "A large egg provides 13 essential nutrients, 6 grams of the most high-quality protein available, 5 grams of total fat, and 1.5 grams of saturated fat," says Upton. And it's not just the fat content that makes them so amazing. "Eggs are also one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, and they contain choline, which is essential for brain health. They also have antioxidants that are good for eye health."
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Full-Fat Coconut Milk
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"This high-fat milk contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which aid in energy production and raise your (good) HDL cholesterol," says Sarah Ashman, R.D.N., a dietitian based in Kansas City, MO. "It's incredible in smoothies and coffee." Another option: heavy cream in moderation. "The rich flavor and mouth-feel of cream instantly make soups and veggie dishes 'keto' and something to celebrate," says Aberman.
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Keto is high fat, not necessarily high protein, so you don't need a ton of meat on your grocery list. But steak can be a good high-fat, quality-protein option, says Kasper. "Grass-fed steak is overall a bit leaner, but contains more heart-healthy omega fatty acids." (Related: Is Red Meat *Really* Bad for You?)
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These include avocado, grape seed, walnut, and sesame oils. "These plant-based oils are low in saturated fats and provide monos and polys," says Upton. Plus, since they come from antioxidant-rich foods, they have some of the same beneficial properties. (Want to learn more about keto? See How This Editor Stuck to the Diet and Lost More Weight Than She Expected.)
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