All new diets take adjusting to, but knowing what you’ll be eating is the first thing you’ll want to know and begin planning for. Food pyramids or other visual representations of nutrition are good for making informed choices early on.
Take the ketogenic diet (“keto”), for example. Keto, a low carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein nutritional approach, is much different than the “Standard American Diet” (SAD) approach to eating. For both the ketogenic diet and the standard approach for eating, a food pyramid helps you decide how you should eat.
In this article, we’ll break down the keto food pyramid. This way, when you dive in, you’ll be more informed about how you should eat if you want to achieve your health goals.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What is a Food Pyramid?</p></h4>
Before we dive into the specifics of the keto food pyramid, let’s cover some bases. The first question is:
<i>What is a food pyramid, and where does the term come from?</i>
You’ve most likely heard the term before but may not know exactly what it’s there for or where it came from. Basically, the original food pyramid was designed to make healthy eating easier.
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<p>Foods in the food pyramid are categorized together into particular categories like “fruits and vegetables” or “meats and poultry.” While items in each category still have differences, they are largely similar. For example, a lean piece of chicken may have more fat in it than a pork chop. But they are both considered meats, not fats.</p>
<p>By categorizing foods in a pyramid, the triangular shape offers a visual representation of how one might balance their food choices. The base of the pyramid (the largest portion) accounts for the most liberally consumed foods, which in the <i>traditional</i> food pyramid, is made of vegetables, salads, and fruits.</p>
Here’s where you can see the original <a target="_blank" href="https://www.safefood.eu/Healthy-Eating/What-is-a-balanced-diet/The-Food-Pyramid.aspx">**Food Pyramid**</a>.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">MyPlate</p></h4>
In 2011, the USDA introduced a new food model called <a target="_blank" href="https://www.choosemyplate.gov/brief-history-usda-food-guides">**MyPlate**</a>. You may get a kick out of this, but one reason they switched to MyPlate was due to “confusion” over how the food pyramid worked. That, they argued, was the reason why a lot of people in America weren’t eating healthy.
In time, someone somewhere must have decided that a circle was less a less confusing shape than a triangle. And boom, MyPlate was born.
All jokes aside, the argument was that the food pyramid did not distinguish between what was healthy and what wasn’t<sup>1</sup>. The plate shape, on the other hand, gives a better example of what an actual dinner plate may look like when food is on it.
As you see in the diagram below, the USDA recommends a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein. For the most part, MyPlate recommends a very balanced diet. Keep this in mind as we move into the ketogenic diet food pyramid.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What is the Keto Diet and is it Healthy?</p></h4>
If you’ve been around <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.warriormade.com/&sa=D&ust=1546988993959000&usg=AFQjCNHZyeQnYoEOf7rTZezMAHmDgw1lIg">**Warrior Made**</a> for a while, you know that we promote this low-carb diet approach called the ketogenic diet or keto (along with many other tools used by our community) to help people lose weight and transform their bodies.
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<p>And if you’ve read the first two sections, you may have noticed that our low-carb recommendations obviously differ from how USDA might advise you to eat.</p>
<p>So what is the keto diet? It’s a low-carb nutritional approach where only about 5 percent (approximately fifty grams) of your daily calories come from carbs. Keeping carbs this low allows your body to enter a state of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/ketosis-and-brain-function/&sa=D&ust=1546988993959000&usg=AFQjCNGGSXdrV7RiHqwMC8XSdO95ufEzmw"><b>ketosis</b></a>, where fat is used as the primary fuel source for your brain, muscles, and everything else.</p>
Yes, it sounds too good to be true. But it’s not. In fact, it’s a very natural process that nutritional programs like the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/atkins-vs-keto-a-side-by-side-comparison/&sa=D&ust=1546988993958000&usg=AFQjCNHd9kwyhpugskuqbmENPI3gqP4EBw">**Atkins diet**</a> have used for many years to help people lose weight.
On the keto diet, you fuel your body with quality fats like <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/is-mct-oil-the-key-to-burning-stubborn-fat/&sa=D&ust=1546988993964000&usg=AFQjCNHtgTA1XDz6flP9frxmrRdKFMnw-Q">**MCT-containing**</a>, coconut oil, avocados, green vegetables, and lean meats. About 70 percent of your daily calories come from fat, with the remaining 25 percent (give or take) from quality protein sources.
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<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">The Keto Diet Food Pyramid</p></h4>
Okay, so we’ve looked at the Standard American Diet (with the ironic acronym ‘SAD’). We’ve reviewed the ketogenic diet. So, <i>what’s the keto diet food pyramid look like</i>?
In this section, we’ll break the keto food pyramid into two separate “tiers.” In the first tier, you’ll find the three food groups that make up the majority of the ketogenic diet. In tier two, you’ll see some other keto-friendly foods that help keep your eating habits diverse and enjoyable.
Short of posting a long-form keto food pyramid printable, this section will help you make informed eating choices.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Tier One</p></h4>
<h5><p style="color: #000000">1. High-Quality Fat Sources</p></h5>
It’s probably not a surprise to see that high-quality fats like avocados, butter, ghee, olive oil, and coconut oil make up the base of the diet. After all, you need some way to make up the calories you’re not taking in from carbohydrates!
Do you know how macronutrients work? It would help <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/why-you-should-be-calculating-your-macros/&sa=D&ust=1546988993963000&usg=AFQjCNHL-D0erroGWUXlHIlG-SXLFkFFIg">**if you did**</a>. One lesson you can take away from this article about macronutrients is that grams of fat has more calories in them than proteins or carbohydrates. One gram of fat has nine calories, while one gram of protein or carbohydrate has four.
Besides meeting your energy requirements, high-quality fat sources make up the base of the ketogenic diet because they help you <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/87-things-to-avoid-on-the-keto-diet/&sa=D&ust=1546988993961000&usg=AFQjCNEdLkAuvHjLbx5G31_xYzt9TFRPLw">**stay in ketosis**</a>. Once your body begins releasing ketones and burning off fat, it doesn’t stop until carbs are added back in. Basically, eating lots of fat and protein keeps you in fat-burning mode, which will help you reach your health and fitness goals.
Anywhere between 60 to 70 percent of your daily calories will come from fat sources. Some quick math tells you that for the standard 2000-calorie diet (which is a rough guideline, not something you necessarily must follow) you’d eat between 133 to 155 grams of fat each day.
And if you’re wondering what to add to your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-beginner-grocery-list/&sa=D&ust=1546988993969000&usg=AFQjCNEngsJXu3UPLklkIUbYccLd_S6rQw">**keto grocery list**</a>, keep it simple. Cook with quality oils and put them on your salads. Toss avocado in your salad. Eat some nuts, but don’t go nuts eating them. On the whole, stop fearing fat, because, on keto, fat is your best friend.
And that’s why it’s the base of the keto food pyramid.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">2. Lean Proteins</p></h5>
Next, on the keto diet food pyramid is lean proteins. About 25 percent of your daily calorie intake will come from protein, which is roughly 125 grams of protein. That may seem like a lot or a little to you, depending on how you currently eat, your size, and more. Remember, it’s just a guideline.
Protein does a lot for us<sup>2</sup>. Basically, proteins are made up of amino acids that make us, well, us. They are the building blocks that help us grow hair, muscle, skin, and other tissues in our bodies. Besides growth, protein also plays a pivotal role in the success of many diets due to its satiating effects (it keeps you full)<sup>3</sup>.
On keto, you are encouraged to eat plenty of meat, fish, and eggs. Protein sources with quality omega-3s like salmon and eggs are highly encouraged. There’s a reason some experts consider them to be <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/what-are-superfoods-top-7-for-your-keto-diet/&sa=D&ust=1546988993972000&usg=AFQjCNEGA0ERyvePzGI5kQYbiZTqxPz4TA">**superfoods**</a>.
Still, don’t feel limited by certain types of proteins. Chicken, turkey, beef, and pork are all fair game, too. Seafood can be eaten liberally.
Pop over to our <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/&sa=D&ust=1546988993971000&usg=AFQjCNFqKf4otUWKgctdLxBrwQktxB52Jg">**recipes section**</a> to take a look at some of the tasty, keto-approved protein dishes we’ve come up with.
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<h5><p style="color: #000000">3. Low-Carbohydrate Vegetables</p></h5>
“Whoa,” you’re thinking. “Vegetables are third on the list? The ketogenic diet must not be that healthy after all!”
True, vegetables don’t “make up” the base of the diet like the other food models you may see. But there’s a reason for that, and it’s probably not what you think.
The truth is, keto dieters should eat a lot of vegetables―like at most, if not all, meals. The nutritional and health benefits of vegetables are vast. Any healthy diet is going to incorporate a variety of vegetables to give you a substantial dose of the various <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-micronutrients-why-they-are-important/&sa=D&ust=1546988993971000&usg=AFQjCNESO_pUH_sFCfZlSRQJz_5sl6rwDA">**micronutrients**</a> found in them. Weight loss or not, a healthy body is one that gets the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly. And that’s easily achieved when you eat a diet full of vegetables.
But if you’re eating vegetables at every meal, why aren’t they the base of the diet? Well, that comes down to calories. Keep in mind that vegetables, especially low-carb veggies like spinach and kale, are quite low in calories. One hundred grams (about three cups) of spinach is only twenty-three calories<sup>4</sup>.
That’s why they don’t make up the base. Because if you needed to eat 2,000 calories per day in spinach to be healthy, you’d probably also have no job, hobbies, or free time to do much else but chew. Vegetables are a staple of the ketogenic diet, but calorically speaking, they pale in comparison to fats and proteins.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">Are There Vegetables I Shouldn’t Eat?</p></h5>
While the micronutrients in most vegetables alone give us reason to say “Absolutely not!”, there is some truth in the fact that on the ketogenic diet, not all vegetables are created equal.
Root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes) are packed with nutrients and are quite healthy. However, they also contain a lot more carbohydrates than things like broccoli or kale. To stay in ketosis, you’ll need to weigh how much of the starchier vegetables you want to eat throughout a day or in a given meal.
We’re not saying don’t eat vegetables by any means but remember the goal of ketosis is to stay in ketosis. Some veggies may make that harder to do than others.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Tier Two</p></h4>
We’re entering a separate territory in this section. These foods are keto-approved and technically make it onto the keto food pyramid, but they wouldn’t necessarily be great staples for your diet. Keep that in mind.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">4. Full-Fat Dairy</p></h5>
How often do you come across a diet where you can eat cheese? Well, high fives all around, because you can on the ketogenic diet. In fact, full-fat dairy options get their own category on the keto diet food pyramid. You can add cream to your coffee and cook with butter and ghee.
Just keep in mind that some dairy has additional carbs in it. You won’t want to cook with any dairy that has been heavily processed or contains added sugars.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">5. Berries</p></h5>
Due to the vitamin and mineral contents of most fruits, we shouldn’t feel the need to ostracize apples or consider them unhealthy. But based on the goals of the ketogenic diet, which is to achieve ketosis, most fruits are off limits or must be consumed sparingly.
If you were going to eat one type of fruit on the keto diet, choose berries.
Berries, like blueberries, are nutritional powerhouses. They also make the list of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/what-are-superfoods-top-7-for-your-keto-diet/&sa=D&ust=1546988993975000&usg=AFQjCNENCGjnbIR2db6xNxbtaJjNdgSuDQ">**keto superfoods**</a>. Don’t eat two cases of them, but don’t feel bad about having something sweet and nutritionally dense for your carbs on occasion.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">6. Fermented Foods</p></h5>
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and low-carb probiotic drinks like kombucha offer a host of benefits<sup>5</sup>. More and more, science shows us that a healthy gut equals a healthy human. Fermented foods go a long way towards helping us stay healthy by regulating digestion, improving the absorption of key micronutrients, and restoring good bacteria in our guts.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">7. Natural Sweeteners</p></h5>
We’ll keep this section brief if only to mirror how sweeteners should be added to your keto diet. There are a few natural sweeteners out there, like stevia and monk fruit, that do not impact blood sugar. In theory, you can consume them on occasion and maintain ketosis.
Keep in mind that the point of the keto diet isn’t to cover food up with sweet flavorings. Stick to wholesome ingredients and tasty recipes with tier one foods. Natural sweeteners can have a place in your diet, but it should be a small one.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Putting It All Together</p></h4>
The keto food pyramid, like any food model or diagram, is designed to help you better understand how to make smart choices about your healthy eating. While a model is a useful representation, what’s most important is to start seeing what works best for you.
As you dive into the ketogenic diet, you’ll find certain foods you like, macronutrient splits you feel most energized with, and recipes you can’t live without. Experience, ultimately, trumps any diagram. Use the keto food pyramid to inform your early choices as you gain that experience. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to incorporate the keto food pyramid in your meals pop over to our recipe section for tasty, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/">**keto-approved meals**</a>. From <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-pancakes/">**keto pancakes**</a> to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/buffalo-chicken-salad/">**buffalo chicken salad**</a> to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/beef-and-cabbage-stir-fry/">**beef and cabbage stir fry**</a> we’ve got you covered with healthy, wholesome food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">Resources</p></h5>
1. <a target="_blank" href="https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/23/new-food-pyramid-changes-to-less-grains-more-veggies.aspx">Please - Don’t Make These Mistakes with Governments New “Food Pyramid”</a>
2. <a target="_blank" href="https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/howgeneswork/protein">What are proteins and what do they do?</a>
3. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0268005X1630340X">Revisiting the role of protein-induced satiation and satiety</a>
4. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.nutritionix.com/food/spinach">
5. <a target="_blank" href="https://isappscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Marco-health-benefits-fermented-foods-ISAPP-rev-17.pdf">
Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond</a>