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Breakfast in America is dominated by carb-heavy foods that won’t work for people on the keto diet. Most coffee shops stock an array of bagels, breads, muffins, scones, and other grain-based goodies. Meanwhile, French toast, pancakes, and breakfast sandwiches are staples at most diners and morning eateries.
Even if you’re at home, whipping up a quick, low-carb keto breakfast can seem like a struggle. But there are plenty of easy keto breakfast ideas and keto breakfast recipes to satisfy your morning hunger.
Keto breakfast foods
Some traditional morning foods are also great keto breakfast options (Durkalec-Michalski, 2019). These include:
- Bacon (pork or turkey)
- Smoked salmon
- Full-fat cheeses (cream cheese, cheddar, gouda, parmesan, etc.)
- Full-fat yogurts without added sugar or flavoring
- Full-fat cream
- Butter and ghee
- Cooking oils (olive oil, coconut oil, linseed oil, or rapeseed oil)
- Some berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
- Some nuts, including almonds, walnuts, and pistachios
Vegetables mostly contain carbs, not fat or protein. But keto plans permit small portions of non-starchy vegetables (Ludwig, 2021).
Feel free to include some of these veggies in your omelet, frittata, quiche, or other breakfast dishes (Durkalec-Michalski, 2019):
You can also choose from some not-so-traditional, low-carb breakfast foods. Some that are safe for people on keto diets include (Durkalec-Michalski, 2019):
- Most meats, including beef, pork, chicken, and salami
- Some fish, including tuna, cod, mackerel, and salmon
- Coconut flour or almond flour (great for keto pancakes, keto bread, or waffles)
- Iceberg lettuce
Finally, keto allows many ingredients that add flavor to a breakfast (or brunch) dish. Some examples are balsamic vinegar and many types of spice—from salt and pepper to cayenne, coriander, ginger, and others (Durkalec-Michalski, 2019).
Breakfast foods that clash with keto
While there’s a lot you can eat, some common breakfast foods don’t jibe with a low-carb diet.
Again, all wheat- or grain-based breakfast foods are out. That means nearly all old-school breads, cereals, bagels, granolas, and other baked goods are no-nos. Oatmeal and potatoes (hash browns) are also off-limits (Taylor, 2019).
Likewise, bananas, apples, pears, and most other non-berry fruits don’t fit into keto diets (Durkalec-Michalski, 2019). The same is true for sugar and sugary drinks, including orange juice or other fruit juices.
Keto breakfast recipes
There are endless ways to get creative with the keto-friendly foods listed above.
You also can find plenty of low-carb, keto-friendly recipes online. Just swap out low-fat dairy ingredients for full-fat options. Also, be sure to watch your net carbs. As opposed to “total carbs” which include all the different types of carb in a food, “net carbs” only include carbs that the body can fully digest into glucose. In most foods, you can calculate the net carbs by subtracting the amount of fiber from the total carbs on the package or nutrition label (Butler, 2020).
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Try a keto breakfast casserole. Here’s one option—a baked egg and cheese casserole—adapted from North Dakota State University’s nutrition extension service (NDSU, n.d.):
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1.5 tsp. oregano
Directions: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add oil to a medium-sized baking dish. Put the dish in the oven for three minutes. In a bowl, beat the eggs, then mix in the remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture into the now-warm baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until eggs are firm but not crispy. (NDSU, n.d.).
What is the keto diet?
The human body normally runs on glucose—a form of energy it gets from the carbohydrates in food. When you stop eating carbs, your body must find other sources of energy (Masood, 2020).
Ketone bodies are one of these alternative energy sources. Your body makes ketone bodies in part by breaking down its own reserves of fat and fatty acids. Your body can also make ketone bodies from fatty foods, and to a lesser extent, from protein-rich foods (Masood, 2020).
When your body switches from glucose to ketone bodies as its main source of energy, this is known as entering “ketosis” or a “ketogenic state.” Making this switch and maintaining it all day is the goal of the keto diet (Masood, 2020).
To do this, most keto diets advise you to restrict your daily intake of carbs to just around 5% of your total calories. Meanwhile, proteins should make up 25 to 30% of your diet. Fatty foods should account for the bulk of your calories of your diet (Masood, 2020).
What are the benefits of a keto diet?
There is some good evidence that keto diets can help people lose weight.
A small 2019 study examined the diet’s effect among 35 adults with obesity. After 12 weeks of keto, the men in the study lost an average of 40 pounds, while the women dropped 24 pounds. The people in the study also said they felt less hungry and showed improvements in physical and brain performance (Mohorko, 2019). Many other studies—some on keto diets specifically and others on very-low-carb plans (which is basically what keto is)—have turned up similarly promising results (Ludwig, 2021).
There are several theories as to why the keto diet might promote weight loss, though they have not been consistently shown in research. One is that ketone bodies—the body’s main fuel source on the diet—curb someone’s appetite (Gibson, 2015).
While those studies are encouraging, they’re not conclusive. One of the problems is that there’s not a lot of standardization in keto research. Studies don’t line up when it comes to the number of calories participants are allowed to eat or other factors that could influence the findings (Trimboli, 2020).
Weight loss aside, there is evidence that ketogenic diets may lower your risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease and may also be protective against age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s (Masood, 2020; Ludwig, 2021).
Is the keto diet safe?
Any diet that severely restricts the types of foods a person eats can be risky. That’s because these kinds of diets if done without attention or care, can lead to nutritional deficiencies. But the research so far suggests that keto diets are generally safe (Ludwig, 2021).
Is keto safe? Is it healthy?
One of the ongoing concerns about keto diets is that it steers people away from whole-grain foods, which are associated with many health benefits—including a reduced risk for chronic disease. But there again, the evidence is mixed. It’s not clear that people who avoid carbs—even apparently healthy carbs like whole grains—are worse off (Ludwig, 2021).
Finding keto-friendly foods to fit your morning meal plan can seem like a challenge. But with a little effort and exploration, you can come up with plenty of delicious, satisfying ideas for a healthy breakfast.
- Durkalec-Michalski, K., Nowaczyk, P. M., & Siedzik, K. (2019). Effect of a four-week ketogenic diet on exercise metabolism in CrossFit-trained athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 16(1), 16. doi: 10.1186/s12970-019-0284-9. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30953522/
- Gibson, A. A., Seimon, R. V., Lee, C. M., Ayre, J., Franklin, J., Markovic, T. P., Caterson, I. D., & Sainsbury, A. (2015). Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 16(1), 64–76. Doi: 10.1111/obr.12230. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25402637/
- Ludwig D. S. (2020). The Ketogenic Diet: Evidence for Optimism but High-Quality Research Needed. The Journal of nutrition, 150(6), 1354–1359. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz308. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/150/6/1354/5673196
- Masood, W., Annamaraju, P., & Uppaluri, K. R. (2020). Ketogenic Diet. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
- Mohorko, N., Černelič-Bizjak, M., Poklar-Vatovec, T., Grom, G., Kenig, S., Petelin, A., & Jenko-Pražnikar, Z. (2019). Weight loss, improved physical performance, cognitive function, eating behavior, and metabolic profile in a 12-week ketogenic diet in obese adults. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.), 62, 64–77. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2018.11.007. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30803508/
- North Dakota State University (NDSU) (n.d.). Food and Nutrition Extension: Baked Eggs and Cheese. Retrieved May 5, 2021, from https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/recipes/dairy/baked_eggs_cheese
- Taylor, M. K., Swerdlow, R. H., Burns, J. M., & Sullivan, D. K. (2019). An Experimental Ketogenic Diet for Alzheimer Disease Was Nutritionally Dense and Rich in Vegetables and Avocado. Current developments in nutrition, 3(4), nzz003. doi: 10.1093/cdn/nzz003. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/cdn/article/3/4/nzz003/5347943
- Trimboli, P., Castellana, M., Bellido, D., & Casanueva, F. F. (2020). Confusion in the nomenclature of ketogenic diets blurs evidence. Reviews in endocrine & metabolic disorders, 21(1), 1–3. doi: 10.1007/s11154-020-09546-9. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32080796/
Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.