23 Foods You Might Be Surprised to Find Are Not Keto-Friendly
What to Know
There’s no doubting the popularity of the keto diet—Kourtney Kardashian, Tim Tebow, Halle Berry and Vanessa Hudgens are all fans for one. But navigating the high-fat, low-carb eating plan for yourself can be mighty tricky.
To achieve and maintain ketosis, keto dieters (celebrity or not) must keep their sugar and total carb intake to a minimum, while filling up on healthy fats and proteins to stay full. Only very specific foods follow all of these principles. Many seemingly healthy foods do not comply with keto, shocking many dieters.
We spoke with keto expert and triple-board certified doctor Dr. Anna Cabeca to help you navigate the diet plan. Cabeca, author of The Hormone Fix, has dedicated much of her practice to helping women stay healthy and lose weight through keto. She suggests that dieters stay below 40g total carbs and 30g sugar per day.
Popcorn-loving keto dieters will be upset to hear the the light snack is heavy on carbs. 100g of popcorn has about 74g total carbs. "A keto-friendly substitute would be nuts or seed crackers," Cabeca suggests.
Cured Meats and Cold Cuts
"Technically, cured meats and cold cuts are keto- friendly, as they are low in carbohydrates and high in fats and protein," Cabeca says. "However, the source makes the difference. Some cold cuts are infused with gluten to keep them moist, and some meats also have artificial preservatives and sweeteners." These additives make all the difference, so check the label on your meats before adding them to a keto diet. "Choose meats that are from free-range, grass-fed animals to the best of your ability," Cabeca suggets.
Cabeca says sweet potatoes "are controversial for sure," noting that they are high in carbohydrates. "They technically would not be included in a keto diet, but I do allow clients a small portion of a sweet potato," she says. "For example, adding a quarter cup of sweet potato with some butter can really help the nervous system settle down for a good night's sleep."
Like many root vegetables, beets are known to be high in carbs, and therefore not a great addition to a keto diet. However, Cabeca suggests that beet greens may be a good alternative. "While I agree beets are not conducive to a keto diet, beet greens are something I highly recommend because they are alkalinizing and extremely low in carbohydrates, sugar, cholesterol and fat. They are also rich in nutrients and minerals and high in vitamins A, B and C, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and copper."
"I pretty much avoid dried fruit in general," Cabeca says. "Number one, they often have preservatives, but secondly, they have a very high concentration of sugar."
"Cantaloupe is another food to avoid on the keto diet because of its level of sugar," Cabeca says. One wedge of cantaloupe (about 1/8 of a medium-sized melon) has around 5g of sugar.
"Squash is higher in carbohydrates, so they should be restricted in a keto diet," Cabeca advises. One cup of cooked summer squash, for example, has about 7.76g of carbohydrates.
"Avoid margarine and use butter or ghee instead," Cabeca says, noting margarine is known to contain trans fats.
Though praised for being high in vitamin C, oranges are also high in sugar, making them a keto diet antagonist. One cup of sectioned oranges (180g) contains about 17g of sugar.
Not only is quinoa high in carbs, it also has a high glycemic index. A half-cup of cooked quinoa contains about 20g of carbs, meaning you'll hit your daily limit fast.
It's a shame that part of the reason grapes taste so good is that they contain a lot of sugar. One cup of grapes (approximately 92g) contains about 15g of sugar.
"Peaches are just so delightful, but they are high in sugar," Cabeca says of the fuzzy fruit she advises clients to avoid. There are approximately 13g of sugar in one medium peach.
Rice (white, brown, wild)
Rice is very high in carbs, so keto followers should avoid it at all costs (or at least consume it only in moderation). One cup of brown or white long-grained rice has approximately 45g of carbs, while a cup of wild rice has approximately 120g.
"I really don't want to tell people to avoid watermelon when celebrating at a hot summer picnic," Cabeca says, noting that the juicy fruit is high in sugar and carbs. Can't kick the craving? "A little bit of watermelon could be eaten with a piece of cheese as a dessert to assist with digestion," Cabeca suggests.
"If you want to get your body into ketosis, you need to avoid these high sugar fruits," Cabeca says of plums. One cup of the sliced fruit contains about 16g of sugar.
Cabeca speaks of pineapple in the same way she speaks of peaches and plums: They're too high in sugar if you're aiming to get your body into ketosis. One cup of sliced pineapple contains approximately 16g of sugar.
"We tend to avoid peanuts because peanuts are a very high GMO crop," Cabeca says. Peanuts are also typically avoided on a keto diet because they are moderately high in carbs. One cup of peanuts has about 24g of total carbs.
At 12g of total carbs per cup of whole cranberries, this fruit isn't the most keto-friendly—especially when you consider that most people on the keto diet aim for 20g of total carbs or less a day. That said, Cabeca allows her clients a sprinkle of them in smoothies or vegetable purees for their many health benefits. "Cranberries are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients as expected with their deep rich color," Cabeca says. "Cranberries have been tied to improved immune function and decreased blood pressure, and they are high in vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K."
Blueberries are bite-sized favorites, but, unfortunately, they also have one of the highest carb counts of any fruit. "A cup of blueberries is equivalent to approximately 21 grams of carbohydrates," Cabeca says. "I love our Georgia organic blueberries just as much as anyone, but a little bit goes a long way." Because they are conidered antioxidant superfoods rich in phytonutrients, Cabeca doesn't like to cut them out entirely and suggests eating them for dessert. Her favorite? "A chia pudding topped with a quarter cup of blueberries."
"I love mangoes, but they are something to consider for an off day," Cabeca says, "because mangoes contain approximately 50 grams of carbohydrates." Carbs aside, they also pack a punch with 46g of sugar per fruit.
Green peas are another vegetable filled with more carbohydrates than a keto dieter should consume, boasting approximately 21g of total carbs per cup. Cabeca suggests cooking peas and other high carb foods "slow and long in a slow cooker or in a pressure cooker to break down the abundant lectins."
"One tablespoon of hummus is approximately two grams of carbohydrates...But who can ever stop at one tablespoon of hummus?!" Cabeca jokes. She notes that vegetarians following a keto plan often consume chickpeas despite the carbs because they are rich in protein.
"I tend to avoid all beans because of their higher carbohydrate content," Cabeca says. This includes black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans and even lentils.