The thing about the ketogenic diet is that you can’t really break it. Just getting your body into ketosis — the state in which it burns fat instead of carbs that leads to weight loss — may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. And every time you get out of ketosis, you have to start the process again. This means no cheat days, cheat meals, or even cheat snacks.
But, this doesn’t mean no snacks (never no snacks!). It just means you need the right ones. Stick to whole foods that are “living,” such as meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, and ingredients you can pronounce. Stay away from grains, legumes, starches, added sugars, or anything heavily processed.
Yes, the keto diet takes a bit of research and a lot of willpower. But in between those guidelines, there are loads of delicious snacks to be found. The selection below contains some of the best ones — all high-fat and low-carb — categorized according to your craving.
There are a lot of keto-friendly snacks that fall within the piquant spectrum. From dried meats and vegetables to salty cheese and nuts, there are many ways to satisfy your craving for something savory.
There are three common ways to enjoy kale — blended in a shake, drenched in salad dressing, or crisped into chips. Kale chips are a naturally low carb food, high in nutrients, and incredibly easy to make. Just coat the leaves generously with olive oil, spread them out on a baking sheet, sprinkle your flavors of choice (popular ones are garlic powder, cayenne, and nutritional yeast), and bake for 20-30 minutes. There are also a lot of ready-to-eat kale chips on the market. Just make sure to check the ingredient lists for a keto-friendly option.
Seaweed snacks come in the form of paper-thin, square or rectangular sheets with a deep forest green color. When plucked out of the packet, they weigh almost nothing. They also have very few calories and carbs (about 20 calories per serving and 0 grams of net carbs), lacking the protein and fat to make a filling snack.
So why even eat them? Seaweed is a micronutrient powerhouse. It contains vitamins A and C, calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, and zinc. It’s also a good option when you just have the munchies. For a more substantial snack, though, try spreading your seaweed sheets with some hummus or tahini, or wrap them around slices of avocado.
DRIED BEEF SNACKS
Beef biltong and beef jerky are two of the best keto snacks to have on hand since they’re so portable and don’t need to be kept cold or eaten warm.
Not all beef snacks have been cleared as a keto diet food, however. Those loaded with sugar, preservatives, and artificial ingredients are best left on the shelf.
Instead, a good beef brand will generally use high-quality, grass-fed meat, and natural flavoring. This keeps the beef as a perfect, naturally keto snack — low-carb, low-sugar, and packed with both protein and healthy fats.
SUNFLOWER SEEDS, PUMPKIN SEEDS, OR SESAME SEEDS
These are a tiny, tasty snacks that offer many benefits for those on a keto diet. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds are great sources of healthy fat, fiber, and magnesium, which help control blood sugar levels. But their natural saltiness also helps replenish some of the electrolytes typically lost while on keto.
Those new to keto often experience a loss of water weight during the first few days — this is due to a decrease of glycogen in the muscle, which is the substance responsible for water retention. Eating a handful or two of these seeds is a delicious way to help make up for any loss in minerals.
Nuts get mixed reviews from keto practitioners. Yes, they’re high in healthy fats and nutrients. But depending on the variety and serving size, they can easily tip the carb scales out of ketosis.
Still, their pros really outweigh their carbs — nuts contain magnesium, selenium, and manganese in more abundance than in other food, and are linked to having less belly fat, longer lifespans, and improved brain health. So as long as you choose variants with a lower carb count, like macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, and pecans, and control how much you eat (one small handful per day), nuts can be one of the most convenient keto snacks.
Thankfully, there’s cheese. These are a great salty snack, made in an assortment of fun textures. Cheddar cheese for a dense, sink-your-teeth-into it cube, cottage cheese for creamy curds, and string cheese for a playful snack.
Although you don’t need a reason to eat this delicious dairy product, cheese does offer a good amount of protein and calcium (20 percent of the recommended daily intake in one ounce of cheddar cheese). It also contains conjugated linoleic acid, a healthy fat that has been linked to fat loss and can help maintain muscle mass. As with all things keto, remember to get the full fat dairy version.
Yes, this sports bar staple is already keto-friendly in its original form — without the breading, of course. At its most basic, the jalapeno popper is a whole pepper, sliced in half, stuffed with a cheese mixture, reassembled (optional), and baked or fried.
Keto variations include wrapping the jalapeno in bacon, putting bacon bits into the cheese, or combining different types of cheese fillings — usually a sharp cheddar and full-fat cream cheese. You can also opt to drizzle avocado oil or coconut oil on top and bake them instead of the usual deep fry.
It’s surprising, but pork rinds are one of the ideal keto foods. They’re almost pure fat and protein with nearly no carbs. They’re also a great potato chip substitute, providing that light, airy crunch you crave.
While you shouldn’t eat pork rinds all day, every day, there are a few great companies creating oven-baked and antibiotic-free options. Epic Artisanal, for instance, has a 4-ingredient Pink Himalayan Sea Salt variation, while Utz has a two-ingredient Original flavor, available in packs or barrels.
This takes two of the top snack categories — cheese and chips — and combines them into one easy-to-make, easy-to-eat snack. All you need to make parmesan crisps is parmesan. Create a few small mounds of shredded cheese on a baking sheet with about 2 inches in between for them to spread, then place them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes or until crispy. Cool and enjoy.
The advantage of sweet keto snacks is that most of them can be made in bulk. They contain a few base ingredients and thanks to their high fat content, keep very well until you’re ready to eat them.
CHIA SEED PUDDING
This is an example of a traditional sweet, rice pudding, reworked into a keto-friendly recipe with resounding success. These days, it’s more common to see chia pudding at the local snack bar than it is to see the original rice version. The basic recipe ratio is 3 tablespoons of chia for every cup of liquid — good choices are almond milk or coconut milk — then allow your mixture to sit overnight. Top with slivered almonds or a scoop of nut butter.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth and are familiar with the keto diet, you’ve probably come across the term “fat bomb” or “keto bomb.” Fat bombs are the keto version of energy balls and are basically little spheres of healthy fat.
They are typically a combination of oil (coconut oil or MCT oil are good choices), nuts or nut butters, and unsweetened cocoa. Other recipes can also call for cream cheese, heavy cream, unsweetened shredded coconut, matcha, cinnamon, and other spices. You can also add your sugar substitute of choice, such as erythritol or stevia, which are made from sugar alcohols, or monk fruit sweetener or yacon syrup, which are plant-based sweeteners.
Whole milk ice cream is already high in fat. Keto versions simply make them sugar-free. Flavorings are added to an ice cream base of heavy whipping cream, coconut milk, a sugar substitute, and possibly egg yolks or xanthan gum. Some good keto ice cream flavors to try are avocado, instant coffee, salted brown butter, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, or peppermint extract. If you’re adding eggs to the mix, make sure you properly cook the mixture before storing it in the freezer.
BERRIES WITH WHIPPED CREAM
Although fruit is generally not recommended on keto because of its sugar content, berries are the exception as they’re relatively low in sugar and very high in nutrition. Berries with lower carb content include strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Blend a handful together with heavy cream for a thicker dessert, or sprinkle some on a cup of sugar-free whipped cream for a light parfait.
For a silky-smooth snack pack like the good old days, you can whip up a batch of chocolate pudding. To create the perfect texture, use a blend of full-fat milk and avocado (or heavy whipping cream, egg yolks, and xanthan gum). Stir in some unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and a sugar substitute. Blend the ingredients together over medium heat until they’re fully incorporated, and refrigerate for a few hours until the pudding sets.
If you want something simple and sweet, dark chocolate always hits the spot. Plus, it is rich in antioxidants, minerals, soluble fiber, and flavanols, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. Just make sure you choose bars with low carbs and sugar, and at least 70 percent cocoa solids.
SUGAR-FREE JELLO OR POPSICLES
These are not the best options, according to keto sticklers, as they are processed and provide no real health benefits. But they are a zero carb snack, so if you’re really craving that intense saccharine hit, having a few occasional bites won’t do any harm.
The ingredients for keto cookies are a bit far from the ones your grandma used to make — almond flour, sugar-free chocolate chips, unsweetened cocoa, powdered erythritol, etc. There are a number of tried-and-tested keto cookie recipes for you to try. But if you’d rather get yours at the grocery store, look for ones by Fat Snax, Quest Protein Cookies, or Alyssa’s Gluten Free Cookies.
Bars are such an archetypal snack item that they can’t be left off this list. Luckily, there are many good ones that cater to the keto lifestyle. A few favorite keto brands include the low-carb Keto Bars (3 grams net carbs), Perfect Keto Bars (3 grams net carbs), Keto Crave Energy Bars (5 grams net carbs), or Quest Bars (4 grams net carbs). As always, read the ingredient list and calculate the net carbs for the particular bar you choose.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
There are times when you want a snack, but don’t have anything specific in mind. The following list is for just those times, offering a combination of savory and sweet, and everything in between.
WILD CAUGHT SARDINES
Keto is not known as an affordable diet, but these sardines say otherwise. While tuna is usually the first fish that comes to mind when discussing diets, it doesn’t provide the necessary fat required for ketosis. Sardines, on the other hand, are a fatty fish, providing high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium
Nut butters are amazing — they satisfy both your sweet and salty taste buds at the same time. Rather than peanut butter, however, which is highly inflammatory and oftentimes loaded with additives, the best ones for the keto diet are almond butter, coconut butter, or a blend of macadamia nuts, cashews, pecans, or hazelnuts.
APPLE SLICES WITH TOPPINGS
When you’re on the keto diet, one medium-sized apple will consume your full day’s carbohydrate allowance. Make the most of this apple but cutting it into thin slices and using each slice as vessel for other ingredients. Slather each one with some almond butter and a sprinkle of chia seeds or flax seeds, pile on a wedge of cheese and some nuts, or top them with a scoop of tuna salad.
This is the one approved yogurt on the keto list. Although Greek yogurt does contain some carbs (5 grams of carbs for every 5 ounces), it’s high in protein, helps control blood sugar and insulin levels, and is quite filling. Just make sure to buy the full fat (not low fat) variety. It’s also great on its own, with a distinct tangy taste, but still provides a nice base for chopped nuts, fresh berries, or a sprinkle of cinnamon.
LOW CARB VEGETABLES
There’s not a diet that doesn’t approve of low-carb veggies, including keto. Many of them are great to enjoy raw — all you need to do is rinse and chop, and you have the makings of a perfect snack. The best non-starchy vegetables for raw snacking are celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, green beans, and leafy greens, all of which pair perfectly with guacamole, herbed cream cheese, aioli, tzatziki (made with Greek yogurt), or other high-fat dips. The fiber will keep you full, and the nice, raw crunch will keep you satisfied.
Note: Stay away from starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, corn, and squash, which are high carb and not part of the approved keto diet food list.
Eggs are one of the most complete, most versatile foods — enough on their own, and perfect for pairing with other ingredients. Two basic dishes with never-ending variations are deviled eggs (plain, bacon, smoky paprika) and egg salad (with avocado, cheese, or Dijon mustard). A large hard-boiled egg has 5 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, and less than 1 gram of carbs, which fits well within into your daily keto numbers.
As you can tell, there are a lot of tasty snacks out there that cater to whatever flavor you’re craving. The above items are just a tiny taste of the great additions you can make to your food list, all while still checking off your keto criteria for a healthy, low-carb diet.