When you're on a keto, AIP, or other low-carb diet, it's nice to know what foods are completely free of carbs. The options that won't raise your carb count by any amount. There are so many low-carb foods, but you still have to factor those counts in. What can you eat without consequence? With complete carb freedom?
Well, we've done the research and found the answers. We made a big list and split them by category, and for every food we've listed here, we are assuming that it isn't processed or added to in any way — it's just the pure food.
In other words, when we say chicken, we mean grilled or baked. Not something that is battered, fried, or stuffed with carb-loading ingredients.
Let's jump right in.
Meat is the star category in a zero-carb diet. Practically any meat in its natural form is zero-carb. So eat your steaks, bake that chicken, and stay full with these high-protein, zero carb foods.
Any beef you want is up for grabs! Just remember that some diets like Whole30 also require you to eat grass-fed or organic to avoid preservatives, additives, and other harmful ingredients found in low-quality beef.
Plus, when you opt for high-quality, grass-fed beef you get all kinds of extra health benefits like Vitamin E and rich Omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce your risk of heart disease[*].
Chicken is a lean meat that is packed with protein. If you want to grow muscle and keep your diet low-carb, then chicken is a great choice.
Eating low-carb usually means eating more meat, so it's nice to know that lamb is an option for when you want to switch it up.
Lamb is also a fantastic source of Vitamin B12, which helps your body form its red blood cells[*].
Out of all the major meat categories, you need to watch out for added sugars, additives, and other harmful or carb-containing ingredients when eating pork. The industrial pork industry is notoriously unhealthy[*].
Other Zero-Carb Meats
- Venison and other game
- Hot dogs
- Deli meats
- Most organ meats, except liver
No-Carb Fish and Seafood
Fish are a great source of protein and are also a safe choice for zero carbs. You have a ton of options here.
Note: some seafood and shellfish, surprisingly, have trace amounts of carbs[*]. It's not much, but it's enough to remove them from the no-carb camp. These include oysters, shrimp, crab, mussels, lobster, and all other shellfish.
Salmon is one of my favorite foods, and fortunately it falls into the no-carb camp.
It's also a fantastic source of B Vitamins, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, protein, and potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure[*].
My favorite way to cook it is low and slow a la Salmin Nosrat.
The famous white fish is also on the no-carb menu. People love it for its mild, non-fishy flavor.
Apart from chicken, it's hard to beat tuna's protein to calorie and carb ratio.
You can't have catfish battered and fried at your local meat and three joint, but grilled, baked, or sautéed catfish is fair game.
Similar to salmon, catfish is a great source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, protein, and Vitamin B[*].
Other Zero-Carb Fish
No-Carb Fats and Oils
Lots of times eating low-carb means eating more fats. Here are the no-carb oils and fats available to you.
Butter is just the fat and protein of milk or cream, and is naturally zero-carb.
This kitchen staple is also no-carb — plus it's loaded with antioxidants that fight inflammation and may help prevent strokes[*].
Pro tip: if you want the best tasting olive oil, try to get some that was pressed in the last few months.
I love using coconut oil with tilapia. It's a nice way to impart some extra flavor.
Apart from being tasty, coconut oil may boost heart health and encourage fat-burning[*].
Canola oil is okay as well, although many people opt for olive due to canola's low nutrient profile and small amounts of trans fats[*].
Other Zero-Carb Fats and Oils
- MCT oil
The list is fairly short for beverages. As long as you skip the sugar and juice drinks, you'll be okay.
No surprises here, but water is completely free of carbs.
I like to wake up and chug a glass of water immediately to get my day started feeling awake and refreshed.
Don't worry coffee drinkers, you can still drink your joe. You can't have cream, sugar, or Starbucks frappe, but black coffee is just fine.
That includes seltzer water, soda water/club soda, and sparkling water — all of which are pretty much the same thing.
This doesn't include tonic water, though, since that includes sugar.
Some teas have very small traces of carbs, but most tea is considered zero-carb. Just skip the cream and sugar here as well.
Other Zero-Carb Beverages
- Diet soda
- Clear, unflavored liquors
- Water with lemon or lime
Almost all spices and herbs have some traces of carbs — we just don't use enough of them to bother calculating them into our carb counts with the possible exception of cinnamon or red spices like paprika or red pepper.
With that in mind, we've included below some of the zero-carb spices and then a few others that are almost zero-carb. But again, you probably don't have to worry too much about eating herbs and spices unless you are being incredibly strict.
Salt, the king of all spices, is free from any and all carbs.
While black pepper technically contains carbs, it is so small most zero-carb dieters don't worry about it.
One "dash" or crack has around 0.1g of carbs — a.k.a. not enough to get hung up over.
Carbs: almost zero.
Mustard also has a very tiny amount of carbohydrates, but it's so small that it doesn't register even when you use a teaspoon.
Carbs: almost zero.
Everything Bagel Seasoning
Same story here. This blend of poppy seeds, garlic, salt, onion, and sesame seeds also registers so low per serving that it is "zero-carb" — even though it does have a small amount of carbohydrates.
Carbs: almost zero.
Other Zero-Carb Seasonings
- Herbs de Provence
- Italian seasoning
- Curry powder
- Onion powder
No-Carb Condiments and Dips
If you're looking for dipping sauces and dressings, then your options are limited but not completely dry. Vinegar is definitely your friend in the world of zero-carb.
Vinegar is fair game. Use a fork to mix it with olive oil and salt for an easy homemade vinaigrette.
Mayonnaise is just eggs and oil, and if it's made naturally, then the carb count usually registers at 0g per serving.
Just check your labels since some mayo has sugar.
Carbs: usually zero.
Liquid aminos are a naturally gluten-free substitute for soy sauce and are great for stir frying vegetables and meats in.
Just keep an eye on your sodium intake when using liquid aminos.
Hot sauces may have really small amounts of carbs but when just using a dash or two the serving size will often show 0g — assuming it's not a variety high in sugar.
Carbs: usually zero.
Other Zero-Carb Condiments
- Olive oil + herbs and other seasonings
- Dijon mustard (usually zero)
- Sriracha and other chili garlic sauces (usually zero)
- Spicy mayo
While we would argue that it's a smarter long-term health decision to kick the sweet habit altogether when eating no or low-carb, it can be difficult to do that.
Here are a few of the best zero-carb sweeteners for when you need that extra bit of sweetness.
Stevia is an extremely popular zero-carb sweetener and is known as the "sugar leaf".
It's also "non-nutritive", meaning it contains zero calories or nutrients[*].
Pure erythritol is a type of sugar alternative that has just 6% of the calories of sugar while keeping 70% of the sweetness.
Plus, it doesn't raise blood sugar levels like normal sugar and may even reduce the risk of heart disease[*].
Monk fruit is zero-carb, but it's almost up to 200x sweeter than sugar, so make sure you adjust for that.
Splenda, a.k.a. sucralose, is zero-carb, but it also contains dextrose and maltodextrin, which can kick you out of ketosis[*]. So if keto is your goal, I would avoid this.
Other Zero-Carb Sweeteners
Since diets tend to restrict your calorie intake, it's good to know what no-carb snacks you can have whenever hunger strikes.
Here are a few of our favorites.
Pork rinds are a classic keto snack and for good reason. They're just cooked pig skins and don't contain any natural carbs.
Just make sure there aren't any additives or added sugar in whatever brand you buy.
Beef sticks are our personal favorite no-carb snack, but we may be a little biased.
We use the highest-quality, sustainably-sourced protein with no added sugar and no harmful ingredients to deliver meat snacks that taste delicious and offer the fuel you need any time of the day.
Carbs: usually zero.
Other Dried Meats
Fish skins are another delicious no-carb snack.
Check out what Goodfish is up to for all sorts of delicious options.
Almost No-Carb Foods
Because fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are the only source of natural carbohydrates, they always contain them — even in amounts that could be considered "low-carb".
So while we can't say any fruit or vegetable is zero-carb, many people do include certain vegetables and fruits into their own version of a "zero-carb diet" to maintain a healthy diet.
Dairy and eggs are similar. No natural dairy or egg product is without some amount of carbs, but many people include a bit of dairy and eggs in their zero-carb diets.
Here's a short list of foods that are still considered "low-carb" and often eaten as a small portion of a "zero-carb" diet.
When eating low-carb fruits, you want to stick to the fruits that have the lowest amount of natural sugars or to the fruits that you don't naturally use a lot of like lemons or limes.
Oranges and apples are two of the biggest hoarders of carbohydrates, so make sure you skip those!
Here are a few of your best low-carb fruit options:
In the world of low-carb vegetables, the greener the better. Go leafy over starchy — any day of the week. The cruciferous family in particular is a good place to start.
Here are a few of your best low-carb vegetable options:
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are all over the place when it comes to carb content, so always check your labels. In general, seeds are preferable over nuts — so try and stick to those.
Here are a few of your best low-carb nut and seed options:
- Macadamia nuts
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
When it comes to dairy, only eat the full-fat versions. Low-fat dairy typically includes a lot of extra sugars. That means no skim or 2% — stick to what's natural.
Here are a few of your best low-carb dairy options:
- Heavy cream
- Asiago cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Provolone cheese
- Blue cheese
- Goat cheese
The Bottom Line
While there aren't a ton of foods that are strictly no-carb, it's useful to know that meat, fish, most oils, and some condiments are free from carbs.
Then, you can use that as your base and build low-carb sides around them for healthy, low-carb meals.
And always remember to check your labels and eat as natural, organic, and fresh as possible. This reduces your risk of extra sugar or other additives sneaking in and messing with your carb count.
Frozen and canned foods are notorious for additives, so start by avoiding those or being extra careful when you're eating them.