It's no secret the ketogenic (or keto) diet is very restrictive. However, planning out your meals in advance and packing healthy keto snacks to take on the go is the key to maintaining this low-carb lifestyle.
"The keto diet is a high-fat, very low-carbohydrate diet with the goal of changing the way your body fuels itself. Instead of using carbs, your body turns to its fat stores to break down and use as energy," a state called ketosis, explains Pamela Nisevich Bede, RD, a registered dietitian and keto expert with ZonePerfect. The goal is to cut your carb intake down to 5 to 10 percent of your daily calories, increase fats to make up about 75 to 80 percent of your daily calories and leave the remainder for protein.
Snacks have the potential to make or break a diet, so it's important to choose ones that fit the keto structure and keep you in that fat-burning zone. You should also choose snacks that are packed with nutrients, as these will help keep you fuller longer and provide essential vitamins and minerals to strengthen your muscles and provide sustainable energy.
So prep your midday munchies by packing these healthy low-carb snacks that tame cravings.
The Keto Diet Isn't for Everyone
1. Veggies and Dip
You can feel great about chopping up veggies and dunking them in a creamy dip. "Cucumbers, celery, zucchini and mushrooms are all naturally low in carbohydrates and are great to be paired with a low-carb dip," says Bede. Try this Ricotta, Lemon and Walnut Dip recipe that's high in fats, low in carbs and full of flavor.
Plus, the veggies provide important vitamins and minerals and boast a high water content to keep you hydrated. A common side effect of the keto diet is dehydration, according to a July 2014 study published in Nutrients, so eating foods that boost hydration levels and drinking plenty of water can help counteract the effects.
Other Low-Carb Dips We Love
Nuts, as well as nut butter, are a great snack option for people following the keto diet as they're high in healthy fats and low in carbs. "Pecans, macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts are ones with lower carb counts, whereas cashews and pistachios contain more carbs," Bede says. You can enjoy all nut varieties on keto by simply monitoring portion size to stay within your daily carb count.
You can also spice up your snack by coating nuts in unsweetened cocoa, says Dana Angelo White, RD. "Roast raw almonds on a sheet pan to release their oils, and then dust with some unsweetened cocoa powder and a sprinkle of sea salt." Then, all you have to do is store them in an airtight container, portion out for the week and you're set!
Feel free to enjoy a serving with some cheese, unsweetened Greek yogurt or a stick of beef jerky if you need a little something extra.
3. Low-Carb Bars
Generally, granola bars are off-limits when on the keto diet. However, this granola bar recipe by Food Faith Fitness got a keto makeover — the bars are sugar-free and low in carbs.
With almonds, almond butter, coconut flakes and chocolate chips, they will satisfy a sweet craving without kicking you out of ketosis or leading to a sugar crash. Each bar contains just under 200 calories and is sweetened with monk fruit, a keto-friendly sweetener, to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Other Low-Carb Bars We Love
4. Hard-Boiled Eggs
Whip up a big batch of hard-boiled eggs on Sunday to keep on hand for the whole week for an inexpensive grab-and-go protein option.
One large egg contains 6.3 grams of protein and 5.3 grams of fat, according to the USDA. What's more, they are an excellent source of choline, a nutrient linked to brain health, per an August 2017 study published in Nutrients.
Read more: How to Track Macros on the Keto Diet
5. Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers
Serve some heat with these spicy, cheesy poppers wrapped in thick bacon from blogger Hey Keto Mama. These crowd-pleasers are perfect for any game night or outdoor barbecue. Each stuffed jalapeño half contains 117 calories, 1 gram of net carbs, 10 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein.
6. Berries and Cream
Fruit is tricky on keto, and most options aren't allowed due to their high sugar content. However, berries can be eaten in moderation, as they're low in sugar and high in fiber.
"For a sweet snack, I often recommend berries topped with heavy whipping cream. Pick berries that are lower in carbs like raspberries and blackberries, which are also full of important antioxidants," says Bede. A cup of raspberries contains about 14 grams of carbs, 8 grams of which are fiber, per the USDA.
Since women need 25 grams of fiber per day and men 38 grams, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adding this snack to your weekly rotation can help you meet your fiber needs while on keto.
7. Avocado and Low-Carb Crackers
Yes, you can (and should!) enjoy avocado on the keto diet. High in healthy fats and some fiber, it'll keep you right in ketosis. "A third of an avocado contains approximately 100 calories and 5 grams of carbs, so you can enjoy some in between meals or as a side dish sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning," White recommends.
You can also spread some avocado on crackers, like these keto-approved crispy, crunchy and perfectly seasoned crackers from Gnom-Gnom. They require just 13 minutes to whip up, and they are simple, wholesome and absolutely delicious. This blogger even uses Trader Joe's Everything But The Bagel Seasoning for extra flavor, as White suggests.
8. Turkey Roll-Ups
Ditch the wrap and make turkey your "bread" for a delicious veggie and meat combo. "Low-sodium deli meat can be a low-calorie, high-protein finger food," White says. Be sure to avoid honey-roasted deli meat varieties to keep the carbs at zero grams per serving, she warns.
Stuff the roll-ups with low-carb vegetables of your choice and some mayo or mashed avocado for creaminess.
- Nutrients: "The Effects of a Ketogenic Diet on Exercise Metabolism and Physical Performance in Off-Road Cyclists"
- USDA MyFoodData: "Hard-Boiled Eggs"
- Nutrients: "Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet"
- USDA MyFoodData: "Raspberries"