Q: I’m on the keto diet and want to know how much fat and how many carbs and calories fresh foods have. How do I find out the macronutrient breakdown for foods without nutrition labels?
Counting macronutrients usually isn’t necessary to lose weight or transition to a healthier diet. However, it can be helpful when following a specific plan like the keto diet.
The keto diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs. Though several variations of this diet exist, you’ll typically have a macronutrient breakdown of 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fat ().
Thankfully, there’s a simple way to figure out exactly how many grams of fat, protein, and carbs you’re consuming.
The Diabetic Exchange System is a database designed for people with diabetes to track their carb intake. It also comes in handy for those who need to determine macronutrient breakdowns for unprocessed foods that don’t come with nutrition labels — such as meat, eggs, and starchy vegetables.
Although every food will have a different exact macronutrient breakdown, the database separates foods into the following categories:
- Starches/bread. The starch/bread category includes carbs like grains, starchy vegetables, pastas, and breads. These foods typically deliver 15 grams of carbs, 2 grams of protein, and only a trace amount of fat per serving.
- Meats. This category is a bit more complicated, as it includes poultry, red meat, and cheese. A very lean cut of poultry — such as skinless chicken breast — typically contains 0 grams of carbs, 7 grams of protein, and 0–1 gram(s) of fat per ounce (28 grams), while medium-fat cuts of meat like steak contain 0 grams of carbs, 7 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat per ounce (28 grams).
- Vegetables. A 1/2 cup (78 grams) cooked or 1 cup (72 grams) of raw non-starchy vegetables provides 5 grams of carbs, 2 grams of protein, and 0 grams of fat.
- Fruit. A 1/2 cup (90 grams or 119 ml) of fresh fruit or fruit juice, or a 1/4 cup (50 grams) of dried fruit, contains 15 grams of carbs, 0 grams of protein, and 0 grams of fat.
- Milk. One cup (237 ml) of whole milk provides 12 grams of carbs, 8 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fat. Whole-milk products are best for the keto diet as they’re highest in fat.
- Fat. Fats and fatty foods like avocados, nuts, oils, and butter deliver about 45 calories and 5 grams of fat per serving.
For reference, starchy veggies that can be mashed — such as butternut squash and potatoes — are categorized under the “starches/bread” section. Non-starchy root vegetables and summer squash — such as turnips and zucchini, respectively — fit into the “vegetable” category
is also a useful tool for determining the exact macronutrient content of specific foods.
Monitoring your intake of fats and carbs is the most important part of a keto diet. Avoiding high-carb foods and adding healthy fat sources like avocado, nut butters, coconut, and olive oil to meals and snacks can ensure that you’re reaching the recommended fat intake. In turn, this can help you succeed with this diet.
Keep in mind that these tools also work for other diets and micronutrient ratios — not just the keto diet.
Jillian Kubala is a Registered Dietitian based in Westhampton, NY. Jillian holds a master's degree in nutrition from Stony Brook University School of Medicine as well as an undergraduate degree in nutrition science. Aside from writing for Healthline Nutrition, she runs a private practice based on the east end of Long Island, NY, where she helps her clients achieve optimal wellness through nutritional and lifestyle changes. Jillian practices what she preaches, spending her free time tending to her small farm that includes vegetable and flower gardens and a flock of chickens. Reach out to her through her website or on Instagram.