Starting a keto diet for weight loss means you’ll have to revisit the types of foods you’re used to eating. It also means revisiting the types of foods you keep in your kitchen and pantry.
Most people who cook regularly have keto staples like butter, extra virgin olive oil and leafy greens on hand. However, relying on a small stock of keto-friendly ingredients can leave you with a very limited set of menu options.
One big shopping trip can let you put away the flour, sugar and ice cream (well, maybe you’ll want to finish off the ice cream before starting keto), and stock up with everything you’ll need to make delicious ketogenic meals on a regular basis.
For a big grocery shopping trip, of course, you’ll need a big keto-friendly food list. Luckily, we happen to have the ultimate keto shopping list right here.
Basic Keto Guidelines
Keto is a low-carb diet, with a recommended macronutrient balance of 5% carbs, 20% protein and 75% fat. (1) Those percentages mean that to prepare keto meals, you need a plentiful supply of healthy fats, fatty proteins and low-carb veggies – and you’ll need to toss (or pack away) the pasta, rice, bread and packaged snack foods.
It’s important to remember that keto is not a high-protein diet, so you shouldn’t overdo it on the meat and bacon. A moderate amount of protein (in general terms, no more than one-quarter of your plate) should be surrounded by a bounty of low-carbohydrate side dishes, along with “good” fats like butter, olive or coconut oil, and heavy cream. That’s enough to reduce hunger and keep you from eating too much. (2)
Here’s one piece of good news: the keto diet’s popularity has led more and more companies to produce keto-friendly prepared foods that you can find on the supermarket shelves. From vegetable-based pasta and rice, to bread and tortillas made from almond flour, there are many choices that can make you feel like you’re eating the way you always have, even if you’re not. Look for the keto, low-carb or diet section – but be sure to check the labels for net carbs and ingredients to make sure there are no hidden starches or sugars.
Here’s more good news: once you’ve shopped for keto diet foods a few times, you probably won’t even need a list. You’ll be familiar enough with the “right” keto foods to buy that you’ll be able to stop at the grocery store and shop like you normally do. You’ll just be purchasing different foods.
Ready? Let’s go shopping.
The Ultimate Keto Shopping List
Since ketogenic eating means lots and lots of healthy fat, we’ll start there.
- Butter: It’s nice to be on a diet (unlike a low-fat diet) that actually encourages you to eat butter, isn’t it? If possible, look for butter with a deep yellow color, which comes from grass-fed and pastured cows and contains the most nutrients. It’s best to use butter on your food instead of cooking with it, since it burns easily. (3)
- Ghee: You may never have heard of ghee, but it’s basically clarified butter which has been cooked even after the milk solids and butterfat have separated. It doesn’t spoil quickly, it has a delicious nutty flavor, and it’s easier to cook with because it has a higher smoke point. It also can be expensive; if that’s an issue, you can easily make your own at home.
- Oils: Extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and nut oils are excellent for cooking, or for drizzling over foods or salads to add more fat to low-carb meals. Coconut and palm oils are particularly good because they’re MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oils, which help promote the production of the ketones that keep you in ketosis. (4) This oil is sometimes sold simply as MCT oil, but check to make sure it contains at least 50% C8 (caprylic acid).
- Other fats: Lard and tallow are also good sources of fat for keto eating; they’re best if sourced from pastured animals.
When you’re on keto, it’s pretty much open season for meat, poultry, fish and seafood. Most are carb-free or have very-low carb content, so they fit perfectly into keto meal plans. However, the healthiest choices are pastured and grass-fed meat, free-range chicken and wild-caught fish. You should also look for fattier cuts of meat, and fish that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Beef and Pork: Ribeye and strip steaks are fattier and more keto-friendly than lean cuts like flank steak. 73/23 or 80/20 ground beef are also excellent options, and a lot less expensive than steak. We don’t have to tell you that bacon is a keto superstar (be sure it doesn’t have added sugar), but pork chops are the fattiest cut of pork, and a smarter choice than ribs or ham. Wild game like venison and boar are keto-approved, too.
- Poultry: You’ll find the most fat in dark meat and poultry skin, so chicken thighs are better for a keto diet than chicken breasts. To change things up, give duck or goose a try; almost all of those birds’ meat is dark meat.
- Fish and Seafood: There are so many varieties of zero-carb and low-carb fish and seafood that you may never get bored eating keto. The best fatty fish to choose include salmon, tuna (canned is fine for both, if you’d like), mackerel, sardines and anchovies. There’s less fat in white fish like trout, cod and haddock, but they’re still zero- or low-carb proteins. Lobster is the king of seafood with zero carbs, but shrimp, scallops, clams (and to a lesser extent, mussels) are still keto-friendly. Needless to say, no breading or bread stuffing allowed.
- Deli meats: Most sliced meats without added sugar are keto-friendly; look for the high-quality brands. The same goes for hot dogs and sausages without added fillers. (Skip the buns, of course.)
- Tofu: This vegan favorite is a low-carb option, but most keto dieters avoid it because it can lead to hormonal imbalances. It’s best used only by those following vegetarian or vegan keto eating plans.
- Eggs: We’ve already covered the bacon, so let’s get low-carb, protein-loaded eggs to go with it. Organic eggs with lots of omega-3 can be expensive, but they’re the best for keto and for your health. Eggs with darker yolks contain the most nutrients.
Vegetables and Fruit
Plan on spending quite a bit of time in the produce section on your keto shopping trip.
- Vegetables: You should stock up on leafy greens like lettuce, spinach and kale; try collard greens, mustard greens, arugula or Swiss chard for variety. Grab lots of avocados, mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini and fresh herbs, and add smaller amounts of cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, okra and turnips. Some keto plans also let you enjoy green beans and snow peas, too.
- Fruit: You won’t need to spend much time in this area of the produce section, sadly, as most fruits are high in carbohydrates. But pick up some blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and star fruit which you can eat in limited quantities. If you want to cheat a little (be careful not to put yourself out of ketosis!) you can occasionally treat yourself to a little watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries or a peach.
We’ve already discussed butter and eggs, but there are some other dairy goodies to pick up.
- Cheese: Hard or semi-soft cheeses are usually the lowest in carbs, and that gives you many great keto choices: blue cheese, brie, camembert and goat cheese on the softer side, mozzarella, parmesan, muenster, cheddar, Swiss, gouda and provolone on the harder side. Feta, ricotta and mascarpone are somewhat higher in carbs, but still fine once in a while.
- Heavy cream: There’s less than half-a-gram of carbs in a teaspoon of heavy whipping cream, so it’s a perfect ingredient for cooking and homemade sauces, not to mention adding to your coffee or tea.
- Other dairy: You can enjoy a number of yummy dairy products in moderation. They include cream cheese, cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt, sour cream, and crème fraiche. Whole, full-fat milk is the best choice if you absolutely have to have milk in your coffee, but use only a few teaspoons at most. Try a nut milk (like almond milk) instead.
Nuts and Seeds
Many types of nuts and seeds are good keto snacks when eaten in moderation, since they contain lots of fat but also lots of calories.
- Nuts: Nuts that are relatively low-carb (fewer than five carbs in three ounces) include pecans, Brazil nuts and macadamia nuts; hazelnuts and walnuts are close behind in second place. They’re also the best for toasting and adding to a salad, or grinding into nut butter (commercially-sold nut butters like almond butter often contain added carbs).
- Seeds: Many types of seeds are welcome additions to a keto diet, since they contain a good amount of fat and lots of micronutrients. Chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin and sesame seeds are the best choices.
There are alternatives to sugar you can use if you’re cooking keto recipes or need to sweeten coffee or tea. Stevia drops and erythritol (a sugar alcohol) contain no carbs; powdered Stevia and similar products, on the other hand, have more than 10 carbs per serving.
Bottled water (including sparkling water and club soda) are healthy no-carb choices. Unsweetened coffee and tea also contain zero carbs, as does diet soda. However, diet sodas are less healthy and addicting, so they’re usually not recommended for a keto diet. Better choices are healthy bone broth or easily-blended keto smoothies.
Mayonnaise, mustard and hot sauce are your friends when you’re eating keto, as is ranch dressing. You can find lower-carb and sugar-free ketchup, BBQ sauce, steak sauce and gluten-free soy sauce (made from coconut) at most grocery stores as well. Just be sure to check their labels first, and use them in moderation.
Other keto-friendly foods to put on your keto grocery list or watch for as you cruise the supermarket aisles include:
- Seaweed snacks
- Pork Rinds
- Beef or chicken bouillon
- Pickles (without added sugar)
- Baking ingredients (if you plan on cooking or baking keto treats like fat bombs) such as baking powder, baking soda, almond or coconut flour, cocoa powder and vanilla extract.
And finally on your keto diet shopping list:
- Dark chocolate
Yes, you read that right. Dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa is not only good for you, it’s a keto-friendly treat if eaten in moderation. (5) 80% or 85% is even better, but it’s also quite bitter. It may take some getting used to, but you’ve earned it.