So you decided to tackle the keto diet for the long haul. You may have noticed that everything was going well in the first few weeks, but then the weight loss slowed down. The worst, right? While the initial water weight loss (and new eating habits) does lead to a significant dip in pounds, it's common to hit a plateau. While that can mean a lot of things (and we will save that for another time), one culprit could be eating more carbs than you think. Let's be serious, sticking to 25 grams of carbs a day is remarkably hard to do, especially when keto-friendly foods might be packing more carbs than you expect.
Foods most people consider to be pretty “low carb” are often not low carb enough to stay in ketosis, and consuming them in even moderate portions can send you over the carb edge. To help you stay the course, we’ve compiled some of the alleged low-carb foods that might be packing in more than you think and inadvertently booting you out of ketosis without you even realizing it.
1. Plain Yogurt
The really good news: You can eat dairy on the keto diet! While obviously far better than the sweetened or fruit variety, a cup of plain yogurt can contain around 10 grams of carbs. If you'd rather not use up half of your day's carbs at breakfast, try limiting your portions to a 1/2 cup at a time and choosing the absolute highest fat percentage you can find. Typically, the higher fat content helps stretch your carb budget even further.
While it’s no secret that fruit can be a significant source of carbs, a lot of keto dieters depend on berries (which are lower on the carb spectrum) to add a little sweetness to their routine. But be warned: One cup of blueberries has around 21 grams of carbs. Unless you’re only planning on eating 4 more carbs that day (a.k.a. you're super disciplined), it can be easy to blow past your goal. Stick to a few berries to satisfy a sweet tooth.
3. Tomato Sauce
Think your bowl of zoodles with tomato Bolognese is 100-percent keto-friendly? The answer is written in the stars... oops, we mean jar. It all comes down to the sauce. Even if you’re going with a no-sugar-added tomato sauce, a cup of tomato sauce could still set you back by 10-15 grams of carbs. For a super low-carb version, we recommend sauteéing a few cherry tomatoes in a generous pour of olive oil and adding flavor with garlic, herbs, and cheese instead.
4. BBQ Sauce and Other Condiments
Ribs, pulled pork, and other fatty meats are no strangers to a keto eater. The problem is, when the meat is lacking flavor and the first thing you reach for is BBQ sauce, you could be adding unnecessary carbs. Just one measly tablespoon could set you back 7 grams (you can blame the tomatoes and, often times, added sugar on that). Stick to an oil- and herb-based chimichurri if you need a little flavor boost.
If you're slowing down on the booze while eating keto but you still want something bubbly and refreshing, the next best thing you might reach for is kombucha (because you already know that soda is a no-no). But chugging too much trendy, probiotic-rich kombucha could send your carb-counter up. A 12- to 16-ounce bottle can vary between 5 and 25 grams of carbs, so be sure to read the label of your favorite brand.
Whaaaa? If you can’t load up on the nuts while on keto, what can you eat? Not all nuts are created equal when it comes to carbs, and cashews tend to have the most. With about 9 grams per 1/4 cup, if you snack on a few small handfuls throughout the day, you’re quickly at your quota. Want to get your nut fix without the carbs? Go for pecans, brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts.
7. Chia Seeds
How good is chia seed pudding? We love chia for its satiating combination of fiber, protein, and fat, but you might be surprised to know that just 2 tablespoons can add 12 grams of carbs to your snack. If you’re looking for something to make your meal more “Instagram-worthy,” hemp hearts offer a lot of the same benefits with only 2 grams of carbs for the same portion size.
8. Italian Sausage
Sausage is often a keto staple thanks to its relatively higher ratio of fat to protein, but be wary that some store-bought options are often flavored with added sugar. Just two medium links will add 7 grams of carbs, which can stealthily subtract from your carb budget over the day. Be sure to read the label and ingredients and look for options with no added sugar.
Yes, it’s meat, and therefore, seems like a legit keto snack, but most brands are marinated in a sugar-laden seasoning mix. Just one ounce of jerky can contain 5-10 grams of carbs—eat the whole pack and you’re easily over your limit for the day. Our tip? Make your own jerky or pepperoni with higher fat cuts of meat and avoid any sweet ingredients or seasonings.
10. Taco Seasoning
Lettuce-cup tacos loaded up with sour cream and cheese is a Tuesday night keto special, but some seasoning mixes add 4 grams of carbs for every two teaspoons of spice! Skip the packaged stuff and add your own combination of chili, cumin, lime, and salt for an easy, flavorful weeknight meal.
11. Salad Dressings
Just because it’s rich in oils and coating a bowl of greens doesn’t mean your dressing is totally carb-free. Some salad dressings can pack in 10 grams of carbs in just two tablespoons, which can easily add up over the course of the day. Stick with a simple oil and a light drizzle of vinegar to keep those added sugars at bay.
12. Pumpkin Seeds
Crunchy and salty, pumpkin seeds might seem like nature’s low-carb crouton, but be aware of your portion size when you’re reaching for this snack. While loaded with zinc and antioxidants, a half-cup of pumpkin seeds can deliver 17 grams of carbs, making them something to enjoy in moderation on keto.
*Nutrition facts pulled from nutritionix.com.