Keto Friendly: Learn How To Read Labels

Last Updated on February 7, 2020

What Is A Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein and very low-carb diet designed to help your body burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. With this diet, about 75 percent of your daily calories come from fat, 20 percent from protein, and only 5 percent from carbohydrates. And to achieve Ketosis, you’ll need to severely minimize your intake of net carbs to no more than 20-50 grams per day.

What Is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a normal process that happens when your body doesn't have enough carbs to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and makes substances called ketones, which it can use for fuel.

How To Read Food Labels for The Keto Diet?

The serving size is one of the most important aspects to pay attention to on the food label because it can change the meaning of the entire food label.

For instance, if you just look at the “Total Carbohydrates” line and it says “10 grams,” that’s one thing. If the serving size for that product is 10g, however, and you have 4 servings in that package, that means you got 40 grams of total carbs on your hands.

Total Carbohydrates

Total carbohydrates are the total amount of sugars and polyols (also known as ‘sugar alcohols’) and fibre that are present in the product.

  • Sugars are seen on a nutrition label as ‘of which sugars’ or 'sugars'. For keto products, this number should be as low as possible, preferably under 3g per 100g. Higher amounts of sugar can kick you out of ketosis.
  • Polyols (EU), also known as “sugar alcohols” (US), refer to non-sugar sweeteners. Polyols are listed in Nutrition Information (EU) labels, whereas sugar alcohols are listed in Nutrition Facts (US) labels. They mean the same thing and include sweeteners like erythritol and xylitol. They are mentioned on the nutritional label due to their structure. What is important to note is that they don’t raise blood glucose enough to impact ketosis. This is why they don’t count towards your carbohydrate count on a ketogenic diet.
  • Fiber can’t be digested so it’s believed to have little to no impact on blood sugar.

How to calculate the Net Carbs?

Net Carbs

Net carbs take into account only the carbohydrates in a product that will spike your blood glucose levels. This is the number of total carbohydrates minus the polyols (sugar alcohols) and fibre.

To get the net carb count of a food item, take the total carbohydrates on the food label and subtract the dietary fiber and sugar alcohols (if listed) from it.

Total carbohydrates minus (polyols + fibre) = Net Carbs (preferable less than 10g per 100g)

Remember that the label lists carbs per serving or per 100g. Your allowed total net carbs per day should be not more than 20-50 grams.

Below is a graphical example how to calculate Net carbs for a food item:


On its own, protein has a small impact on blood glucose, but it still decreases ketone levels.
The exact amount of protein needed to do this will depend on the individual. Therefore it is also important to keep an eye on the amount of protein in a keto product to avoid any drop in ketones if you are looking to stay in ketosis at all times.

Protein + Net Carbs: Must be less than 20g per 100g


Total fat is another item you’ll see on every nutrition label. Fat is the sum of trans fats, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. Try to stay away from trans fats, as they are most often found in processed foods.

A General Guideline of Foods That You Can Include/Exclude on a Ketogenic Diet

Foods to include:

  • Meats (chicken, beef, pork, lamb)
  • Eggs
  • Fish and seafood (particularly fatty fish like salmon and sardines)
  • Low carbohydrate vegetables e.g. leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, romaine, kale, collards, bell peppers, celery, asparagus, cucumber..
  • Small amounts of moderate carbohydrate vegetables such as carrot (when the daily carbohydrate count allows)
  • Low carbohydrate fruits e.g. avocados, strawberries, blueberries
  • Nuts (almonds, macadamia) and seeds (chia seeds, flaxseed, sunflower seeds)
  • Oils (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil) and butter
  • Low carbohydrate dairy products e.g. cream, cheese, some yoghurts
  • Low/no calorie sweeteners such as stevia

Foods that are usually excluded are:

  • Grains including wheat, buckwheat, barley, rice, oats, corn, rye, sorghum, amaranth, and quinoa
  • All Flours with the exception of coconut, almond and tapioca flour
  • Legumes e.g. chickpeas, lentils, beans
  • High carbohydrate vegetables e.g. sweet potato, potato
  • High carbohydrate and processed foods like baked goods, pasta, bread, pizza, cold cuts, chicken nuggets, milk, ice cream, alcohol, desserts, and chips.
  • High carbohydrate fruits e.g. bananas, mangos, dates, watermelon, apples, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, oranges, pears, pineapple, plums, tangerines, and dried fruits
  • Soft drinks sweetened with sugar

Remember, the keto diet isn't for everyone - and a potential side effect of a keto diet is that it may alter electrolyte balance, especially sodium, within your body. The best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.

Below is a free application that helps track and calculate your Keto meal plans:

Carb Manager: Keto Diet Tracker & Macros Counter

Join the Keto and low carb revolution with Carb Manager! It's FREE to use, and tracks all your macros and TRUE net carbs, subtracting sugar alcohols and fiber.


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