Remember learning about the food pyramid in school? This tool has fallen out of favor in the last few decades, but the food pyramid was a helpful guide to help people understand what proportions certain food groups should make up in our diets, as well as suggesting foods that should be limited. As the keto diet suggests, we need to ditch the traditional food pyramid in order to get the body into ketosis. But how does the keto food pyramid look like? Let’s find out!
Keto Food Pyramid
The particular “levels” of the food pyramid may need a little adjustment depending on the exact macros you’ve chosen for your keto diet, but our recommendations are based on approximately 70-80% fat, 20-25% protein, and up to 10% carbs.
So, how do you use this keto food pyramid? Simply start from Tier 1 and work your way down to Tier 6. You can think of Tier 1 as the “base” of your food pyramid, as it contains the foods you should be including in your diet most frequently. Meanwhile, Tier 6 is the “peak” of the keto food pyramid, with foods that should be limited to just small portions.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of keto food options, but you’ll find the best sources (and hopefully some of your favorites!) here. Let’s get started!
Tier 1 – Fats & Oils
- Fats: Butter, ghee, coconut butter, avocados, olives, tallow, lard, bone marrow, bone broth (unskimmed), duck fat, goose fat, bacon fat
- Oils: Coconut, MCT, flaxseed, avocado, sesame, fish, krill, extra-virgin olive oil, cod liver, red palm
- Meat: Fatty cuts of beef (ribeye, NY strip steak, Delmonico steak, skirt steak, 55% ground beef), pork (bacon, pork ribs), chicken (thighs, legs), organ meats, veal, lamb, cured meats (pepperoni/salami)
- Fatty/Oily Fish: Salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, trout, sardines, herring)
- Seeds: Pumpkin, chia, flax, hemp, sunflower, sesame
- If available in your local grocery store and within your budget, opt for grass-fed butter and beef, as well as wild-caught fish. These can be a little pricier than the conventional options, but generally have better nutritional profiles.
Tier 2 – Lean Meat, Fish, Seafood, & Eggs
- Lean Meat: Chicken/turkey breast, cold cuts
- Lean Fish: Cod, halibut, mahi mahi, catfish, tilapia, pollock, haddock, flounder, sea bass
- Seafood: Shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, lobster, squid, prawns
- Make sure not to overdo it on the serving sizes for these lean proteins. Depending on your macros, you will likely only need about 3 to 5 oz of protein at each meal, so you may want to opt for fattier meats or fish. Of course, if you find that some of your favorites are in this list, you can certainly enjoy them in moderation without falling out of ketosis!
Tier 3 – Non-Starchy Vegetables as a Main Source of Carbs in the Keto Food Pyramid
- Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, dandelion greens, collard greens, swiss chard
- Lettuce: Arugula, romaine, butterhead, leaf, watercress
- Alfalfa Sprouts
Tier 4 – Other Keto-Friendly Vegetables
- Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, brussels sprouts, turnips
- Other Keto Favorites: Radishes, zucchini/summer squash, cucumbers, celery, asparagus, mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, garlic
- While these veggies don’t necessarily fall into the “non-starchy” category, they still tend to be low in carbs. Keep an eye on portion sizes for these options, as some may add up the carbs quickly!
Tier 5 – Full-Fat Dairy
- Heavy whipping cream
- Full-fat plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and cream cheese
- Hard Cheeses: Gouda, parmesan, bleu, swiss, Colby, provolone
- Soft Cheeses: Monterey Jack, brie, mozzarella, cheddar, goat, muenster, mascarpone
- So, why isn’t dairy in a higher tier of the keto food pyramid? Basically, dairy has little effect on ketosis. If you don’t consume dairy, this is perfectly fine! Of course, many of us LOVE our cheese, so that may be out of the question!
- If you do choose to include dairy in your keto diet, try to avoid or limit dairy milks as they tend to have moderate amounts of carbs. Unsweetened non-dairy milks (such as almond or coconut) tend to be a more keto-friendly option.
Tier 6 – Fruit & Nuts
- Nuts: Macadamia, pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, pili nuts, peanuts, cashews
- Fruit: Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, lemons, limes, coconut (fresh or unsweetened flaked/shredded)
- Both fruit and nuts are delicious, nutritious options for a keto diet, but they should be limited to small amounts as they do contain carbs. Nuts should be unflavored if possible – dry-roasted, salted, and raw versions tend to be much lower in carbs.
- If you can’t live without your nut butters, it’s totally OK to enjoy small portions of them on keto! Just try to limit them to 1 serving a day as they tend to be high in sugar and carbs, and opt for the lowest-carb nut butters you can find.
Where Are Beverages in the Keto Food Pyramid?
In general, you’ll have to be a bit choosy about what you drink, so these don’t necessarily have a home on the keto food pyramid. Many popular drinks are high in carbs, sugary, and a definite no-no on keto. However, you still have some delicious options!
- Caffeinated Drinks: You can drink as much (within reason, of course!) bulletproof coffee, unsweetened tea (green, black, and turmeric are great options), and unsweetened coffee as you like.
- Alcohol: If you choose to enjoy these (stick to a small serving!), your best options are dry wines and clear spirits/liquors.
- Water and sparkling water are unlimited! Just make sure that any sparkling water or seltzers have zero carbs, as a few do sneak some sugar in there.
- Kombucha is also a delicious, gut-healthy option for keto! Make sure to check the carb content before you buy kombucha, as they can vary widely across different brands and flavors.
There you have it! When you’re new to keto, learning what you should and shouldn’t include in your diet can be REALLY overwhelming, but having a keto food pyramid to guide you can certainly help you to make sense of all the intricacies of keto. Even if you’ve been keto for what seems like forever, checking this keto food pyramid should help to remind you of what your food “priorities” should be, or simply to make sure you’re still on the right track!