CARB RESTRICTED, NOT ZERO CARBS
Your carb sources on keto are as important as the carbs you don’t eat. What does that mean? People have been recognizing the benefits of the keto diet and lifestyle now for years. The physical and mental transformations resulting from the keto diet are drawing attention and newcomers to the lifestyle of keto in ever-growing numbers. That’s why visiting sites like eatniketo.com and reading blogs like this one are so important to your keto education; a passionate few put their time and effort into correcting the mistakes and misconceptions about keto as a sort of thank you to the lifestyle that’s changed their world.
One of those misconceptions about keto is that the diet is zero carbs. It’s not, it’s carb restrictive. You can and should eat your daily allotment of carbs in order to get your critical vitamins and minerals… and to keep things moving along after all the wonderful cheeses and bacon you get to eat, get the drift?
Just know that not all carbs are created equal. You can eat a piece of toast and blow through your carbs in one shot and remain under your 20-30 grams and stay in keto. But what did those carbs give you? How many nutrients and vitamins did that get your system? Not many. This guide exists to help you figure out which foods your small budget of carbs should come from on any given day of the keto lifestyle.
VEGGIES, THE DARKER GREEN THE BETTER
Your carb sources should serve two purposes: keep the carbohydrates as low as possible, while providing the maximum amount of nutritional benefit. So what fits this bill the best? Dark leaves: spinach, kale, chards, broccoli rabe, collard greens. All of these heavy hitters carry low carb counts around 2 grams per 100 grams consumed, but they are rich in vitamins like A, C, and K. It’s also these dark greens that help the most in getting the bowels to move along after things get bound up.
Next in importance is the cruciferous family, similar to the dark greens in carb to nutrient ratio with carb counts in the 2-4 grams per 100 grams eaten range. These include the cabbages, the bok choys, whole broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, zucchini, and cucumbers. High nutrient value, low calorie and low carb, these veggies pack the meanest punch. Many keto recipes and meal plans call for the members of this group because they are easy, tasty and cheap!
The best of the rest vary in color and nutrients. A big keto favorite is the avocado. At just under 2 grams of carbs, avocados are like fat hand-grenades. Full of good fat and flavor, they’ll add pop to any salad or make for a quick snack by themselves. Mushrooms, too, are nutrient dense and low carb. Turnips, green beans, bell peppers, eggplant, summer squash, olives, artichoke hearts, okra, celery, and garlic all offer good returns on your daily carb investment. The health benefits and low carb counts of all these veggies make them great as side dishes or as snacks to tide you over. This group is especially useful to vegan ketoers as there are so many options and ways to use the veggies from this group.
There are many more keto-friendly vegetables out there, so keep your eyes open and use your tracker to make sure your veggies are keto appropriate. All of these veggies have good shelf-lives, so go ahead and pick them up in abundance and keep them on hand so you can experiment with using them in ever tastier ways.
Fruits in general tend to be higher in carbs because they contain fructose (and anyone who knows about the ways sugar is renamed to hide its presence knows that the suffix –ose means pure sugar). But there are keto acceptable fruits to help with the sweet-tooth and digestion:
Berries are mostly lower in carbs if you can control your portions: 3-4 carbs per half cup.
Half a fresh peach is around 4 carbs and great for crushing that sweet craving in the early stages of keto.
Cherries, fresh cherries, are around 5 carbs and pack a powerful punch.
Kiwis, if you have the patients to peel of their fuzzy jackets, are about 5 carbs a piece, not bad.
Make sure you avoid these fruits as they will destroy your carb limit and knock you out of keto:
Melon, of any kind is a bad idea on keto. Melon is very high on the glycemic index and 1 large slice of watermelon can knock you completely out of keto.
Grapes are another high glucose yielding fruit. These little sugar bombs are high carb and higher calorie.
Peaches, pears or anything else that comes in its own juices or syrup are very carby, and sugary, and not your keto buddy.
Pineapple is in the 8 grams per serving range and can easily upset your keto balance with one bite too many.
Bananas – 1 regular sized banana can knock you out of keto by itself, enough said.
Fruits are great for getting additional vitamins like C to help stave off sickness and give your bones and brain the fuels they need to stay healthy.
NUTS TO THIS!
All of us at one point or another in the early stages off keto mentally scream, “nuts to this!” But the answer to keeping you going may actually be nuts. Nuts are tasty and filling and full of the fats we ketoers like that are great for preventing ghrelin from tricking us into thinking we are hungry, one of the major benefits of keto. On top of the awesome flavor and their craving-crushing powers, nuts can help you easily attain your electrolyte goals with high sodium and potassium levels and moderate amounts or magnesium. Like anything on keto, there are goods and bads to this group. In addition, no matter how low carb nuts are, they all tend to be high in calories, so track them with fervor.
One more thing to understand about nuts is their carbohydrate measurements. Carbs vs. net carbs is just simple math. Carbohydrates - dietary fiber = Net carbs.
Net carbs are the only effective carbs and the only ones you need to count. So if a serving of almonds says 6 carbs but below that lists 3 dietary fiber, your net carbs to be counted in your tracker are 3. For some reason in the U.S. we don’t list our net carbs, so many tracker apps will need to be adjusted to show your real carb intake.
Below is a table of nuts with their carbs, dietary fiber, and total net carbs listed from best for keto to worst for keto.
(based on a serving size of 1oz./28grams)
Nuts are heart and body healthy no matter how you choose to eat, it’s just lucky for ketoers that nuts are low in net carb intake and high in the fats and oils we need to fuel our ketone production. But it is of course recommended that before eating a new type of nut you get tested to make sure you aren’t allergic, especially if you have other nut allergies or are allergy prone in general.
CARBS YOU DIDN’T COUNT ON
Some other carbs to take into account come from very keto friendly foods. Eggs, for example, carry a .6 gram price-tag each. Cured meats will often times have a sweetening agent added in to the mix that give them a carb or two per serving. Cheddar cheese, bleu cheese, mozzarella, and many other cheeses carry a fraction of a carb per serving. Not usually enough to concern yourself with, but if you’re on the cusp of your daily carb count, keep them in mind. The best way to stay up on these miniscule amounts that add up is to read labels and use your tracker.
THE CARB CURVE
So now you know, not all carbs do the same things. A 10 carb brownie isn’t going to give you the same nutrient benefit as a 10 carb handful of almonds will, with its good fats and electrolyte additions. A 5 carb drink isn’t going to give you the intestinal support and blockage busting power of 3 servings of Kale. Think strategically; get the most bang buck when it comes to spending your carefully calculated carb budget.