If you’ve been studying or living the keto lifestyle for any significant length of time, you may be familiar with the oft-repeated macronutrient ratio that achieves ketosis. This breakdown typically looks like 70-80% of daily calories from fat, 20-25% from protein, and 5-10% from carbohydrates.
While it might seem like nothing could be easier (and tastier) than eating 70% of your calories from fat, it can be surprisingly difficult to get enough fat on a keto diet, especially when you’re first starting out. For those used to a high-carb diet, tweaking macros to stay in ketosis can involve a significant learning curve. But to do keto right, including fat at every meal — especially fat from healthy sources — is a must.
This guide will walk you through various types of fat, help you discover new and novel ways to boost your fat intake, and answer common questions about what it means to eat the right amount of fat on keto.
Getting enough fat on keto isn’t just a vague, wishy-washy aspiration. The right amount (compared to protein and carbohydrates) is actually necessary to keep the body in the metabolic state of ketosis, which burns fat for fuel.
If your macros are out of whack with too little fat and too many proteins or carbs, you won’t reap all the benefits of a keto diet, such as weight loss and better blood sugar management.
And not only that, but you’re likely to be hungry and feel low on energy if you don’t get adequate fats, which makes the keto diet less than sustainable.
Getting around 70% of your total calories from fat is the key that unlocks these goals.
Multiple barriers may arise to keep you from consuming enough fat on keto.
In a culture that consumes the majority of its calories from carbohydrates, changing your macronutrient math may seem almost radical. Adding rather than subtracting fat can feel unfamiliar or even outright uncomfortable, and undoing lifelong carb-heavy patterns of cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and pasta for dinner isn’t easy. Plus, when eating with others in social settings, it’s always challenging to diverge from the herd by making your own unique food choices.
The end of the twentieth century was replete with messages that fat was bad and that we should avoid it. Though you may intellectually understand that these myths have since been debunked — and that a keto diet can help you attain your health goals — applying this knowledge to real-world behavioral change takes significant effort.
A true keto diet is all about getting enough fat, and there are three different types of fats you’ll want to include.
All fats contain nine calories per gram (making them the most energy-dense macronutrient), and all add to your feeling of fullness. But fats aren’t all healthy, so it’s vital that you’re aware of which types of fat to eat and which to avoid.
Here’s a look at the various types of fats you’ll want to keep in balance, which ones to steer clear from, and their effects on the body.
Do you cringe at the mention of saturated fat? You’re not alone. For years, public health experts warned against the dangers of overconsuming saturated fat, believing that it directly correlated with heart disease risk.
These days, though, research shows that this type of fat may not be as harmful as previously supposed, especially when kept within limits. For example, a large meta-analysis from 2010 analyzed 21 studies on over 347,000 people. It concluded that saturated fat intake was not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease.[*]
While this isn’t a free pass for drinking bacon grease, many health experts now view saturated fat as an in-between category that’s neither praiseworthy nor evil.[*] Along with unsaturated fats, which have more documented health benefits, saturated fat can play a supporting role in a healthy diet.
Foods High in Saturated Fat
You’ll find high amounts of saturated fat in the following foods:
- Coconut products such as coconut oil, coconut cream, and coconut flakes
- Dairy products such as cream and full-fat milk and cheeses
- Red meats like beef, lamb, pork, sausage, and bacon
- MCT oil
Saturated fat gets its name because its carbon atoms are “saturated” with hydrogen, holding as many as possible. Monounsaturated fats, on the other hand, have fewer hydrogen atoms bonded to their carbon chains, leaving them liquid at room temperature.
This type of fat, found in everyday foods like avocados and olive oil, is often touted for its health benefits. Eating monounsaturated fat may lower your LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, maintain your HDL (“good”) cholesterol, might improve blood vessel function, and could even help with blood sugar control.[*] On keto, it’s a safe bet to include plenty of fat from monounsaturated sources.
Foods High in Monounsaturated Fat
Try these foods for extra monounsaturated fat:
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
- Canola oil
- Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, and pecans
- Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds
You’ve heard of omega-3 fatty acids, and you’ve probably heard of polyunsaturated fats. But did you know that all omega-3s are one type of polyunsaturated fat? Omega-3s and omega-6s comprise the two categories of polyunsaturated fats, both of which are part of a healthy keto diet. Your body can’t make either of these types of fats on its own, so it’s necessary to get them from food.
Foods High in Polyunsaturated Fat
Polyunsaturated fat is found in the following foods:
- Fish, such as salmon, tuna, anchovies, sardines, trout, and mackerel
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower oil
- Corn oil
- Flax seeds
If there’s one type of fat that’s a definite no-no — on keto or any other diet — it’s trans fat.
Most trans fats in the food supply are artificially created through a process called hydrogenation. This chemical alteration adds hydrogen to oil — which is why foods with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are notorious for their trans fat content. You may find this type of fat in processed foods like baked goods, buttered popcorn, and ice cream. (A few foods like beef, lamb, and butter also naturally contain small amounts of trans fat, which isn’t a problem because it’s in such minute quantities.)
Trans fats from artificial sources have been associated with problematic health issues like cancer[*] and heart disease,[*] so it’s best to limit them as much as possible. In fact, the FDA banned artificial trans fats in the U.S. food supply in 2018.[*] Still, some manufactured foods may contain small amounts of them, so check labels carefully for hydrogenated oils. As for foods that naturally contain trans fat, research has yet to determine whether these are harmful.
Foods High in Trans Fat
To avoid trans fats, steer clear of these foods:
- Buttered popcorn
- Ice cream
- Packaged baked goods
- Pizza dough
A keto diet can include fats from the saturated and unsaturated categories, but because the benefits of unsaturated fats are more well-established, it’s best to focus on a balance that favors unsaturated fats, with saturated fats sprinkled in.
One study found that a ratio of 20% saturated fat and 80% unsaturated fat led to long-term weight loss and improvements in blood markers of heart health like triglycerides and cholesterol levels.[*]
Everyone’s personal blend of keto-friendly food choices will look a little different, but here are some quality high-fat choices to include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies
- Avocados and avocado products
- Plant-based oils like olive oil, avocado oil, and walnut oil
- Full-fat dairy
- Nuts and seeds (as well as nut and seed butters)
- Beef, pork, and lamb
Need some real-world suggestions for upping your fat intake? We’ve got you covered. From breakfast through midnight snacks, here are 10 practical ways to make friends with fat on keto.
1. Make Fat Bombs
Bombs away! As their name suggests, keto fat bombs are bite-sized balls containing high-fat ingredients like cream cheese, nut butters, coconut oil, and other indulgent additions. (Think truffles, but with an even higher fat content.) Combinations like chocolate and peanut butter, strawberry and cheesecake, and caramel-coconut make these just right for a keto-friendly dessert.
With a short ingredient list and one-bowl prep, keto fat bombs are typically a cinch to whip up. Make a large batch at the beginning of the week and enjoy them after meals all week long.
2. Try Bulletproof Coffee
The jury is still out on whether it’ll really make you bulletproof, but one thing bulletproof coffee will do is boost your fat intake first thing in the morning.
For the uninitiated, bulletproof coffee is a mixture of brewed coffee, grass-fed butter, and MCT oil. Recipes typically involve a ratio of two parts butter or ghee (such as 2 tablespoons) to one part MCT oil (such as 1 tablespoon) in 8 to 16 ounces of black coffee.
3. Enjoy Creamy Soups and Sauces
On other diets, you might have avoided creamy soups and sauces for their high fat and calorie content. But on keto, you’re not going for any old wimpy broth! Foods made with full-fat dairy are actually desirable on this diet for their ability to amp up your fat intake, thereby keeping you in ketosis. So feel free to enjoy a lobster bisque, Alfredo sauce, or salmon chowder.
4. Use Multiple Fat Sources at Each Mealtime
You’re not likely to be able to eat enough fat on keto without getting a little creative. That’s why, at mealtimes, it’s important to mix and match your fats. At breakfast, for example, a basic avocado toast turns into even more keto-friendly fare with the addition of a fried egg and a sprinkle of melted cheese. At dinner, salmon can soak in a sesame oil marinade, while low-carb veggies get roasted with olive oil and a handful of toasted nuts.
If you struggle to consume enough fat on keto, ask yourself at each meal how you can incorporate fats from a variety of sources, rather than just one ingredient.
5. Dunk Veggies in High-fat Dips
Everyone knows raw veggies are best when dunked in dip. At lunchtime or as a pre-dinner appetizer, use low-carb veggies like celery or cucumber slices to scoop up creamy onion dip, ranch, or blue cheese dressing. If possible, try to use dips made with olive oil or avocado oil as opposed to canola oil or soybean oil.
6. Roast Vegetables in Oil
Creamy dips aren’t the only fats that pair well with veggies. Healthy oils like olive and avocado oil turn plain vegetables into crispy roasted delights.
For a simple side dish, generously drizzle olive oil onto broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, or onions and bake in a high-heat oven (400 degrees or more) for at least 20 minutes. From there, a quick seasoning with salt and pepper is all it takes to maximize flavor.
7. Sprinkle in Nuts and Seeds
Seeds and nuts can sneak extra mono- and polyunsaturated fat into all sorts of recipes. In granola recipes, sunflower seeds can replace half the oats you’d normally use — or, if you’re eating traditional oatmeal, sprinkle seeds or nuts on top. Nuts and seeds can also add crunch to salads and vegetable dishes, while a nut-based crust makes pies even more keto-friendly.
At snack time, of course, there’s always trail mix! Combine your favorite mix of nuts and seeds with cacao nibs or shredded coconut for healthy fat by the handful.
8. Whip Up a Full-fat Dairy Smoothie
Full-fat dairy gets the stamp of approval on a keto diet. In smoothies, heavy cream, full-fat yogurt and whole milk (as long as you limit the carbs from lactose) help make other keto-friendly ingredients like nut butters and low-carb fruits go down, well, smoothly.
9. Add Shredded Coconut to Snacks and Sweets
Coconuts are among the highest-fat fruits on the planet. A ½ cup of dried coconut contains 16.5 grams of fat.[*] Fresh or dried, their meaty interior can amp up the fat content of desserts, trail mixes, smoothies, and more.
10. Load Up on Avocado
For monounsaturated fats galore, load up on avocados. These high-fat heroes (which are technically fruits) are surprisingly versatile in all sorts of recipes.
Because of their mild flavor and creamy texture, they add cooling creaminess to low-carb wraps and sandwiches, bulk up lackluster smoothies, and bring colorful flair to omelets and other egg dishes. And then, of course, guacamole always brings the party atop Mexican favorites.
How Much Fat Do I Need on Keto?
Each person’s fat needs on keto are unique. For most people, a diet consisting of about 70% of calories from fat is a good target for maintaining ketosis. On a 2,000 calorie diet, this would look like 156 grams of fat per day.
That said, different people’s calorie needs differ by age, activity level, gender, and other factors. To get a sense of your personal fat target, check out our guide to how much fat you should eat on keto.
Can You Do Low-fat on Keto?
If you’re looking for a low-fat eating plan, keto isn’t it. A keto diet and a low-fat diet are essentially opposites on the dietary spectrum. Because maintaining ketosis requires an extremely low level of carbs and a high level of fats (with a moderate amount of protein in the mix), cutting back on fat isn’t compatible with keto.
What Happens If You Don’t Eat Enough Fat on Keto?
The most common pitfall of not eating enough fat on keto is simply that your body won’t stay in ketosis. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t lose weight. As long as your diet is low in carbohydrates, there’s a good chance you’ll still see the number on the scale going down. Research shows that low-carb diets can be effective for weight loss.[*] Still, if following a true keto diet is your goal, keeping your fat intake high is non-negotiable.
Meanwhile, not eating enough fat could also leave you hungry, especially if empty carbs fill in for more satiating fats. This may lead you to eat more, ultimately defeating your purposes.
Takeaway: How to Increase Fat Intake on Keto
If getting enough fat on a keto diet seems daunting, try getting into your own head before getting into the kitchen. A shift in mindset may be all it takes to amp up this important macronutrient in your everyday eating.
Think of consuming more fat as a delicious, healthy challenge, rather than an uphill battle. Use the pointers above as a jumping-off point. As your creativity begins to flow, you’ll soon be coming up with fat-boosting methods of your own.