Healthy Foods You Want to Avoid on A Low-Carb Diet

3 minute read • by Carina Wolff 12-10-2019

Generally speaking, as a food lover I don’t like to demonize any one particular food or food group. But with a keto diet that allots for an extremely low carb intake of typically less than 50 grams of carbs, the rules are a little different. Some of your favorite health foods— as nutritious as they may be and that you might have assumed would fit with any diet — are high in carbohydrates, making them a no-go for the keto diet. While carb-laden foods like pasta are a seemingly obvious a no-go when doing keto, you might be surprised to find a sneaky amount of carbohydrates in other favorite foods that might not be so obvious.


Popcorn seems so light and full of fiber, and your first instinct may be to believe that the snack would fit well into the keto diet. But in reality, popcorn is actually a high-carb grain, and it’s lower in fiber than you would think. One serving of air-popped popcorn (3 cups) contains 18 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fiber, giving it a total of 14 net carbs, a large amount of your daily allowance. It’s a better snack than a bag of chips, but you’ll have to keep your portion size small — or just skip it altogether.


This supergrain (which is actually a seed), has long been touted as a healthy choice due to its high fiber and protein content. Although it’s a great option for people looking for a plant-based protein, it might not the best fit for a strict low-carb diet like keto. One cup of cooked quinoa contains a whopping 21.3 grams of carbohydrates, so  if you are a quinoa fan you might be challenged to fit it in unless the portions are tiny.


Nuts tend to be a good option on the keto diet, since they are high in fat and protein and generally low in carbs. Unfortunately, not all nuts are created equal. Although cashews do contain fat and protein, they are higher in carbohydrates than other nuts, which means they should be eaten sparingly while on the keto diet. A 1-ounce serving of cashews, about 18 whole nuts, contains 7.6 grams of net carbs. Compare that to almonds, which contains 2.5 grams of net carbs, and you’ll see why choosing a lower-carb nut to snack on is a better option when doing keto.


They may be full of flavor — and fiber — but onions are also filled with carbohydrates. If you’re a fan of the vegetable, you may unknowingly be sabotaging your ability to reach ketosis. A half a cup of chopped onions contains 6 grams of net carbs, which can definitely cut into your daily intake if you use onions in many of your meals. They may be tasty, but they are best used in small quantities rather than tossed liberally into dishes.


 Apples are traditionally regarded as the ultimate healthy snack food, but sadly, they have no place in the keto diet. Many fruits are high in natural sugar and carbohydrates, and apples are no exception. One medium apple contains 20 grams of net carbs, which means you’re better off reaching for something else during your midday snack. They may keep the doctor away, but they could keep ketosis away too. 

Just because a food is regarded as generally healthy doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for the keto diet. Some nutritious foods also happen to be high in carbohydrates, which makes them a no-go. Before reaching for your favorite health food, check the nutrition facts or refer to my Keto Grocery Shopping List to make sure you’re not indulging in something that will work against your keto diet. 

-Carina Wolff

Carina Wolff is a health and wellness writer and food blogger based out of Los Angeles. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and psychology. She writes for a number of websites, including Bustle, FabFitFun, Reader's Digest, and more. She also runs a healthy food blog called Kale Me Maybe, where she develops clean-eating recipes..


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