So you want to start the keto diet? Good for you! Research is showing us just how beneficial this high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet is for everything from the brain and lungs to skin and waistline. Your body will be feeling better and more energetic in no time.
But first you must grocery shop. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing about starting a new diet – What can you buy? What’s compliant? What’s not?
I’m taking all the guesswork out of it for you. Below you are going to find an awesome keto shopping list you can use as the foundation of your new grocery store habits. And it’s important to think about any lifestyle change like you’re establishing new habits. Be patient, give yourself time to get acclimated. And just know that when you stay consistent and commit to your desired results you can and will succeed!
I’ve also done my best to make it as comprehensive as possible and here’s why: following the keto diet can feel really restrictive depending on where you’re starting from. If you’re going straight from the drive through to converting to keto it’s going to be a big adjustment. Less so if you’re accustomed to eating paleo, gluten-free or even just mindfully from whole food sources. Regardless of where you’re beginning it can still take time to adjust to eating the high fat diet that comprises keto.
But here’s the secret: there are actually so many keto approved foods.
Oftentimes you may buy a book on the keto diet and they offer a handy keto grocery list – but they only mention a few options. That small list makes an already restrictive diet feel boring and impossible. And if it feels impossible it’s hard to stick to it.
With this keto shopping list broken down by food type, you will be able to see that keto is not nearly as restrictive as you may have thought it would be in the beginning – there’s plenty of ways to get good fats for keto. Trust me, you will see far more meat and veggie options than there are days of the month!
To top it all off, I’ve added some basic info and helpful tips for each category of food, so you can start your keto diet off with confidence.
Since this is ultimately a high-fat diet, we are going to start with good fats for keto. For years our food culture made us (falsely!) believe that eating fat, butter, and oil was the worst thing we could do for our bodies, so some of these ingredients may seem a bit foreign to you. Here’s a quick Fat 101.
There are different types of fat. Some are really good for you, and some are really bad for you.
Trans fats: This is the absolute worst type of fat. Stay away from this one completely (which is true even for those not on keto). They create inflammation, raise bad cholesterol, and lead to insulin problems.
Polyunsaturated: This is where we get to omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Though both are essential for your wellbeing, most people don’t need any extra omega-6. We’re already getting plenty of this fat in the average diet. In fact, most people are far too omega-6 dominant which can stoke the fires of inflammation, leading to other health issues. You should concentrate on getting more sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which includes items like flaxseed oil, wild caught fish as well as a bunch of the foods further down the keto grocery list.
Monounsaturated: These are wonderful for you; go crazy with them. They can lower heart disease and improve countless health conditions. Olive oil is a good example.
Saturated: For a long time, we were told to stay away from saturated fats altogether, but now we are learning this shouldn’t be the case – especially with nutrient rich options like the common keto saturated fat MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil. It is easily and quickly absorbed by the body that either uses the energy right away and/or converts it to ketones.
MCT oil also helps to keep you in ketosis, even when you have consumed a bit more protein and carbs than you might have liked to. Plus, it’s wonderful for energy, digestion, hormones, brain power, and more (6, 7, 8).
Below you will find many keto diet fats (these are mainly cooking oils; more fat sources appear later on in the article) you will be relying on heavily for your keto diet shopping list.
Keto Diet Fats: Cooking Oils
- Avocado oil
- Bacon fat
- Beef tallow
- Buffalo tallow
- Butter, grass-fed
- Cacao butter/oil
- Chicken fat, free-range
- Coconut oil
- Duck fat, fat free-range
- Flaxseed oil
- Ghee, grass-fed
- Hazelnut oil
- Hempseed oil
- Lard, pasture-raised
- Macadamia nut oil
- MCT oil
- Olive oil
- Palm fruit oil
- Palm kernel oil
- Tallow/suet, grass-fed
- Walnut oil
Though fat rules the keto diet, protein comes in right behind it. That means it is essential to focus on buying clean proteins when you take your keto shopping list to the store. You will see a few terms on the labels that will help guide your decisions. Let me explain them:
Grass-fed: Beef is either going to be grass-fed or grain-fed. Grass-fed options are significantly higher in those anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, as well as in vitamins and antioxidants. Grass-fed is also higher in something called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is an essential fatty acid for building muscle, keeping a healthy weight, and even fighting cancer. On top of the better nutrient profile, you have a lower risk of food poisoning (9).
Hormone-free: Hormone imbalance is a common issue plaguing both men and women. It leads to reproductive health issues, infertility, weight gain, thyroid problems, insomnia, autoimmune disorders, and much more. When farmers add hormones to their animals, you ingest them as you eat, and your hormonal balance can get out of whack.
Antibiotic-free: Overexposure to antibiotics is one of the most pressing medical concerns of our time. Since antibiotics kill the good bacteria, not just the bad, we are left with massively poor gut health. Almost your entire immune system is located in your gut, so when your gut’s not happy – no body system is happy.
Pastured, Pasture-Raised, or Free Range (Same thing; different phrase): Animals’ systems are designed to roam for the food they eat, not to be hand-fed corn or other GMO grains. Healthy animals give you healthier, more nutritious meat and eggs. For example, pasture-raised eggs have significantly less cholesterol, while also having significantly more omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and beta carotene (10).
Organic: Organic meat comes from livestock that have been raised under strict government regulations. Their land must meet organic crop standards for grazing. They cannot be given anything like antibiotics, growth hormones, or animal byproducts, so you do not ingest these either. Plus, organic meat has far better nutrient content. It’s a much safer bet to go organic each time (11).
The above terms are the guidelines you want to follow as you go to the store with your keto shopping list to get these protein choices:
- Chicken liver
- Game hen
- Ground beef/pork
- Liver pate
- Pepperoni (brand specific – be sure there are no preservatives, sugar, or gluten)
- Pork chops
- Pork dust
- Pork rinds
- Pork shoulder
- Pork tenderloin
- Sausage (brand specific – be sure there are no preservatives, sugar, or gluten)
- Arctic char
- Mackerel (this fish is higher in mercury; eat sparingly)
- Mahi mahi
- Marine collagen
- Salmon, wild-caught
- Sea bass (this fish is higher in mercury; eat sparingly)
- Swordfish (this fish is higher in mercury; eat sparingly)
- Tuna, fresh or canned (Tuna can be higher in mercury – particularly Ahi, Yellowfin, Bigeye and Canned Albacore; eat these varieties sparingly (17))
- Chicken eggs
- Duck eggs
- Goose eggs
- Ostrich eggs
- Quail eggs
- Beef gelatin
- Bone broth protein powder
- Collagen peptides
- Egg protein
- Egg white protein
- Plant protein powder
- Whey protein
Yes, vegetables have carbs. Yes, vegetables have some sugar. But your keto shopping list must include these nutrient-rich, lower-carb veggie options to have a well-rounded, healthful diet. Plus, keto and fiber need to go together.
As you will see, not every single veggie known to humankind is on this list – that’s because some are higher in sugar than others and cause blood sugar spikes. However, you will find that all the important groups are still represented on this keto grocery list – leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, root vegetables, and more.
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Artichoke hearts
- Bell peppers
- Bok choy
- Broccoli rabe
- Brussels sprouts
- Butternut squash
- Carrots, in moderation
- Chicory greens
- Collard greens
- Fennel bulb
- Green beans
- Onions, in moderation
- Spaghetti Squash, in moderation
- Swiss chard
A big question when it comes to the low-carb nature of the keto diet is – are there any ketogenic fruits? There are! Fruits are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. They are an essential part of your overall wellbeing.
Yet we cannot deny that they are sugary. The goal for your keto shopping list is to choose low carb fruits with keto macronutrient breakdowns in mind. Then you will use them sparingly in your meal planning.
Side note: Not only is avocado arguably the best keto fruit, but it also doesn’t have to be used in moderation. You can rely heavily on this extremely high-fat fruit in all your meal planning.
- Tomatoes, in moderation
Dairy is definitely high on the list of keto approved foods, but it must always be full-fat and from clean sources. See the Meats section above for more details on what to look for in your dairy products.
Full-fat dairy will help you reach your proper macronutrient breakdown each day, but it also helps you avoid fillers and chemicals often found in reduced-fat products.
Add these to your ketogenic shopping list:
- Blue cheese/blue cheese dressing
- Brie cheese
- Burrata cheese
- Camembart cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Colby cheese
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Crème fraiche
- Feta cheese
- Goat cheese
- Gouda cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Gruyere cheese
- Halloumi cheese
- Heavy cream
- Heavy whipping cream
- Kefalotyri cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Muenster cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Provolone cheese
- Queso blanco
- Ranch dressing
- Ricotta cheese
- Sour cream
- Swiss cheese
- Tilsit cheese
- Unsweetened coconut milk
- Unsweetened hemp milk
There are many varieties available for non-dairy milks. You just have to be careful with the number of carbs when you’re on the keto diet. So check out the label and go from there.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a simple way to get some good keto diet fats in your diet – especially for a snack – and nut butters can feel quite decadent.
- Brazil nuts
- Coconut/coconut flakes
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds/butter
- Peanuts/butter, in moderation
- Pili nuts
- Pine nuts
- Poppy seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sacha inchi seeds
- Safflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds/butter
Spices, Herbs, Condiments, and Baking
Bring on that flavor!
One of the ways to make your keto diet shopping list transform into amazingly tasty meals that don’t feel restrictive at all is to go crazy in the spice and herb department.
After all, nobody wants plain meat and veggies for each meal – not even the most health-conscious among us. I’ve also included some keto-safe condiments and baking items that can really enhance both meal flavor and meal options.
- Bay leaves
- Black pepper
- Cajun seasoning
- Celery seed
- Chili powder
- Chinese five-spice
- Garlic powder
- Ginger powder
- Gray sea salt/Himalayan rock salt
- Italian seasoning
- Mustard seeds
- Old bay seasoning
- Onion powder
- Pepper flakes
- Sea salt
- Seasoned salt
- Smoked paprika
- Star anise
- Steak seasoning
- Taco seasoning (brand-specific, look for gluten and sugar)
- Vanilla powder
- Almond flour/meal
- Apple cider vinegar
- Avocado oil mayo
- Balsamic vinegar
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Cocoa butter
- Coconut aminos
- Coconut flour
- Coconut vinegar
- Fermented foods
- Fish sauce
- Flaxseed meal
- Guar gum
- Hot sauce
- MCT powder
- Psyllium husk
- Tomato sauce
- Vanilla extract
- White wine vinegar
- Xantham gum
Everybody wants something sweet once in a while. I do, and you will too.
Though scooping up some ice cream is simply not an option for you when you’re on the keto diet, you can add a few sweet items to your keto grocery list.
You’ll see a few sugar alcohols pop up on the ketogenic shopping list. They are simply a combo of some sugar and alcohol. There’s no ethanol (the part that actually gets you drunk), so they’re safe for children and alcoholics. Sugar alcohols do have calories, but not nearly as many as actual sugar – and they do not have the same scary health problems that artificial sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame have (12, 13, 14).
Here’s a rundown of common sugar alcohols:
- Xylitol: This is one of the most common sugar alcohols; you’ve probably already had it in gum. While this one is acceptable on the keto grocery list (it doesn’t have fructose and it doesn’t really affect your blood sugar), it often causes digestive discomfort. If it makes you feel pain in your gut, you can either use just a tiny bit of it once in a while – or simply choose another option.
- Erythritol: This sugar alcohol is far easier on your digestive system, though anyone with kidney problems or corn sensitivities should proceed with caution.
- Sorbitol: This sugar alcohol won’t be on our keto diet shopping list. It actually has 60% of the same sugar calories that regular sugar has – way too high for keto.
- Maltitol: This is another a sugar alcohol that doesn’t make our keto shopping list. It can still cause blood sugar spikes, and it can result in some pretty serious stomach woes.
Now we get to our list. Remember: even though these are keto approved foods, you will still need to enjoy them in great moderation.
- Allulose (1/10 of the calories of regular sugar, plus, anti-inflammatory properties) (15)
- Cacao nibs
- Cacao powder
- Chocolate chips, stevia sweetened only
- Dark chocolate, 85% or higher
- Monk fruit extract/lo han guo
- Stevia, alcohol-free
- Yacon syrup
Finally – what types of drinks can go on your keto shopping list? Obviously, things like fruit juice, soda, and wine are not approved, but you do have a few options to help shake it up a bit. I really love using herbal teas at night to help ward off any sugar craving – plus it can feel like a bit of a treat, more fun than another glass of water.
- Bone broth
- Mineral water
- Sparkling water
Keto Produce: To Go Organic or Not to Go Organic
Here’s one of the most common keto grocery list questions: when you take your keto shopping list to the store, do you have to buy all your produce organic?
If money is not a concern for you, yes, buy organic. Every single time.
If money is a concern, there are a few tools to help you navigate which foods are an organic priority, and which can be conventional to save some money.
First up we have the Dirty Dozen list (16). These are 12 types of produce that have the biggest issue with pesticide absorption, and you should never buy them unless they are organic. Here are the produce choices on the Dirty Dozen list that are also on your keto shopping list:
- Hot peppers
- Sweet Bell Peppers
The Environmental Working Group has also produced a list of 15 fruits and vegetables that are safe/safer from pesticides AKA: the Clean Fifteen (16). As you will see, almost all of these have skin you don’t eat, which acts as a protective barrier. Below are the clean options that also wind up on your keto shopping list:
- Avocados (this should be super encouraging since this is your staple keto fruit)
Using Your Keto Diet Shopping List
My goal is for this keto shopping list to open your eyes to the wide range of possibilities available to you that are compliant, delicious, and anything but boring. With so many meat, produce, nut, seed, spices, herbs, condiments, and even sweetener options – you can make creative, interesting, delicious meals even while staying keto adapted.
Now I want to hear from you. If you’ve started keto, tell me some of your favorite foods that wind up on your ketogenic shopping list. If you haven’t started keto yet, tell me how you feel about creating meals from this more comprehensive keto grocery list. Just leave a comment below!
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- Nordic Naturals @ nordicnaturals.com