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Keto Diet Basics: What To Eat And What Not To Eat

Get the keto diet basics of what to eat and what not to eat here if you're ready to start a ketogenic eating plan.
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Last Updated on October 9, 2021 by Lori Geurin

The ketogenic, or keto diet was developed in the 1920s to treat epilepsy by a team of physicians at Johns Hopkins. An easy way to understand the keto eating plan is to first picture the U.S. Department Of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid. You know the one. It’s been around for years and the USDA says it’s the healthy way to eat.

Unfortunately, ever since this pyramid was introduced to Americans the rate of obesity, cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses has continued to climb at alarming rates.

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USDA’s Food Pyramid Not Effective

Clearly, the USDA’s food pyramid is not working.

Plus, take a look at this. The New York Times reports:

“An international team of scientists studied diet and mortality in 135,335 people between 35 and 70 years old in 18 countries, following them for an average of more than seven years. Diet information depended on self-reports, and the scientists controlled for factors including age, sex, smoking, physical activity, and body mass index. The study is in The Lancet.

Compared with people who ate the lowest 20 percent of carbohydrates, those who ate the highest 20 percent had a 28 percent increased risk of dying earlier. (…) People with the highest 20 percent in total fat intake — an average of 35.3 percent of calories from fat — had about a 23 percent reduced risk of death compared with the lowest 20 percent (an average of 10.6 percent of calories from fat). Consuming higher saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and monounsaturated fat were all associated with lower mortality. Higher fat diets were also associated with a lower risk of stroke. (emphasis mine, 1)”

The New York Times

As you can see, it’s anyone’s guess why we’re still being told to follow the food pyramid? Thankfully, many Americans have wised up – because our very lives depend on it.

You may be wondering if the food pyramid doesn’t work then what healthy options do I have?

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I’m so glad you asked because the keto eating plan has been proven to have many health benefits. Plus many people have had amazing weight loss results, like Suzanne Ryan, who lost 120 pounds embracing the keto way of life.

Related: Tips To Lose Weight Faster: 18 Proven Strategies

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Eating The Keto Way

Simply put, if you take this USDA Food Pyramid (yeah, the one that suggests you consume six to eleven servings of grains per day) and turn it upside down you’ll know what to eat on a keto diet.

Instead of relying mainly on carbs from bread, cereals, fruits, and sugars you increase your healthy fat intake and decrease your protein. Because, despite what many people believe, a true ketogenic diet contains moderate amounts of protein.

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Keto Macros

According to a popular Keto app, KetoDiet Buddy, your personal macronutrient ratios (macros) should be within these ranges:

  • 5-10% of calories from carbohydrates
  • 15-30% of calories from protein
  • 60-75% of calories from fat


The app has this macro calculator that helps you determine your percentages based on your personal goals. Now let’s take a quick look at what to eat and not eat on the keto plan.

Again, please notice that your protein intake is only moderate. This is because excess protein can be converted into blood sugar. And that’s obviously not what we want here.

What Is Keto Anyway?

The short answer is that when you’re on a ketogenic eating plan your body produces ketones for fuel. The ketones are used when glucose, or blood sugar, is in short supply.

You can buy ketone strips to measure the number of ketones in your urine. You simply pee on the ketone strip, count to 40, and check the color against the color on the bottle. The darker the color the deeper you’re in ketosis. I bought these keto strips from Amazon and they work great.

The ketones are made in the liver from fat and used throughout your body for fuel. Even your brain uses ketones!

When you’re on a ketogenic diet your body runs almost completely on energy from fat. What’s great about this is it makes your fat stores more easily accessible so they can be burned off!

Plus there are other great benefits of being in ketosis, including boosted energy, decreased hunger, and a sharper mind.

Next, you’ll find two basic lists about what to eat and avoid on keto.

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Keto Diet Basics: What To Eat And What Not To Eat

What To Eat On A Keto Diet

  • Plenty of natural, healthy fats, including avocados, MCT oil, cream, olive oil, salmon, olives, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, nuts, and nut butters, including almond butter, cashew butter, and peanut butter
  • Meats and proteins including beef, chicken, pork, fish, and eggs – clean and grass-fed are best
  • Low-carb, Keto Soups
  • Low-carbohydrate vegetables such as leafy greens, cauliflower, asparagus, peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini
  • Full-fat dairy including Greek yogurt, cream cheese, cheddar, cottage cheese, and mozzarella
  • Very limited amounts of complex carbohydrates such as berries and veggies with high carb counts
  • Water with lemon, coffee with cream and stevia, and tea are good drink choices


Related: 81 Uses For Coconut Oil: The Amazing Superfood


What NOT To Eat On A Keto Diet

  • Processed foods such as store-bought baked goods or pre-packaged snacks
  • Starchy, grain-based foods including breads, cereals, pasta, and rice
  • Sugary foods or sugar alternatives like honey or maple syrup
  • Drinks with sugar (soda and juice) or artificial sweeteners added
  • Snack foods, including chips, crackers, and pretzels
  • Starchy vegetables, such as corn, peas, and potatoes
  • Most fruits, with the exception of limes, lemons, berries, and tomatoes (in small amounts)


Related: 20 Proven Reasons Why Refined Sugar Is Bad For Your Health


Who Should NOT Do Keto?

A keto eating plan is safe for most people. But if you fall into one of the following groups, or you have chronic health conditions you should consult with your physician before attempting a ketogenic diet:

  • people who take medication for high blood pressure
  • people who take medication for diabetes, such as insulin
  • mothers who are breastfeeding


Summary – Keto Diet Basics: What To Eat And What Not To Eat

As you can see, a keto diet is an excellent way to fine-tune your body in a healthy way. Decreased appetite, weight loss, and a sharper mind are only some of the many benefits eating a keto diet plan brings.

I hope this article has given you a clearer understanding of the ketogenic diet rules, including what to eat and what not to eat when you’re going keto.

Here are some simple keto recipes. And one of my personal favorites, an easy, keto one-pot meal.


Are you on a ketogenic diet? Do you have a keto success story to share?

I’d love to hear from you below!


Get the keto diet basics of what to eat and what not to eat here if you're ready to start a ketogenic eating plan.
Keto Diet Basics: What To Eat And What Not To Eat LoriGeurin.com

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10 thoughts on “Keto Diet Basics: What To Eat And What Not To Eat”

  1. Thanks for sharing the history of the keto diet. I’ve heard a lot about it from friends and internet sources but never gotten the backstory of how it came to be!

    1. Awesome, Sheila! Thanks for sharing about your interest in keto. I’ve found it to be advantagous in many ways and am happy you’re reading about these positive results in others too. 🙂

    1. I hear you, Tami! That’s a common misconception and I used to think that myself. Let me say that if it was difficult I wouldn’t be doing it because I’m all about quick and easy meal planning. I hope this helps!

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