When following a ketogenic diet, knowing what to avoid is just as important as knowing what to eat. Certain foods will slow down your body’s fat burning ability. And the last thing you want when you’ve worked so hard to get into ketosis, is to be kicked out of!
And who wants to deal with the Keto flu more than once?
To stay in ketosis, your carbs need to remain very low – only around 5% of your total calories should be made up of carbs. For most people, that means 20-30g net carbs per day.
And for protein, that percentage is around 20% of your total calories.
(If you’re new to the keto diet, or need a refresher – have a look out easy guide to keto here.)
To make it easier to know what now to eat, I have broken it down below – along with an explanation of why you should be avoiding those foods.
Before we dive in, however – I want to quickly explain the relationship between carbohydrates and sugar, as it can be a bit confusing.
Carbohydrates can come in two forms – sugars (simple carbohydrates), or starches (complex carbohydrates). A starch – or complex carbohydrate – is a long chain of sugar molecules that are strung together. Digestive enzymes break up the starch once in your system.
This means that no matter if you are eating a piece of chocolate (sugar), a piece of fruit (simple carbohydrate), or a slice of bread (complex carbohydrate), your body ends up turning them all into the same thing (sugar glucose) once it enters your bloodstream.
Foods to Avoid on a Ketogenic Diet: Carbohydrates
All grains should be avoided – even whole grains. We have been taught that whole grains are healthier, but unfortunately all grains are high in carbs.
These carbs will slow down weight loss and kick you out of ketosis.
- These grains include:
- Sprouted Grains
These are processed products that use grain as a base. Not only are they high in carbs, but they tend to be very low in fibre. As with grains, the carbs will slow down weight loss and kick you out of ketosis.
- These grain products include:
- Bread (made from any of the above grains)
- Tortillas (made from any of the above grains)
- Bagels (made from any of the above grains)
- Crackers (made from any of the above grains)
- Pasta (made from any of the above grains)
- Cookies (made from any of the above grains)
- Pizza Base (made from any of the above grains)
Root & Starchy Vegetables
An easy way to remember which vegetables to avoid, it to think if it grows above or below the ground.
Vegetables that grow below the ground (like potatoes) tend to have a high starch content, while those that grow above the ground (like leafy greens) have very little carbs. (this isn’t the case every single time, but in most cases you can use this to help with your decision.
High-starch vegetables include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Cherry Tomatoes
Most fruits are very high in sugar, which can quickly throw you out of ketosis. For example – one medium banana has 14.4g of sugar! Fresh fruit juices are even worse than fresh fruit, as they have even less fibre.
Better fruit options (although even these should be eaten sparingly) are berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries), as they are low in sugar.
Fruits to avoid include:
- Citrus (Oranges, Tangerines, Minneolas, Lime)
- Dried Fruit (Raisins, Dates, and other dried fruit)
- Fruit Juices
- Fruit-based Smoothies
- Fruit Concentrates
- Fruit Syrups
Sugar appears in food in all sorts of places! It is hidden everywhere. Sugar will kick you out of ketosis, so it is best to avoid it entirely.
Sugars are found in the following types of foods:
- Sweetened sauces and dips
- BBQ sauce
- Certain dressings
- Certain hot sauces
- Bottled Dressings – especially fat-free
- Natural Sweeteners & Sugars
- Maple Syrup
- Agave Nectar
- Raw Sugar
- Turbinado Sugar
- Added Sugars
Sugar has 56 names – making it difficult to always know when you are eating products with added sugar. (You can avoid this by avoiding processed food).
Common names for sugar are:
- Cane Sugar
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Legumes & Beans
Beans and legumes tend to be quite high in fibre (which is a good thing), but they are also quite high in carbs, which is why they should be avoided.
Legumes & Beans include:
- Green Peas
- Kidney Beans
- Black Beans
- Lima Beans
- Pinto Beans
- White Beans
- Cannellini Beans
- Fava Beans
- Black-Eyed Beans
Foods to Avoid on the Ketogenic Diet: Proteins
The ketogenic diet promotes moderate protein intake – rather than high protein intake (which is a common misunderstanding of the ketogenic diet). However, the focus should be on consuming high-quality protein, as this will impact how your body responds to it.
Milk and Low Fat Dairy
Milk and low-fat dairy has a higher ratio of sugars to fat. Rather stick to full-fat dairy and skip the milk entirely. Additionally – pasteurised milk is difficult for many people to digest, and could be causing you health issues you may not have even been aware of. It is also usually contains hormones that could be harmful.
Milk and Dairy products to avoid include:
- Low-fat milk
- Full-fat milk
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Low-fat cream cheese
- Low-fat cheese
- Shredded cheese (this is because it often has potato starch added)
- Low-fat yogurt
- Fat-free yogurt
- Low-fat Whipped Toppings
Factory Farmed Animal Products
Animal products sourced from factory farms have a lower nutrient value, and often contain harmful and unhealthy
Factory farmed animal products to avoid include:
- Grain-feed meat and dairy
- These are lower in nutrients
- Factory-farmed fish and pork
- These are high in Omega 6, which is inflammatory for the body
- Factory-farmed fish is usually high in mercury
- Processed meat
- Including hotdogs and sausages, as they often are high in nitrates.
Foods to Avoid on the Ketogenic Diet: Fats
Processed oils are inflammatory for the body. When the oils are processed, artificial trans fats are formed, and it is these trans fats that cause inflammation. Additional risks of eating trans fats include higher risk of heart disease, increased risk of cancer, reduced HDL cholesterol and increased LDL cholesterol, and it is also bad for gut health.
Processed oils to avoid include:
- Spreadable Butter Alternatives
- Canola Oil
- Corn Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Peanut Oil
Foods to Avoid on a Ketogenic Diet: Drinks
Beverages – Sweetened and Sugary
No matter if they are sweetened with sugar, fruit, or artificial sweetener, rather avoid all sugar and sweetened drinks.
Artificial sweeteners can disrupt your blood sugar levels and ketosis, and they have even been shown to increase hunger!
Beverages to avoid include:
- Sports drinks
- Diet sodas
- Fruit and vegetable juices
- Coffee and Tea-based drinks with added sugars/sweeteners/sweetened milks
- Sweetened Milk (and non-dairy) drinks
Not only does alcohol slow down fat loss, but many alcoholic drinks contain carbs and sugar. If you do need the occasional drink, rather go for the hard liquor.
Alcoholic drinks to avoid include:
- Wine (especially sweet or dessert wines)
- Mixers (ones containing juices, syrups, and sodas)
- Flavored Liquors
Foods to Avoid on a Ketogenic Diet: Processed and Artificial Foods & Ingredients
As mentioned above, artificial sweeteners can disrupt your blood sugar levels and ketosis, and they have even been shown to increase hunger.
Artificial sweeteners to avoid include:
Processed foods contain all sorts of unhealthy ingredients, such as processed oils, preservatives, trans fat, added sugar, and more.
Rather stick to whole foods and skip the processed foods.
Processed foods to avoid include:
- Fast food
- Gluten-free breads, muffins, bagels, waffles, pasta
- Commercially baked goods, like cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries
- Commercially made puddings and custards
- Ice creams
Become the Fat Burner
A keto diet is something that may be difficult to get the hang of at first. Most people don’t understand that their body is a sugar burner. They may lose some weight but they aren’t losing the fat that’ll help keep the weight off their body.
The hardest part of the diet may be cutting out carbs. Sugar is probably easier to cut out because your body may not crave them. People struggle to realize how many carbs they consume in a day. You won’t truly recognize this until you actually cut out carbs from your diet.
For those that are looking to drop weight and keep it off, a keto diet is the way to go.
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