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Beyond the Labels
A Fresh Take on Keto and 'Non-Keto' Foods

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Quick Summary tl;dr

The ketogenic diet is mostly known for having very low carbs and high fat. While it's true there are some food guidelines, the diet is more flexible than many think. Some fruits, for example, are higher in carbs, but you can still enjoy them in moderation. Berries, peaches, and even small amounts of banana can fit into a keto diet when you watch your portions.

What's crucial to remember is the concept of "net carbs." This means when we count carbs, we subtract the fiber because fiber doesn’t raise our blood sugar like other carbs do.

While you'll find many foods in stores with a "keto" label, it’s generally healthier to focus on whole, natural foods rather than processed ones, which often contain hidden carbs masquerading as fiber, leading to a seemingly low net carb count.

Several foods you might not immediately associate with keto can be included in limited amounts. This group includes specific fruits, some nuts, and a variety of veggies. Treats like dark chocolate or certain cooking ingredients can also be enjoyed, as long as you're mindful of quantities.

For foods that have a higher carb count, balance is the key. Pay attention to portion sizes, consider adding some healthy fats and protein, and always keep in mind the overall carb content of your meal.

Remember, it's about balance and variety. The keto diet can be both nutritious and flavorful, with a range of ingredients to choose from.

Table of Contents

The keto diet, with its focus on low carbs and high fats, has gained a lot of fans. But with its rise in popularity, some myths have popped up too. One big myth is that foods can only be "keto" or "non-keto".

In this guide, we'll shed light on how whole foods, often left out by strict keto followers, can still have a place in a balanced low-carb lifestyle. Keep in mind, though, we're not giving a green light to all high-carb processed foods. Instead, we're zooming in on naturally higher-carb whole foods that can fit into your low-carb journey with a bit of care.

What Defines Low-Carb and Keto Diets?

A low-carb diet emphasizes reducing carbohydrate intake, but it doesn't mean completely eliminating carbs. Instead, it's about choosing healthier sources and consuming them in moderation. The primary aim is to lower sugar and overall carb intake, making way for proteins and fats to play a more central role in one's nutrition. The focus is on balance, not total carb elimination.

The keto diet is centered on significantly reducing carbohydrate intake to induce a metabolic state called ketosis. It's not just about eating "keto" foods or avoiding all carbs; it's about limiting carbs enough so the body starts burning fat for energy, leading to the production of ketones. This is what defines the diet, rather than specific food items.

The Low-Carb Misconception: Why "Non-Keto" Ingredients Get a Bad Rap

When the keto diet started gaining traction, people wanted quick answers. They wanted to know, "Can I eat this?" or "Is this food keto-friendly?" This led to a sort of 'shortcut' system where foods were quickly labeled as either good for keto or bad for it. It's like sorting foods into two buckets: one labeled "keto" and the other "non-keto".

To be fair, even we are guilty of that by creating the Keto Diet Food List. But as you'll see, it does have its purpose. This kind of sorting made it easier, especially for those just starting with the diet. After all, when you're new to something, having clear rules can help.

Think about it like learning to ride a bike with training wheels. The training wheels help in the beginning, but after a while, they can hold you back if you don't take them off. Once you are past the beginner's phase, it's time to rethink your approach to avoid rigid thinking which is very common in the "dieting" community.

Similarly, this black-and-white way of thinking about foods misses out on a lot of details. Let's say we put all fruits in the "non-keto" bucket because they have sugars. But does that mean all fruits are bad for someone on a keto diet? Not really. Some fruits, like berries, peaches, and even mango, have good components like vitamins and antioxidants. And if eaten in the right amounts, they can fit into a keto diet just fine.

It's essential to look beyond the labels. Foods aren't just "keto" or "non-keto". They're a mix of nutrients, flavors, and benefits. And sometimes, it's worth taking a closer look to see how they can fit into our meals, even on a keto diet.

Understanding Carbohydrates: It's Not Just the Count!

Navigating carbs on a low-carb, and especially the keto diet, requires more nuance than a quick glance at food labels might suggest. It's crucial to understand the difference between total carbohydrates and net carbohydrates, especially as certain processed foods have muddied the waters.

  • Total Carbohydrates: When you look at a nutrition label, the total carbs are the sum of all carbohydrate types: sugars, starches, and fiber. This number represents the combined quantity of all these elements in the food. But is this the most important number for someone on a keto diet? Not necessarily.
  • Net (Effective) Carbohydrates: The concept of net carbs is derived by subtracting fiber (and sometimes certain sugar alcohols) from the total carbs. Why? Because fiber, though technically a carbohydrate, doesn't affect blood sugar or insulin levels in the same way other carbs do. It passes through the digestive system largely undigested. So, when considering how a food might impact your blood sugar levels, in most cases net carbs provide a clearer picture than total carbs.
  • The Role of Fiber: Beyond its exclusion from net carb counts, fiber plays a pivotal role in our diet. Not only is it neutral from a blood sugar perspective, but it also promotes gut health, aids in digestion, and can contribute to feelings of satiety.

The Controversy of Processed Products: Why People Fear Counting Net Carbs

The principle of counting net carbs gained some negative attention with the rise of processed "keto-friendly" products. Many of these products are loaded with fillers, sweeteners, and other ingredients that, while technically low in net carbs, can still have an unfavorable impact on blood sugar, and in some cases lead to digestive discomfort.

It's important to note that the issue isn't with fiber from whole foods like vegetables and nuts. Instead, the concern lies with hidden carbs in processed foods masquerading as fiber. Choosing whole foods over processed ones is essential.

Knowing the difference between total and net carbs helps you pick the right foods for a keto or low-carb diet. By looking at net carbs, you can see how a food might impact your blood sugar, which is key for the benefits of the keto diet.

Beyond the Labels: A Fresh Take on Keto and 'Non-Keto' Foods

Whole Foods Spotlight: Debunking Their Non-Keto Status

When embarking on a ketogenic journey, many feel they have to sacrifice a plethora of wholesome foods. However, many of these nutritious whole foods can still find a place in your diet, even if you're aiming for low-carb. Let's shine a light on some of these misunderstood foods and debunk the myth that they're inherently non-keto.


Berries: Bursting with antioxidants, berries like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are keto-compliant when eaten in moderation. Opt for wild blueberries over cultivated ones for fewer carbs and more antioxidants.

Stone Fruits: Think cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums. When portioned appropriately, their carb count rivals or is even less than some favored keto fruits like blueberries.

Tropical Fruits: Kiwi, papaya, and small servings of pineapple, banana, and mango can fit into a keto diet. Remember, they offer more than just sugars; they're a treasure trove of vital vitamins and minerals.

Nuts & Seeds

Cashews: Contrary to a common belief, cashews aren't off-limits. They can add zest to various dishes and desserts if used in small quantities. Interestingly, they are seeds produced by the cashew tree, and undergo roasting to remove their toxic outer layer.

Pistachios: They might have more carbs than almonds or macadamias, but when eaten in moderation, pistachios add a unique taste to your keto menu.

Chestnuts: While seen as nuts in many recipes, chestnuts are technically tree seeds. They stand out due to their higher carbohydrate content compared to other nuts. They can be used in small amounts to add flavor and texture to salads, stuffings, etc.

Sunflower Seeds: Strict keto food lists may exclude sunflowerr seeds. Beyond being a snack, sunflower seeds enhance salads and keto bread with their crunchy texture and rich nutrients.


Root Vegetables: Beyond carrots, incorporating small amounts of beets and parsnips can enrich your meals with vibrant colors, flavors, and nutrients.

Peas and Corn: They might not be regulars on the low-carb list, but in moderation, they can enrich salads and other dishes with flavor and crunch.

Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas in small quantities can play a flavorful role in various dishes. Also, for those keen on lower-carb alternatives, lupini beans are worth considering.

Other Foods

Dark chocolate: Opt for chocolate with 85% or, ideally, 90%+ cacao solids for a treat that's both indulgent and relatively low-carb. The small amount of sugar used in dark chocolate does not automatically disqualify it from a healthy diet.

Some condiments: Many condiments are used sparingly, so even if they have a bit of sugar, their carb impact is often minimal. Items like certain ketchups, relishes, and sauces can be used with small amounts. Avoid sticky barbecue sauces as these are significantly higher in sugar.

Some baking ingredients: Arrowroot flour is a good example of an ingredient that can be used in small amounts in recipes. It's perfect for recipes like Lemon Curd and Vanilla Custard, or to give thickness to sauces and gravies. For some recipes, like making a roux, you'll need starches. So, it's a choice: either stick strictly to keto rules or make traditional recipes that are still low in carbs.

Recipe Modifications: Making Non-Keto Ingredients Fit

Using higher-carb ingredients in keto recipes requires a sense of balance. Here's how to do it effectively:

  • Watch the Portions: The key isn't just the ingredient but the quantity. Even a slice of apple or a few cashews can be keto-friendly if the portion is controlled.
  • Consider the Whole Meal: If you introduce a carb-rich component like peas, ensure the other ingredients are very low in carbs. It's the total net carbs of the full meal that's crucial.
  • Think of Low-Carb Alternatives: If a recipe suggests a high-carb item, consider substitutions. For example, zucchini slices might replace apples in certain recipes to offer a comparable texture without the carbs.
  • Balance with Healthy Fats and Protein: If you're adding some extra carbs, think about increasing the fat and/or protein content too. Add more cheese, avocado, or olive oil to maintain the balance.
  • Learn from the Community: The keto community (like our Facebook Support Group) is a great place to start. Many have experimented with "non-keto" ingredients in their recipes. Tap into their knowledge for handy tips.

In the end, it's about enjoying your food while keeping your carb count in check. With a bit of care and creativity, you can have the best of both worlds!

Why Overly Rigid Dieting Can Be Counterproductive

Being ultra-strict with what we eat might seem like the best way to stay on track. But for many, a dogmatic approach to dieting can be both physically and mentally taxing. This can make things really hard in real-life situations. Imagine going to a restaurant and feeling stressed because you can't find the "perfect" keto meal. Or attending events and family gatherings, where you might feel left out or even tempted to ditch your diet.

Some can manage this strict approach, and that's okay. But for many others, it can lead to feeling down or demotivated. And when we feel that way, it's easy to give up altogether.

Remember, our main goal is health – both for our body and our mind. Finding a balance in our low-carb lifestyle can make it easier to stick with it in the long run. By being a bit more flexible, we can enjoy social events, cherish family meals, and still work towards our health goals.

After all, it's not just about following rules; it's about feeling better and living well. Remember, it's okay to have a more open view of keto. It can be healthier and more fun!

Real-World Applications: Delicious Recipes That Break The Mold

Going beyond strict keto rules can lead to tasty new dishes! Here, we share recipes that use ingredients not often seen in keto. From sweet treats to delicious desserts, let's expand our keto cooking.

Beyond the Labels: A Fresh Take on Keto and 'Non-Keto' Foods

Fruit-Infused Treats

From pies to ice creams, discover how fruits can enhance the flavors of your favorite treats:

Savory Dishes with a Fruity Twist

Discover how fruits can elevate regular meals, offering a unique blend of sweet and savory notes:

Nuts & Seeds: The Unexpected Twists

Nuts and seeds bring a unique touch to recipes. Let's dive into some unexpected keto-friendly creations:

Veggie Wonders from the Ground

Dive into the world of root vegetables without the guilt:

You can find many more recipes at on our blog and in our KetoDiet App. Simply type your ingredient in the search bar or browse through thousands of healthy low-carb recipes!

Amazing Keto Recipes from the Blogosphere

Dive into a world of delicious keto-friendly recipes from talented bloggers across the internet. These culinary artists have crafted dishes that both surprise and satisfy.

Beyond the Labels: A Fresh Take on Keto and 'Non-Keto' Foods

Decadent Fruity Treats

  • Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies from All Day I Dream About Food: These chewy keto almond flour cookies are packed with fresh cherries and chocolate chunks. So tender and sweet, they have only 3.7g net carbs per serving.
  • Pineapple Whip from Divalicious Recipes: This recipe uses fresh pineapple, coconut milk, low carb sweetener and lime juice for a refreshing heathy summer treat.
  • Banana Pudding from Sugar-Free Londoner
  • Apple Cheesecake Bars from All Day I Dream About Food: Apple pie meets rich cheesecake in these delicious Keto Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars. Creamy filling with apples and cinnamon and a delicious crumb topping.
  • Banana Bread from Mad Creations
  • Peach Ice Cream from All Day I Dream About Food: Can something made with peaches possibly be keto friendly? You bet and this homemade peach ice cream proves it. It’s sweet and creamy, and the perfect dessert on a hot summer night.
  • Pineapple Upside Down Cake from Joy Filled Eats: This tender yellow cake has a sweet pineapple topping and only 3 net carbs per piece!
  • Peach Cobbler from Keto Cooking Christian: Warm and juicy peaches baked in a sweet cinnamon sauce with a fluffy buttery topping makes this Keto Peach Cobbler a satisfying dessert that you don’t have to feel guilty about!
  • Apple Cake from Sugar-Free Londoner
  • Apple Muffins from Joy Filled Eats: These fluffy muffins onl have only 4.7 net carbs despite being full of real apples.
  • Buttery Apple Bake with Rich Sugar-Free Vanilla Sauce from Low-Carb, So Simple: This Buttery Low-Carb Apple Bake is a real whole-family treat! Low in sugar and high in comfort, it's sure to become your new family favorite.
  • Caramel Apple Cheesecake from Easy and Delish
  • White Sangria from I Breathe, I'm Hungry (with peaches)

Savory and Refreshing Dishes

  • Carrot Fries from Divalicious Recipes: Introducing Air Fryer Carrot Fries, a healthy and delicious alternative to traditional potato fries! These crispy carrot sticks are seasoned to perfection and cooked to a golden perfection in the air fryer.
  • Pear Salad from Wholesome Yum
  • Pineapple Jalapeño Salsa from Divalicious Recipes: This vibrant and refreshing pineapple jalapeno salsa is a delightful fusion of tropical sweetness and a hint of fiery spice.
  • Grilled Peach Burrata Salad with Prosciutto from Keto Cooking Christian: This beautiful Grilled Peach Burrata Salad with Prosciutto combines sweet grilled peaches, creamy burrata cheese and peppery arugula, creating a vibrant and refreshing salad that's bursting with flavors and textures.
  • Pineapple BBQ Sauce from Divalicious Recipes: Bursting with the sweetness of ripe pineapples and the smoky notes of traditional BBQ flavors, this sauce is a delightful addition to grilled meats, burgers, chicken, and even vegetables.
  • Avocado Corn Salad from Wholesome Yum
  • Loaded Sweet Potato Bites from Peace, Love and Low-Carb
  • Roasted Pumpkin Salad from Mad Creations (using pomegranate seeds)
  • Almond Flour Cornbread from Joy Filled Eats: It’s soft, tender, and packed with delectable flavors that make it completely crave-worthy.
  • Beef Stew from Peace, Love and Low-Carb (with carrots)
  • French Carrot Salad from Wholesome Yum
  • Potato Salad Recipe from Low-Carb, No Carb (with carrot, green peas and turnips): This "Potato" Salad recipe is made without cauliflower for an even tastier faux-tato salad.


The keto diet is all about being healthier. By being open to many whole foods, our keto way of life can be lasting, good for us, and enjoyable. It's not just about following rules; it's about feeling better every day.

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Martina Slajerova
Creator of

Martina Slajerova

I changed the way I ate in 2011, when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. I had no energy, and I found it more and more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

That’s when I decided to quit sugar, grains, and processed foods, and to start following a whole-foods-based ketogenic approach to food.

Let us know what you think, rate this post!

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Comments (9)

I recently came across a post that said high carb ingredients like potatoes or rice, can actually be keto simply by cooking, letting the rice or potatoes cool for 12 hours or more, then cooking again. I guess the cooling removes a lot of the carbs. I can’t seem to find the link, but I’ll keep looking for it…
I had heard, previously, that cold potatoes have fewer carbs…..didn’t know it about the rice!
Would be nice to be able to eat potatoes or rice instead of trying to find a substitute that tastes the same. I’ve tried palmini, but it is sour so has to be rinsed well before using, and konjak  has 0 taste/protein/food value so is empty food. Cauliflower is great, if you have or can find it!
Anyway, I’m going to do a bit more research about this.

That sounds super interesting, but unfortunately, the cooling process mainly creates resistant starch, which is a type of fiber that's harder to digest, not really reducing the actual carb count enough for a keto diet. It's great for gut health and can lower the glycemic index, but it still won't make rice or potatoes "keto-friendly." I've had the same struggles finding good substitutes—palmini can be tricky to work with (although I don't mind the sour taste that much), and konjac, well, it's pretty bland. Cauliflower is definitely a good go-to! There are some low-carb pasta products made with lupini beans, and that is also an option.

This 'diet' is apparently the thought of another blogger I follow,  Carrie Vitt of "Deliciously Organic".
She especially thinks a hard core KETO diet is harmful for Women, as is intermittent fasting.
My problem is I become a T2 Diabetic from years of job stress, and I can't seem to eat ANY carbs without it raising my blood sugar quite a bit...
HOWEVER,  after following a mostly KETO diet, several things happened:
1: I have not lost ONE single pound of weight on it. (not a goal, but hoped for!)
2: I now have to take thyroid meds, something I had not had a problem with before.
3: My cholesterol has risen, not being a problem before
4: Adrenal fatigue (something that arose due to the stress).
All of which Carrie mentioned are results of eating strictly keto for women.
I TRY to eat small amounts of 'forbidden' foods, however when I do, my blood sugar, I'm stuck!
But I'll keep trying, and hope that my body will eventually right itself.....

I hear you,  I've seen this so many times, you're definitely not alone. While I can't tell you what would work best for you (it's impossible to generalise this to one approach), I think you may benefit from "gentle" carb ups, and more protein.
Many women, especially after the age of 40, struggle with weight even on a strict keto diet, and there's conflicting information. If this were me, I would definitely not go off low-carb but I would avoid strict keto.
I've always had thyroid issues, and they were the reason why I started following a low-carb diet in the first place. But when I personally tried strict keto (about 6 months below 20 g total carbs), I just felt awful.
My cholesterol went up on keto but I'm one of those LMHR and my inflammation levels were very low (Support for the Existence of Lean Mass Hyper-Responders). I agree on intermittent fasting, especially with thyroid issues, especially for women. I do a light form of IF by skipping meals when I'm not hungry but that's about it.
I feel like I should create a program specifically for this issue! Maybe if our twins let me, I'll work on something to help and add it to the app as a program to follow. Would this be something you would find useful?
More about cholesterol just in case:
Understanding LDL-Cholesterol Through Analogies: Boats in Your Bloodstream and Star Wars
Is Cholesterol Corrupted by the Dark Side?
High Cholesterol on a Keto Diet - Should You Be Concerned?

Martina, oh, absolutely! I would be interested in ANYthing that would help me reduce my blood sugar levels!
For awhile, when first diagnosed, I was taking metformin. Then, my employer started getting nasty about taking the time off to get my A1C levels done. I talked to my doctor and told him since I was checking my blood sugar about 6 times a DAY, that if I noted any jumps, I'd come in ....but he said he couldn't have me as a patient if I didn't come in every 3 months for the A1C. doctor, no Rx, so for a few months I was doing herbals alone, which WORKED for about 3-4 months. Then, my levels started rising again.
I finally found a naturopathic doctor who began helping me with my stress and diabetes. Tried the herbals, then went back on metformin, then added farxiga to remove the sugar from my body (did you know that metformin does NOT remove the sugar from your body? It only removes it from your BLOOD, putting it back into your body to begin the cycle all over again!!)
Things seem to work for me for about 3-4 months then my blood sugar levels begin climbing again!
It is SO frustrating. I though, when I was first diagnosed that I would get to the point that I wasn't diabetic anymore if I was careful not to have any sugars and carbs....HA! No such luck!
Again, thank you so much for all of your help and concern. I'm sure with twins, life must truly be an adventure!!!

I've been doing keto for few months now and lost 2 stone, feel amazing ect , have 1 more stone to loose but I've come to a standstill, not doing anything different, any advice please

Hi Jane, first of all, WELL DONE on losing 2 stone, that's amazing. You should be proud of yourself! Plateaus are not just natural, they are very common. I don't know anyone who hasn't reached a plateau. Having said that, there are a few posts that may help:
How To Low Carb: 15+ Common Weight Loss Mistakes
7 Keto Foods That Can Stall Your Progress
How to Stay Motivated During a Weight Loss Stall

Thank-you so much for this comprehensive, informative and sane article. I wish everyone starting or already following a ketogenic diet will read this. I have been a subscriber, cookbook purchaser and app customer for a long time and appreciate your science based articles, thoughtful recipes and dedication to verified sources for your dietary information. I highly recommend your recipes/cookbooks, blog and app!

Thank you so much Kim, that is very kind of you. I appreciate your support, more than you know!