15 Foods to Avoid on the Keto Diet

Updated: Apr. 17, 2024

It can be a daunting task to keep track of which foods to avoid on keto. Here are the foods you should definitely skip.

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Though originally formulated in the 1920s as a means for treating epilepsy in children, the ketogenic diet has since surged in popularity for many reasons. Not only has it been linked to weight loss, but the keto diet has also proven to be effective in treating type 2 diabetes, various cancers, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

The keto diet calls for very low carb recipes that are high in fat and protein. This helps the body transition to using fat as its main energy source instead of carbohydrates—a metabolic state called ketosis. In order to achieve ketosis, you must be diligent about the types of food you’re choosing. Many people aim for 50 grams or less of carbohydrates per day while following this protocol.

Once you get a feel for foods that work and don’t work, you’ll be able to put together a simple keto diet menu before moving on to more intermediate meals like full keto dinner recipes.

Here is a helpful list of foods to avoid while following a keto diet.

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Bananas on gray wooden kitchen counter. Ripe bananas isolated on table of wood. Sunlight fruits.
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Bananas

Even though banana health benefits abound, like helping to boost heart and immune health, bananas are basically off the table when you’re eating keto. Why? One medium banana contains a hefty 27 grams of carbs—eat one, and you’re almost at your quota for the day.

Pick up a few of these keto snack bars when you need a bite on the go.

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Sliced mango on white background
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Mangoes

If there’s a fruit even worse for keto diets than bananas, it’s mangoes. These tropical treats have a high carb content, packing in 50 grams per fruit! Instead, opt for a lower-carb fruit like watermelon (11 grams per cup), strawberries (13 grams per cup) or cantaloupe (13 grams per cup).

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Whole and cut ripe sweet potatoes on white wooden table, flat lay
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Sweet Potatoes

While many vegetables do make the cut for keto diet foods, sweet potatoes are not one of them, as each one contains 27 grams of carbs. Low starch vegetables like leafy greens will be your best substitute, but you could also try spaghetti squash (10 grams per cup), zucchini (3 grams per cup) or eggplant (5 grams per cup).

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grilled corn, boiled corn on a wooden white plate. Vegetarian food, healthy food.
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Corn

While corn may seem like a good gluten-free grain alternative for those following keto, its carb count is too high to qualify. One cup of corn kernels boasts nearly 20 grams of carbohydrates. If corn tortillas are your go-to, try almond flour-based tortillas instead. This almond flour bread is also a great low-carb recipe to try your hand at.

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Red Wine

There are certainly many reasons to enjoy a glass of wine (it may improve heart health, for example). But when you think about the ingredients used to make wine, it’s no surprise that it’s off keto meal plans. High in carbs, grapes can slow down or halt ketosis—and the same goes for drinks made from them. Sugar-free sparkling water with a small splash of 100%, no sugar added grape juice is a tasty substitute.

Though you might miss your wine night cap, you don’t have to skip your morning brew! Here are the keto Starbucks drinks you can order.

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rapeseed oil (canola) and rape flowers on wooden table
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Canola Oil

While eating keto includes plenty of high-fat foods, that doesn’t mean any and all kinds of fat are ideal. It’s important to know the difference between good fats and bad fats when cooking at home. Canola oil, like most vegetable and seed oils, is typically frowned upon due to its high pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid content. Better options include MCT oil, coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil. Here are the best olive oil brands to buy for cooking on keto.

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Raw Organic Amber Maple Syrup
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Maple Syrup

Sure, most diets will restrict your sugar intake, but eating keto means avoiding all forms of the substance. This includes healthier sweeteners like maple syrup, honey and dates. They’re simply too high in carbs to support ketosis.

Syrup-laden foods like pancakes and waffles might be off the table, but plenty of keto breakfast recipes will help fill your weekly meal plan. Plus, all the protein in keto breakfasts will stave off hunger and keep you fuller throughout the early afternoon.

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Glasses of juice and citrus fruits
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Fruit Juice

Fruit juices, just like carb-loaded whole fruits, don’t fit the keto diet. Fruit juice concentrates the naturally-occurring sugars found in fruit and removes all the health-promoting fiber. This yields a very high-carb final product that will rapidly spike blood sugars. You’re better off enjoying a tall glass of water instead. You can always choose keto-friendly fruits like blueberries, lemon, raspberry and strawberries to create infused water for the slightest flavor of your fave fruits.

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trail mix
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Dried Fruit

In the same way that fruit juice concentrates the sugars found in fruit, the process used to make dried fruit has the same effect. Plus, many varieties add refined sugar to their products, making matters worse. Unsweetened coconut flakes are a great alternative when you’re looking for add-ons to things like full-fat yogurt.

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Processed Foods

Chips, crackers, cookies and snack foods are all off-limits on the keto diet. Low in fiber and high in carbs, these items do not support the goal of keto eating, aka reducing carbs enough to stay in ketosis and burn stored fat. Try one of these tasty keto snacks, instead!

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Bowl of raw dry chickpea
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Chickpeas

Though absolutely delicious in curries and rich in muscle-building protein, chickpeas (alongside other legumes like lentils and peas) are a no-no for those following the ketogenic diet. The 45 grams of carbs in one cup of cooked chickpeas will quickly put you out of ketosis. Because chickpeas make up the base of hummus, you’ll have to leave that off your snack menu too.

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Fresh homemade tomato sauce with garlic
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Ketchup

Many condiments are off the table when it comes to the keto diet since they’re often packed with sneaky added sugars. Ketchup is one of the top culprits with nearly 14 grams of carbs in three tablespoons.

Many hot sauce brands are perfect substitutes—just be sure to double check the carb count on the nutrition facts panel before buying. Or, try making your own hot sauce from scratch!

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Whole Milk

Whole milk, while high in fat, is not a great option for achieving ketosis thanks to the 12 grams of carbs found in one cup. And, unfortunately, many dairy alternatives aren’t optimal either, especially those made from grains like oat and rice milk. Instead, opt for nut or seed-based milks as they will be lowest in carbs. Try hemp, almond or cashew milk. Bonus points if you make your own nut milk!

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Organic colorful mixed quinoa seeds
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Quinoa

Though quinoa may be a nutrient-dense, plant-based complete protein, it’s not keto-approved. This is due to its high carb count with 39 grams per one cup cooked. And while there is a more active version of keto dieting that allows it, usually this superfood is out. If you’re going to miss quinoa recipes as you transition into keto dieting, swap it for cauliflower rice.

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Spaghetti with tomato sauce on white background.
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Pasta

For a diet that’s low in carbohydrates, it’s no surprise that carb-heavy pasta is off the menu. But did you know the same goes for whole-grain or even bean-based varieties too? Should a pasta craving strike while you’re on this diet, consider making your own zucchini noodles instead, and top them with air-fryer keto meatballs.

Keto Diet FAQ

What is the most important food to avoid on the keto diet?

The most important foods to avoid on the keto diet are refined carbohydrates. Some classic examples of refined carbohydrates include bread, pasta, rice, chips, pretzels, cheese puffs, sodas, sweetened beverages, desserts and other snack foods. These options are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber, which causes quick blood sugar spikes after eating. Plus, many refined carbohydrates contain additional refined sugar, further pushing the foods out of keto territory.

What foods can you eat on the keto diet?

Thankfully, there are so many delicious and nutritious foods that you can enjoy on the keto diet. Some options include fish, eggs, poultry, lean meats, cheese, full-fat yogurt, butter, olive oil, nuts, seeds and low-carb fruits and veggies. Avocado, cauliflower, spinach, zucchini, berries, broccoli, peppers, lettuce, cucumber, eggplant and celery can all be consumed in moderation.