Shop Your Diet Series: Part III: The Keto Diet
January is more than half-way over – are you staying committed to your goal of eating cleaner and/or following a particular diet this year? We hope that our information on “shopping your diet” is helping to alleviate confusion about what is allowed – and what to avoid – for your new way of eating.
In the third edition of our series on shopping your diet – the second post was on vegetarian and vegan diets – we’re digging into the trendy ketogenic diet. Though you’ve likely seen this diet leading headlines in the past few years, it has actually been around since the 1920s. Designed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic, the original purpose of the keto diet was to treat epilepsy. It lost its popularity in the 1940s due to the slew of anti-seizure medications on the market. The ketogenic diet is a low carb, moderate protein, and high fat diet which puts the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. When the body enters a state of ketosis, the liver produces ketones which become the main energy source for the body; this diet is based on the premise that the body is designed to run more efficiently as a fat burner than a sugar burner.
Shopping Keto – Say Yes to (Healthy) Fats
The keto diet avoids carbs, which turn to sugar. Instead, keto diet followers are urged to consume protein (such as fish, beef, lamb, poultry, egg), leafy greens (like spinach and kale) and “above ground” vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower). Hard cheeses, high fat cream, and butter are also suggested, as well as berries (raspberries, blackberries, and other low glycemic impact berries). Contrary to other diets that limit sugar consumption – the Whole30 diet comes to mind – the keto diet allows certain sweeteners (stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, and other low-carb sweeteners).
Our database identified more than 43,000 food and beverage products that fit into a ketogenic diet based on their ingredients. But even though the keto diet was created almost 100 years ago, we consider it an emerging product claim. Fewer than 600 products make a claim to promote – or fit –into a keto diet. While most products with keto-type claims are supplements, brands such as Ketologie, Julian Bakery, Cave Shake, Know Brainer, Lakanto, Phat Fudge, Pili Hunters, and Hnina Gourmet are leading the charge with keto claims in food.
The cheese shelf is the most common food shelf meeting a keto-friendly profile, with over 7,300 products fitting into a ketogenic diet. The beverage aisle is another keto-friendly area, with more than 5,100 coffee/tea/water/diet drinks deemed “keto-compliant.” Those looking to spice up their meals are in luck – more than 3,500 herbs/seasonings comply with the keto diet. Shoppers should seek out naturally low-carbohydrate foods such as meat, which has over 7,000 options available; seafood which offers 3,800+ choices; and oils for which there are over 3,200 qualifying products.
Avoiding “Keto Gotcha’s”
Unlike many trendy elimination diets, keto doesn’t explicitly exclude certain sugary ingredients completely, but rather encourages an overall daily limit of total carbohydrates and approximately 5 grams of carbs or less per 100g as a rule of thumb per food. Foods that naturally contain carbs (such as fruits, honey, maple syrup and juice) should be avoided. But those looking for something sweet can rest assured: 1,100 dessert products meet the criteria for keto. Sugar-free cookies, reduced-calorie/sugar-free pudding, and sugar-free candy top the list.
Most sweet foods tend to be very high in carbs and therefore do not fit well within a keto diet, such as donuts, candy and high-carb foods like pasta and potatoes. But there are many food categories that are surprisingly high in carbs, which can trip up those trying to follow the diet. Take cashews, for example, which at 10g per 1 oz serving, are much higher than other nuts. And while all fruits naturally contain sugars, some fruits are much higher in total carbs than other fruits. A small banana, for example, has more than 23 grams of total carbs. A glass of alcohol can fit within a keto diet, but because most alcohols don’t list nutrition facts, it’s hard to know how many calories and carbs you may be consuming. Most wines and spirits on the rocks or with soda water have very few carbs, but most beers contain 7-14 grams of carbohydrates per bottle. Cocktails and spirits mixed with sodas or juice such as a rum & coke or a screwdriver can run well over 20 grams of total carbs for an 8 oz drink.
So, is it Easy to Shop for the Keto Diet?
As long as shoppers pay close attention to labels, yes! The produce, dairy and meat departments are all good places to shop and even those looking for desserts will be satiated by choosing items that are low in sugar. And while avoiding carbs can be tricky – avoid delicious grains, tubers and legumes – there are still plenty of items that comply with this diet.
Brands have an opportunity to improve their relationship with consumers by providing the transparency consumers seek and helping them more easily understand if the products they're purchasing allow them to shop within their diet.
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Stay tuned for our final post in the series. We’ll dig into the popular Mediterranean diet and deem how “shopable” it is.