Whether you’re just embarking on a keto diet, or you’ve been a low-carb pro for quite a long time, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of boredom with the foods on your low-carb/high-fat meal plan. Since keto is extremely strict in how many carbs you can consume each day (and you also need to meet a daily fat and protein requirement), it can feel very regimented. And you may miss the freedom of being able to eat without calculating to ensure the foods fit into your macro goals.
The good news is, there’s a surprising amount of foods that are so low in carbs, they can actually be considered “zero-carb foods”. To quality as a zero-carb food, there has to be less than 1g of carbs per serving on the label. Now, you can’t live on these foods alone because that would mean missing out on invaluable fiber, and other vital vitamins and minerals. But you can absolutely get a good portion of your calories from them.
In this article, we’re going to highlight these totally guilt-free, low-carb foods – AKA zero-carb keto foods – so you can easily add them to your grocery list. In addition, we’ll also highlight some almost zero-carb foods, (including low-carb veggies), so you can be sure you’re still eating as clean and healthy as possible while following your keto dietary regimen.
What Are Zero-Carb Foods?
When you’re on the keto diet, you want to get 70-75% of your daily calories from fat, 20-25% from protein and only 5-10% from carbohydrates. To learn more about keto diet basics and what it means to enter ketosis (plus why you should care), check out this Keto Beginner’s Guide, and the Pros and Cons of Keto.
Once you’re caught up, you’ll appreciate that there are foods that exist that have virtually no carbs, naturally. These foods, which are made up of fat, protein and some vitamins and minerals, are going to be extremely important for you while on the keto diet, because they’ll help you easily meet your high-fat and moderate protein requirements, daily.
However, as mentioned previously, zero-carb foods will also be low in fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals – so it’s important that you also include additional low-carb (but not no carb) foods into your diet as well. Read on for a breakdown of every category…
Fats and Oils: Zero-Carb Keto Foods
Starting with the most important category for the keto diet, you’ll want to get a large majority of your “fat” content from this category – or at least, it will be easiest to reach your daily fat macro goals when you aim to get more of these in your meals.
But remember that not all fats/oils are created equal. The best thing you can do is aim for the purest sources of oils in their healthiest form. For instance, extra virgin olive oil over regular olive oil, and grass-fed butter over regular butter will be the best, health-promoting choices.
In addition, avoid processed ingredients such as margarine, and keep vegetable oils to a minimum, as they often contain a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids – which in excess can kick your body out of balance and contribute to too much inflammation and potential disease.
When it comes to the best keto foods for your health, we recommend you use the following oils…
- MCT Oil (add to your daily keto coffee or keto smoothies, or into cold recipes or dishes)
- Coconut Oil (great to cook with since it has a high heat point)
- Grass-fed butter or ghee (another great ingredient in keto coffee or to cook with)
- Avocado oil (enjoy in homemade salad dressing and other cold recipes)
- Animal fats, including lard (use sparingly)
Vegetable, seed and nut-based oils (use sparingly)
Meats and Seafood: Zero-Carb Proteins
Meat and seafood will encompass some of your best protein sources while on the keto diet – and many of them are also great options for healthy fats. As with all of the low-carb foods you’ll be consuming while on the keto diet, always go with the healthiest choices, and ones that are as minimally-processed as possible.
For meat, this looks like options stating that they’re grass-fed or pasture-raised; And for fish, look for wild instead of farmed. When it comes to processed versions of meat and seafood (like hot dogs, salami, and manufactured “crab” sticks), these will always be the least desirable choices.
For one, processed foods are typically made from questionable parts of the animals, or use fake, manufactured ingredients instead of real whole foods. They typically contain lots of additives (such as nitrates) that keep them fresh and extend the shelf-life. In addition, you need to check the labels, because there can also be sneaky sources of hidden carbs and sugar!
Here are some whole food sources of meat and seafood keto foods we recommend you add to your regular grocery list…
- Beef and pork (feel free to have more fatty cuts sometimes to up the fat content)
- Chicken, turkey and duck (dark meat and the skin will have the most fat)
- Bison (a more lean protein option, so cook it in a fat or oil)
- Lamb, venison, veal (though these aren’t typically consumed as often, they’re a healthy source of quality protein and fat)
Organ meats – (these are rich in iron and healthy fats)
- Salmon, mackerel, herring, cod, sardines, tuna and swordfish (great high-fat options
- Catfish, bass, halibut, haddock, sole and founder (leaner protein options)
- Shrimp, lobster, clams, scallops, mussels and oysters (not zero-carb but still low enough to be able to each pretty freely)
Almost Zero-Carb Veggies
Vegetables are obviously carbohydrates, so there aren’t any zero-carb keto foods in this category, however, luckily, there are some pretty great vegetables low in carbs, you can definitely enjoy them as a normal part of your diet. And you absolutely should! These veggies will give you that boost of dietary fiber you need for optimal digestion, along with enough vitamins and minerals to keep your nutrient levels way up.
Though there are some fruits that are also low in carbs, you have to be more careful with these keto foods, because they aren’t as low-carb as veggies. Check out this list of some of the best keto fruits.
These vegetables are some of the best low-carb foods, due their high fiber content and low calories…
- Broccoli rabe
- Bok choy
- Mustard Greens
- Bell pepper
After looking at this list of low-carb veggies and analyzing your diet, are you still concerned you aren’t getting enough fiber, or a well-rounded mix of vitamins/minerals to avoid a deficiency? Try 310 Shake, which is a plant-based, keto-friendly daily meal replacement shake to ease your mind. The shakes are absolutely delicious, nutritious and super-easy to mix up!
Almost Zero-carb Eggs/Dairy
Next up, you may be unaware that many dairy products (such as milk, yogurt, and some cheeses), actually do contain carbohydrates. The trick is to pick the dairy options that have the least amount of carbs, in order to stay under your daily carb goals for keto.
Therefore, stick with dairy products that don’t contain as much lactose (or milk sugar), like cream or aged cheeses.
Here are some of the best low-carb foods in the dairy category…
Very Low-Carb Dairy:
- Heavy Cream
Very Low-Carb Cheeses:
Almost Zero-Carb Nuts and Seeds
Finally, this is another category of keto foods where you may not realize there are hidden/sneaky carbs, so you have to check your labels and pay attention to your servings. The good news is, along with protein and healthy fats, you can also get good fiber from this category as well.
Although all nuts and seeds are considered low-carb foods and can fit into your keto diet, some of them are definitely better than others in regards to fat vs. carb content.
Here are some of the best high-fat, low-carb nuts and seeds…
Very Low-Carb Nuts…
- Macadamia nuts
- Brazil nuts
Very Low-Carb Seeds…
Now that you’re armed with this list of some of the best zero-carb or very low-carb keto foods, we hope you’ll feel much more confident when meal-planning and packing low-carb snacks! To learn more about the keto diet and how to make it work for you, check out the keto lifestyle section of the 310 Nutrition Blog, here.