The ketogenic (keto) diet is a popular ultra-low-carb diet.
In its most simple form, following this diet means you must all but eliminate every form of carbohydrate and eat fat in its place.
The body uses that fat for energy, and when the supplies run low, it then draws from your body’s fat stores for necessary energy. That leads to weight loss.
The ideal ratio of macronutrients on the keto diet is 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent (or just 20 grams) of carbs.
The emphasis for the carbs you do eat? High-fiber plant options like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Bread? Bye-bye. Bagels? No chance. Muffins? You’ll have to miss them.
That was, until the popularity of the diet — and the abundance of keto-friendly ingredients like almond flour and no-sugar-added chocolate — led to creative keto eaters and cooks finding ways to substitute their beloved carb-rich foods for versions that had fewer carbs and still fit their keto goals.
Indeed, today, if you search for keto snacks, you’ll be hit with a barrage of listings for keto-friendly bars, breads, cookies, and more. The market is flooded with them, and they show few signs of stopping.
But in a diet that’s designed to eliminate most carbs and most forms of sugar, is there room for artificial substitutes that mimic the foods you perhaps miss?
Yes and no, say the experts. Here’s why.Are keto “cheat” foods healthy?
One of the biggest hurdles of any diet, and especially the keto diet, is a deprivation mentality. If you believe you can’t have something, you may find yourself craving it even more.
Keto “cheat” foods, proponents argue, may help you satisfy those longings while not blowing your carb budget.
“Keto-friendly versions of our favorite foods can most certainly be a part of a balanced diet,” said Amanda Maucere, a registered dietitian and nutritionist (RDN) for the Lung Health Institute.
“These foods can also help people benefit from nutritional ketosis for a longer period of time without feeling deprived of the foods they are used to eating,” she added.
That seems like a win.
But not so fast, says Maucere. You have to be attentive to what you’re eating, beyond just the net carbs you’re consuming.
“That said, the quality of the ingredients used to make these foods does matter. Just like with non-keto food products, you’ll want to look at the ingredients list to make sure the food you want to eat is made with real food ingredients,” she said. “If what you find in the ingredients list is a long list of chemicals and additives, steer clear.”
Anthony Gustin, DC, MS, the CEO and co-founder of Perfect Keto, also suggests these foods aren’t inherently bad as part of the keto diet, but you may want to avoid the ones that are highly processed.
“Studies have shown that eating highly-processed foods increases your rates of obesity, cancer, food addiction, depression, chronic inflammation, poor digestion, asthma, and allergy symptoms,” he said.