In the world of health and wellness, it seems, these days, the keto diet is reigning king of the hill. The low-carb, fat-rich eating plan is literally a phenomenon at this point, thanks to its reported abilities to improve skin texture, improve heart health, and neuroprotective benefits. It's no surprise that tons of brands have since jumped on board to cater to the diet’s millions of devoted followers. In fact, if you take a stroll down the snack aisle at your supermarket, you’ll find — amongst the classic granola bars and fruit snacks — an increasing amount of keto-specific snacks available for purchase.
For those not in the know on all things keto, here’s the gist: The premise of the ketogenic diet, according to a Harvard School of Public Health Review, is to “deprive the body of glucose — the main source of energy for all cells in the body, which is obtained by eating carbohydrate foods.” In its absence, the body relies on an alternative form of energy, ketones, which are produced from stored fat (hence, the term ketosis, which is the state your body kicks into when ketone bodies accumulate in the blood). Although ratios typically vary by body type, the standard carbohydrate intake on a keto diet is 50 grams or less per day. According to the Harvard review, “popular ketogenic resources suggest an average of 70 to 80 percent fat from total daily calories, five to 10 percent carbohydrate, and 10 to 20 percent protein.”
While many followers of low-carb, protein-centric, or plant-based diets often have to scour through Pinterest and food blogs for healthy DIY recipes that’ll get them through the day without reaching for the processed stuff (or breaking their diet plans), brands are wising up to the latest keto craze and making on-the-go snacking way easier. From packaged bars and easy protein packs, busy keto followers have more and more packaged options than ever so they don’t need to spend every spare minute meal-prepping.
That said, Monica Auslander Moreno registered dietician and founder of Essence Nutrition says that even the seemingly healthiest, keto-est packaged goodies can have some hidden ingredients that won’t do your body good — so always check ingredients before heading to check-out. Because Keto is all about cutting out sugar and carbs, brands will often appeal to the sugar-addict with artificial sweeteners that seem harmless and a great way to hack the system but, in reality, just complicate the process and the mind. "[Artificial sweeteners] can provoke metabolic derangements in confusing the brain that major sweetness is here in the absence of sugar (artificial sweeteners are chemically much sweeter than regular sugar),” says Auslander Moreno. “They can also affect the microbiome.”
Another thing to be wary of are snacks that unbalanced with “lots of fat and little protein,” says Auslander Moreno. “You want to make sure your keto snack has enough protein to keep you satiated (coconut flakes, for example, have a lot of fat and few carbs, but little protein). A handful of nuts has about seven grams of protein — so try to use that as a benchmark.” The nutritionist goes on to add that even if a snack checks off all the keto boxes, there’s still a chance it won’t agree with your body. “Since keto snacks can be high in fat, and a whopper of fat can be a little hard to digest all at once, keep stock of how your body feels after certain foods,” says Auslander Moreno. “Personally, a local bakery's 'fat balls' (coconut oil, chocolate, nuts, nut butters, seeds) are delicious, but I never feel great afterwards.”
Not sure where to start on your keto snack hunt? Well, to make your next trip to the grocery store a bit more seamless, nutritionists were tapped to reveal their favorite packaged low-carb snacks that fit nicely into the keto way of life.
"To be honest, keto is not the right plan for me so I have not tried many snacks that are popping up all over the place. But, I do love a good snack that provides protein and fat without the bad carbs, so I do have a few suggestions, including Justin’s Nut Butter squeeze packs, which are one of my favorite snacks. They are so delicious, filling and easy to pack with you. Before eating it, make sure you massage the pack to mix all the good oil in that naturally separates." — Hillary Cecere MS, RDN Registered Dietitian for Eat Clean Bro
“The manna (also called coconut butter) only contains one gram of sugar per serving so it’s perfect for taking the edge off a sweet tooth.” — Kelly Springer, MS, RD, CDN & owner of Kelly’s Choice, LLC
“For a savory snack, I’m a huge fan of Country Archer’s Chorizo Beef & Pork, which contains zero to one grams* of sugar and is packed with eight to nine grams of protein.” — Springer (*The Chorizo Beef & Pork contains zero grams of sugar as per its nutrition facts .)
“They taste like crackers — but they're just cheese — no grains. They have only one gram of carbohydrates per serving and 12 grams of filling protein.” — Auslander Moreno
“With 10 grams of grass-fed protein, 19 grams of high-quality fats, only four grams of net carbs, 10 grams of fiber, and zero added sugar or sugar alcohols, RSP Whole Bar offers an ideal balance of nutrition in a healthy keto snack. This sturdy bar (no wafer-thin little granola bar here) has a chocolate flavor that is smooth and velvety.” — Auslander Moreno
“This is literally just pulverized pecans made into a butter — no extra oils or flavors. And while we love almond butter, we are all looking to spice it up with a different nut butter sometimes on-the-go.” — Auslander Moreno
“A lot of jerky actually has added sugars — this brand has none, but the sticks do have seven grams of protein each and that hearty, meaty flavor carnivores crave.” — Auslander Moreno