Hidden carbs and sugars on the keto diet
Achieving ketosis can take several days, but some people find that it takes longer than this and may not reach ketosis at all. In almost every instance, this is because of hidden carbs and sugar. Remember, to achieve ketosis, you must limit your carb intake to 20-50 grams per day. If your carb intake is higher than this, you won't enter ketosis.
If you are struggling to achieve ketosis, despite following a low carb diet, you may be inadvertently consuming more carbs and sugar than you realize. Review your diet and seek out these sources of hidden carbs and sugar. Once you eliminate them from your meals and snacks, you should find that you can get into ketosis without a hitch.
Sources of hidden carbs and sugar on ketogenic diet
Lots of foods contain hidden carbs and sugar. Manufacturers add sources of carbs and sugar to foods because it changes their texture and taste. Sugar is an especially prevalent added ingredient. It makes us want to eat more than we should. It’s even added to foods that are savory or salty – like soups, sauces, and dressings.
Because of this, you need to become a carb and sugar detective, seeking out hidden ingredients that could prevent you from achieving or kick you out of ketosis.
Here are 20 common sources of hidden carbs and sugar you need to avoid on keto.
A tablespoon of regular ketchup contains one gram of sugar. That might not sound like a lot, but one tablespoon is not a big serving, and most people slather much more than that over their food. There are sugar-free ketchups available, so make sure you seek them out!
Fat-free salad dressings
Reduced-fat dressings invariably contain sugar. After all, with very little fat, they won't taste of much, so manufacturers replace the fat with sugar. Two tablespoons of low-fat ranch dressing can contain as much as 12 grams of carbs, of which nine grams is sugar. That's more than enough to make ketosis hard, if not impossible, to achieve.
Like fat-free ranch dressing, BBQ sauce is a high-sugar condiment that contains about 12 grams of carbs per two-tablespoon serving. Most keto dieters enjoy eating meat and BBQ sauce is the ideal accompaniment. However, unless you choose a sugar-free product, this tasty sauce could derail your diet.
Natural yogurt is high in protein and contains decent amounts of fat. Consumed in small quantities, it's an acceptable keto diet food. However, that all changes if you eat flavored yogurt. Flavored yogurts contain fruit syrups and added sugar. A typical 6 oz. serving of flavored yogurt contains a whopping 26 grams of carbs and 19 grams of sugar. If you eat yogurt on keto, stick to natural varieties such as full-fat Greek yogurt.
Protein bars sound like they should be perfect for the keto diet. But, unless they are low-carb and artificially sweetened with sugar alcohols, they invariably contain carbs and sugar. Those carbs may be from healthy sources such as dates or oats, but that won't stop them from kicking you out of ketosis. If you want to eat protein bars on keto, seek out products made especially for the ketogenic diet.
You can eat a small amount of fruit on keto. Berries are especially good as they are low in sugar and also packed with healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. However, that all changes with dried fruit. Dried fruit, even berries, contains much more sugar. Because they are dehydrated and smaller, it is also possible to eat much more than usual. By all means, enjoy small servings of fresh or frozen berries, but skip dried fruit during keto.
Meat is a good keto food. It's high in fat and protein, so it covers two nutritional bases in one. Chicken, beef, pork, lamb – they're all great on keto. However, a lot of processed meats contain hidden carbs and sugar. Sausage, salami, pastrami, jerky, and even burgers can contain added carbs and sugar, often in the form of grain fillers. Avoid these sources of hidden carbs and sugar by mostly eating unprocessed meats and reading the ingredients list before consuming processed meats.
Fish and seafood are good sources of healthy fats and protein on keto. However, shellfish often contain hidden carbs. Mussels, oysters, scallops, and clams all contain between 5-10 grams of carbs per 100 gram (3.5 ounces) serving. Imitation crab meat, a common ingredient in seafood salads, contains potato, tapioca, or corn starch, providing seven grams of carbs per 100-gram serving.
Vegetables should be part of your keto diet. After all, they are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, all of which are important for your health. However, some veggies are better than others on keto. Potatoes are obviously off the menu on keto, as they are very high in starchy carbs. However, other vegetables also contain enough carbs to kick you out of or prevent you from achieving ketosis. The worst offenders are:
- Tomatoes 4g per average serving
- Bell peppers (yellow, orange and red) 6.3g
- Carrots 6.1g
- Winter squash 10g
- Beets 13g
- Sweet potatoes 13g
- Sweet onions 16.6g
- Corn 17 grams
- Jerusalem artichokes 26g
Instead, eat more leafy greens and non-starchy veggies as they are much lower in carbs.
Peanut and almond butter are keto diet staples, but some products also contain sugar. If you want to eat nut butter, read the ingredients label, and make sure your chosen product contains no added sugar. All you should see on the label is nuts, oil, and salt.
Eggs are a keto diet staple. High in protein and fat, they are a great breakfast and make for a quick lunch or light dinner too. Regular eggs are all-but carb-free, but some people prefer the convenience of liquid eggs that come pre-cracked in a bottle or carton. Unfortunately, as convenient as these products can be, they often contain added ingredients, including sugar and starches. Stick to real eggs to avoid this hidden carb and sugar pitfall.
Coleslaw should be made from little more than shredded veggies and mayonnaise but, unless you make it yourself, it will probably contain added sugar too. Most commercially produced coleslaws contain 5-10 grams of sugar per 100-gram serving. Make your own coleslaw to avoid this issue.
Milk and milk alternatives
Milk contains lactose, a type of sugar. The lower the fat content is, the higher the lactose concentration tends to be. Because of this, most keto dieters should avoid milk entirely, except in very small quantities, e.g., in coffee or tea.
Many milk alternatives are sweetened and contain even more sugar and carbs than dairy milk. Soya milk, rice milk, oat milk, and almond milk are all high in carbs and sugar. Unsweetened pea and coconut milk are very low in carbs so, if you need a milk alternative, make sure you seek out these and other similar low-carb options.
Nuts, especially cashews
Nuts are a good source of fat and protein on keto, but they can also be a source of hidden carbs. Most nuts contain 3-5 grams of carbs per one-ounce serving, so it would be easy to consume more carbs than you realize if you don't practice good portion control. However, cashews are especially high in carbs, containing nine grams of carbs per ounce.
Don’t let eating nuts derail your keto diet. Limit yourself to one-ounce servings and avoid cashews in general.
Medications and supplements
Hidden carbs and sugars can also come from non-food sources such as medicine and supplements. Cough syrup is a common source of hidden sugar, and lozenges often contain sugar too. Some supplements use things like cornstarch as a filler. If you must take medicines or supplements, check the contents to make sure they don’t contain hidden sugars or starches.
Better still, and unless your doctor tells you otherwise, try using natural remedies such as apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, peppermint tea, or warm salty water to alleviate your symptoms, all of which are naturally carb and sugar-free.
Dried soup mixes
Dried soup mixes are convenient and make for a tasty snack when you are in a hurry. Unfortunately, they also contain sugar and carbs. Most include an anti-caking agent called cellulose, which is a source of starch. Sugar is often added as a flavor enhancer. Even vegetable soups, which should be low in carbs, can contain grains. If you want to eat soup, seek out low carb and sugar-free options, or make it yourself.
Beans and pulses
According to the food pyramid, beans and pulses are in the same high protein category as beef, chicken, fish, and eggs. While beans and pulses do contain plenty of protein, they also contain a whole lot of carbs. A quarter cup of most beans and pulses contain a whopping 30 grams of carbs. Beans and pulses are high in fiber and are very filling but, on keto, they are too high in carbs, and even a small serving will kick you out of ketosis.
No added sugar foods
Foods labeled as no added sugar can still contain naturally occurring sugar. Pure fruit juice contains no added sugar, but just a glass or two will kick you out of ketosis. No added sugar is a marketing ploy designed to fool you into thinking a food product is healthier than it really is. Don’t fall for this trick; always read the ingredients and nutrition label to see how much sugar is really in your food.
Restaurant food is meant to taste good. After all, that’s one of the reasons people like to eat out. Unfortunately, this can mean the chef adds sugar to meals that, if you made them yourself, would be sugar-free. When eating out on keto, stick to things like grilled meat and fish, served with veggies or salad. Skip the soups, sauces, and dressings, all of which will probably contain hidden sugar. Also, ask your server to tell the chef not to add sugar to any of your food.
Bouillon powder, stock powder, and other mixed herbs, spices, and flavorings
There is nothing wrong with spicing up your meals with seasoning on keto, but make sure you aren’t consuming any hidden sugar and carbs. Read the ingredients list to check your chosen product contains no added sugar. In many cases, sugar is added even though your flavoring is salty or savory, and not meant to be sweet.
Hidden sugar and carbs are everywhere. The good news is that if you know where to look, they are easy to spot and avoid.
Armed with the information in this article, you should be able to steer clear of the most common sources of hidden carbs and sugar. Be extra diligent and read the ingredients labels on the food you buy, especially new products that you have not eaten before.