Your First Keto Grocery Trip
So, you’ve decided to give the Ketogenic diet a try! You’ve read the basics. You’ve read my Keto 101 blog post 🧐 You’ve gone through your pantry and eliminated all the sugary garbage. Right? Right… You’re on your way to the grocery store for your very first Keto grocery haul. Just like most of the advice I give newbies, I’m going to keep repeating myself. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Don’t worry about buying a million things! Simply plan to pick up a few days worth of food. Keep things simple. If you’ve never followed a low carb diet before you may be reading labels for the first time, or at the very least, paying closer attention to nutrition labels than you ever have before. I always say you should read, read, read. Read the ingredients, read the carb count and read the serving size. If you see something, say olives, that have 1 net carb per serving you may think, great! One carb is a great low carb snack. But then you read closer and the serving size is 3 olives… This has happened to me. I don’t know about you but I don’t think I would have stopped at three olives. I didn’t. I didn’t stop at 3 olives.
Look at the Carbohydrate count. Most people count “net” carbs on a Ketogenic diet. You find net carbs by subtracting fiber from the Total Carbohydrates. Fiber has no caloric value and no effect on blood sugar* so you can subtract it. You can also subtract sugar alcohols like erythritol from the total carb count but we’ll get to into that later. Lastly, read the ingredients. Begin to familiarize yourself with all of the names for hidden sugars. If your sausage patties have 2 net carbs per serving, I can almost guarantee you that there is dextrose somewhere in the ingredients. Dextrose is a type of sugar added to many breakfast meats. If you see an added sugar but it’s listed towards the very end of the list and the carbohydrate count is low then there is probably a very tiny amount in there. You get to decide for yourself how much of these sugars you eat. You get to decide where your 20 net carbs a day come from. My own personal rule is that if it’s included in the “less than 2%” ingredient list it’s contributing such a small amount of carbohydrate that I disregard it. Again, this is my personal choice. I stay in ketosis if I consume less than 20 net grams of carbohydrate a day.
Here are the foods that I eat on a regular basis that you will almost always find in my fridge.
Eggs - Although most nutrition labels either list zero or one in the carb count, the actual carb count is .6g per egg. I have one or two eggs scrambled in real butter almost every morning. All eggs have the almost the exact same nutrition information based on size. Brown eggs, pastured eggs, free range, etc. There is some evidence to suggest that pastured eggs have higher levels of some good fats but this falls into the category of personal choice. I enjoy pastured eggs but I also realize that consuming them won’t give me super powers. Unfortunately.
Butter - If possible I buy grass-fed butter. Personal choice, but any REAL butter. Read your labels if you are buying anything that comes in a tub. Make sure it’s made with real butter and not a margarine blend. If there is one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that trans fats are not good for you. These are a very weird, very shelf stable, man-made fat. Stick to the real thing. Because butter!
Heavy cream or Half and Half - Heavy whipping cream has .4 grams of carbohydrate per serving. Half and Half has .6 grams of carbohydrate per serving. You may see these numbers represented as 0 (since it’s less than .5) and 1 ( since it’s over .5g). Legally, manufacturers can label something as zero carbs if it’s less than half a gram of carbohydrate per serving. I keep both in my fridge.
Cream Cheese - I like Philadelphia’s “5 simple ingredients”. It is .7g carbs per serving. Many store brands have anywhere from one to two carbs per serving. I don’t have that many brands that I’m 100% blind loyal too, but Philly is one.
Sour Cream - Again, read your ingredients and make sure you’re not spending $ on carby fillers. The store brand may be a dollar cheaper, but Daisy brand has 2 ingredients and the fewest carbs I have found in any sour cream. I guess I have a few favorite brands after all.
Salad dressings - I buy refrigerated salad dressings. I have a real fondness for Blue Cheese and Ranch. Ohhhh Ranch. The first time I went searching for Ranch dressing I found the lowest carbohydrate option available and it happened to be refrigerated. I have found this to be true for most dressings. There are a few Vinaigrette type dressings that I buy but most of the time I make those myself. Why? Sugar! I looked at the label of a bottle once that had 8 grams of carbohydrate per 2 Tbs. You would think it was just oil and vinegar but it was not. I returned it to the shelf and backed away, maintaining eye contact until I had achieved a safe distance. Those sugars will find you. Stay vigilant.
Ground Beef - Any fat content will do. I’m a fan of 85/15 meaning it’s 15% fat. That is a personal choice. I usually always have ground beef on hand for saladless, tacoless taco salads, knife and fork burgers, or lettuce wrapped burgers. It’s easy to portion out and freeze and it’s also usually affordable.
Full fat, Unprocessed Cheese - I look for cheeses that have milk and enzymes listed in their ingredients and nothing else. I’m a fan of American cheese too, even though this counts as processed, the brand I buy has one carb per slice :) A good rule is to avoid the canned stuff or processed cheese spreads. Read your labels, some pub type cheeses are actually pretty low, some others are absolutely loaded.
Sweetener - I like Truvia or Pyure or Swerve brand sweeteners. Truvia and Pyure are a blend of stevia and Erythritol. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is calorie free and does not raise blood sugar in most people. Type I diabetics may need to be careful with sugar alcohols*. Be careful of anything labelled “Blend” as these may contain actual sugars. Xylitol is another sugar sub that a lot of people enjoy. Beware, Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. I have a dog and will therefore never be friends with Xylitol.
Chicken - Any kind. I like buying whole chickens to roast or whole rotisserie chickens. You do not need to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts anymore! Hooray! Many rotisserie chickens will have a bit of sugar in them, just ask at the deli for nutrition information if it isn’t included on the package. I have seen some that have a gram of carb per ounce. Beware of any BBQ flavors. These are very rarely low carb.
Steak - I’m a fan of a big fatty Ribeye. Again, you’re not avoiding fat anymore so any cut that looks good to you is on the menu. I like a good chuck roast too :)
Cold Cuts - You get to decide what will work for you here. I love a nice peppered turkey for rollups. I usually always have Salami or pepperoni on hand for a meat and cheese board. Some people avoid them for the added nitrites and what not but that is a whole separate conversation :) Pay special attention to Hams as they are sometimes pretty carb heavy. Look closely at anything labelled honey roasted.
Veggies - The veggies that I usually keep on hand. Vegetables will not have nutrition labels on them so you will want to google things as you go or look up the carb counts for your favorites before you head out. You can use a free food tracker like My Fitness Pal or Carb Manager to check nutrition facts on the go too. When I was first starting I googled everything. Trust no one. Even very popular tracking apps have mistakes because a lot of their content is user generated. Anything with a check mark next to it on MFP is probably accurate but it never hurts to double check. Also pay attention to whether the nutrition facts you are referencing are for raw or cooked veggies.
Lettuce - Any lettuce will have a pretty low carb count. If you google “Romaine lettuce nutrition”, for example, you will find the nutrition information. I like Romaine or green leaf, red leaf, butter, and good old iceberg. Romaine lettuce has about half a carb per cup, shredded. I prefer to weigh my ingredients and when you google any produce you will be able to select your preferred units of measurements, cups or grams or ounces.
Cauliflower - I use slices to dip in ranch, I roast it for a side, or sub it for potatoes in a gratin. You will usually always find a head in my fridge. Oooh, that sounds bad. You know what I mean. Cauliflower has 3 net carbs per 100 g. (about 1 cup chopped)
Broccoli - I love Broccoli. I steam it and top it with cheese and butter or… no, that’s pretty much it. No! I also roast it and then top it with butter and cheese. Broccoli has 4.4 net carbs per 100 grams (0ne cup chopped is 91)
Spinach - a great low carb addition to salads, omelettes, or baked dips. Spinach has 1.4 grams of carbohydrate per 100 g.
Beware! Don’t fall for misleading claims. Just because something says sugar-free does not mean it’s low carb. Same goes for gluten-free, grain-free or, my new favorite, “Keto friendly”. Gluten-free means that something is gluten free. Cauliflower crust means that there is cauliflower in the crust. These terms don’t have anything to do with the carbohydrate count. Remember, read, read, read. Trust no one. You’ll be fine! :)
Beware #2. Pre-packaged spice packets are sometimes loaded with sugar. One ranch packet I picked up had 1 carb per serving but there were 18 servings in the packet….. yeah right.
You will notice that every single food I have listed here goes bad without refrigeration. There are some amazing options for on the go Keto foods but I haven’t listed any of them here. I strongly believe that when you are starting a ketogenic diet you should start simply. I talk about this concept in my Keto 101 blog post. You will probably be eating in a totally different way than you are used to. Take the opportunity to prepare your meals yourself, looking at the nutritional information for every single thing you eat. Take this time to learn and to reset your palate. You will be eliminating almost all of the sweet flavors that used to be in your diet. Allow time to adjust to your new way of eating. I offer many Keto alternatives to traditional desserts on my blog and on my Instagram page but I don’t recommend replacing your old foods with new Keto copies right away. You are about to make a huge change and you’ll be better served in the long run if you really let yourself form some new habits. This is my advice and these are just my opinions. You will find hundreds of them. These are the strategies that I employed when I started and I found them exceptionally helpful. When I find myself getting a bit loosey goosey with the snacks and tracking I do a week of back to basics Keto eating. I even gave up my beloved Truvia packet in my coffee. Pout. I do follow my own advice from time to time. Good luck!
*Type 1 diabetics may respond differently to fibers and sugar alcohols. Everyone should consult a Dr. before starting a new diet but type 1 diabetics should be especially careful. I speak from my own experiences and not as a medical professional.