Turn the traditional diet upside down
For decades, people have informed their dietary decisions at least partially by an archaic and very flawed piece of visual data called the food pyramid. Largely a product of bad science and aggressive lobbying, the food pyramid advocates a tremendous amount of grain, which we now know is not great for healthy living.
Because the constant supply of sugary, carb-laden foods that were and still continue to be pushed in the Standard American Diet (SAD), diabetes and obesity are at epidemic proportions. Many people are trying to solve that by following whole-food, keto diets that eschew processed foods and grains. This is proving to have a tremendous effect, but it can be difficult at times to know whether something is keto or not without a similarly easy-to-read guide like the food pyramid. Luckily, it’s pretty simple to determine what’s keto-friendly by simply turning the old pyramid on its head.
Traditional doesn’t mean “better”
Just because we’ve followed something for a long time doesn’t give it value. For instance, though there have been updates to the concept of the “basic food pyramid”, it still advocates:
- High amounts of grain, which is pretty unhealthy
- Absurd amounts of carbohydrates – well more than 200g a day
- Encourages the eating of processed foods
- Demonizes all fats, except for highly processed “healthy” fats like canola, which is actually incredibly bad for your heart
The keto food pyramid is going to be the opposite, suggesting healthy fats be at the core or bottom of your diet. From there we add in healthy proteins in the middle, along with leafy, green vegetables. A smaller amount of low carb fruits, like avocado and berries above that, and the tip-top of the pyramid should be everything carb-laden or processed. The keto food pyramid completely omits processed oils, trans fats, and processed sources of corn syrup – these are all damaging to your body in every respect and don’t have a place in a healthy diet at all.
If you want to really determine if you should be eating something – keto diet or not – look to how it came into being. If it grew from the earth, swam, walked, or flew, or came from something that swam, walked, or flew, you’re on the right track. The best thing anyone can do for their health is omitting highly processed foods, as most have sugar or worse in them.
Looking beyond that first bit of criteria, you can delve deeper into the ketogenic food pyramid by breaking down the macronutrients and exploring.
- Bacon grease
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Olive oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Sunflower seed oil
- Canola oil
- Vegetable oil
- Trans fats (this one 100% – never, ever eat trans fat, as it’s better to not eat than ingest trans fats of any kind)
- Corn oil
- Peanut oil
- Vegetable shortening
These lists aren’t exhaustive, but you can see a pattern. If it’s a naturally occurring saturated fat, it’s fine and good for you. If it’s a highly refined vegetable oil, it’s likely better used as an industrial oil and not worth consuming. This goes double for artificially stabilized shortenings like margarine or Crisco – never eat these.
Healthy fats are necessary for the insulation on nerves, the membranes on cells, and proper energy management. The fact that they’ve been so maligned for so long is a horrific mistake and needs to be corrected as quickly as possible.
There are many different types of protein, and they can all find a good place in the keto food pyramid. Not all protein is made the same, however, and knowing what to include, what to limit, and what to avoid is critical.
Related: Benefits of Nugo Slim Protein Bars
- Beef of all types, particularly grass-fed or finished beef. Read our review for the best home meat delivery services including Butcher Box and Crowd Cow.
- Fatty cuts, like ribeye, ground chuck, or veal
- Offal meats, like liver, tongue, or heart – these are full of vitamin D and A
- Lamb of all varieties
- Read our post on high-protein low carb foods.
- Highly farmed beef/factory farmed beef (if you can help it, as it can be cost-prohibitive)
- Processed meats like hotdogs, sausages unless they’re locally made and you know what goes into them
- Dehydrated meat products (meat sticks), sugar-cured jerkies
- Lobster and crab
- Fatty fish like tuna
- Wild-caught salmon
- Sardines, bristlings, smelt, or any little fish like them – these are hugely healthy, full of calcium (eat them bones and all), omega-3s, and protein
- Marlin, shark, albacore tuna, or other large sport fish, as they are often older and accumulate more mercury than smaller fish
- Tilapia – it’s almost always farmed and is often from countries with significantly lower regulations, so the fish is dirty, full of inflammatory fats, and just plain awful
- Farmed fish in general
- Endangered or over-fished seafood
- Non-American crayfish
Pork, poultry, and everything else
- Pork of all cuts and varieties, particularly heritage breeds
- Free range chicken
- Eggs, eggs, and more eggs – one of the most important, complete, and healthy foods on the planet
- Game birds of all varieties
- Wild game such as deer, elk, turkey, wild boar, quail, pheasant, geese, etc
- Factory-farmed chickens
- Poultry raised or farmed from other countries
This is of course not a complete list, but the highest-carb meats you can eat tend to be organ meats like liver. Everything else will be very low in carb if not carb-free. Beyond that, as long as you’re eating non-factory-farmed meats, you should be fine. Whole foods are the real target for any diet, and keto is no exception.
It might not seem like it, but you CAN eat carbs on a ketogenic diet, as long as you eat the correct ones. Obviously, you can’t have processed carbs like grains, bread, pasta, or sugar, but there are plenty of vegetables you can (and should) be eating. This first list can be eaten in abundance, and are necessary for healthy living.
- Greens of all kinds – collards, beet greens, spinach, kale, watercress, arugula, etc
- Lettuce of all varieties
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
Eat in moderation:
- Zucchini and yellow summer squash
- Spaghetti squash
- Acorn squash
- Coconut meat
- Sweet potatoes (until you’re in maintenance with a healthy body and blood work)
- White potatoes
- Nearly all fruit (again, until you’re in maintenance and have obesity-related health conditions under control)
- Grains of all kinds
- Sugars, including fruit juices
Nuts, seeds, dairy, and everything else
This is that last bit of various things that don’t fall into the other categories well. These are things that can be beneficial or extremely detrimental to a keto diet, and should be included or completely avoided appropriately.
Embrace (in moderation):
- Tree nuts – walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds, macadamia
- Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, squash
- Full-fat dairy – whole milk Greek yogurt, heavy cream, half & half, butter
- Cheeses – full fat, especially hard cheese like parmesan or cheddar, cream cheese, mozzarella
Avoid highly processed cheese like American or processed “melting” cheeses, like Velveeta or canned cheeses. Also avoid any full-fat but highly processed dairy, like flavored yogurts or ice cream.
You can’t have bbq sauce or ketchup, but there are MANY things you can add to your foods to flavor them and keep within the keto confines.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Soy sauce or coconut aminos
There can be some concern over the carbs in mayo from the store, and the same can be said about any store-bought dressing or sauce. You can avoid those excess carbohydrates by making your own mayo from olive oil, egg yolks, and lemon juice. It’s the best-tasting mayo you’ll find, and it’s going to be significantly healthier than anything in the stores.
Shopping on keto
Now that you have an idea of what is on the keto food pyramid, what does a keto shopping list look like? If you’re a single person, a typical shopping list will include:
- A decent selection of healthy meats, including steaks or hamburger, a nice whole chicken, and some delicious, fresh, wild-caught fish
- Lots of eggs
- The vegetable ingredients for many huge, lush salads – spinach, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, etc
- Pickled or fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut
- Nuts and seeds for snacking
- Healthy oils for cooking like coconut or olive oils
- Read our post on high-fiber low carb foods.
Making a ketogenic meal plan ahead of time will help you stick to your list, avoid processed garbage food or eating out, and gives you a framework to exist in that doesn’t allow for much error. The first few days and weeks of keto are the hardest, so have a structure in your diet, shopping list, and nutrition will go a long way to help you adhere to the plan. After a couple weeks, you’ll find it’s harder to stray than it is to stick to keto.
Within no time you’ll be on a path to a healthier you, just by omitting processed food and carbs!