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Weight Loss Made Practical » Dieting » Is Tilapia Keto-Friendly? (& Substitutes)

Is Tilapia Keto-Friendly? (& Substitutes)

On the ketogenic diet the goal is to keep your carbohydrate intake low enough. What about tilapia, is it keto-friendly?

Tilapia is the common name for a wide variety of mainly freshwater fish species. Similar to other fish you can eat it prepared on its own or as a part of other dishes.

The net amount of carbs, which comes down to total carbs minus carbs from fiber, in cooked tilapia is around 0 grams per 100 grams. This makes tilapia very keto-friendly.

That being said you do not have to force yourself to eat tilapia. If you are not the biggest fan of this food there are substitutes that are about as good as tilapia for staying in ketosis.

One thing to keep in mind is that some ways of eating tilapia are accompanied by high-carb sauces or bread crumb coating. These contain a lot more carbohydrates and can likely kick you out of ketosis.

When is a food keto-friendly

The goal of the ketogenic diet is to put your body into ketosis, a state where it starts mainly burning fat as a fuel (1). This comes down to more or less getting 55%-60% of your macronutrients from fat, 30%-35% from protein, and 5%-10% from carbohydrates.

For most people this comes down to eating around 20g – 50g of carbohydrates a day.

In reality, this number is different depending on a lot of factors. For example, people who exercise a lot may be able to consume more carbohydrates before getting kicked out of ketosis.

That being said that daily amount can be a good general guideline.

It is also common to exclude fiber from this amount since it doesn’t get absorbed into your body the same way as regular carbohydrates.

Carbs in tilapia

100 grams of cooked tilapia contains the following amounts of carbs (2):

  • Total carbs: 0 grams
  • Of which fiber: 0 grams
  • Net carbs: 0 grams

If you get out of ketosis while eating cooked tilapia, it is not because of the 0 grams of net carbs in 100 grams of tilapia.

One ounce of cooked tilapia is about 28 grams and contains the following amounts of carbs:

  • Total carbs: 0 grams
  • Of which fiber: 0 grams
  • Net carbs: 0 grams

The number of net carbs in 1 ounce of cooked tilapia, 0 grams, comes down to the same. You should have no problem fitting it into a keto diet.

One thing to keep in mind is that coating tilapia in bread crumbs or flour and then deep-frying it is generally not that keto-friendly. Exactly how many carbs these other preparation methods will contain varies a lot.

Other nutrients in tilapia

Other nutrients like fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals also still matter on the ketogenic diet.

100 grams of cooked tilapia contains the following nutrients (2):

  • Calories: 128
  • Protein: 26.1 grams
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Part of the carbs that is fiber: 0 grams
  • Fat: 2.7 grams
  • Selenium: 78% of the DV (Daily Value)
  • Vitamin B12: 31% of the DV
  • Niacin: 24% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 20% of the DV
  • Potassium: 11% of the DV

And some other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts.

Besides being low in net carbs, tilapia can also provide you with nice amounts of valuable nutrients. A great combination for a ketogenic diet.

How to avoid eating too much tilapia

You generally should be able to fit cooked tilapia into your keto diet. Even so, in some situations you may have to exercise some portion control for other reasons.

Preparing a lot of tilapia with delicious seasoning and hoping that you don’t eat too much is not the ideal way to do this. You can avoid eating too much tilapia in any form with some of the following tips:

  • Plan ahead, how much tilapia will you eat?
  • Put the planned amount on a plate and leave the rest of the prepared tilapia out of sight
  • Don’t eat during other activities like watching TV
  • Consider not preparing or buying tilapia if you crave it too much

Eating too much cooked tilapia will not kick you out of ketosis. Even so, two things to keep in mind are that calories still matter on the ketogenic diet.

Substitutes for tilapia on keto

Tilapia is not the only option when you want to eat some extra protein on the ketogenic diet. Cooked tilapia does not contain any net carbs but there are also other foods sources with similar carb amounts that may be more to your liking.

Some of the following substitutes also generally fit into the keto diet. These are the net carb values per 100 grams (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8):

  • Salmon: 0 grams of net carbs
  • Beef: 0 grams of net carbs
  • Eggs (hard-boiled): 1.1 grams of net carbs
  • Shrimp: 0 grams of net carbs
  • Chicken: 0 grams of net carbs
  • Tuna: 0 grams of net carbs

Basically all meats (including fish) do not contain carbohydrates but do contain nice amounts of protein and fat. Depending on how you prepare these foods tiny amounts of carbs in the forms of herbs and spices could be present.

If you have trouble staying in ketosis but still want to eat some protein you can also choose these other substitutes instead of tilapia.

However, even with these examples, you may have to exercise portion control to not overdo it with calorie intake and avoid eating too much protein.

That being said, cooked tilapia is great for the ketogenic diet too.

What is your goal with keto?

Even a small portion of certain tilapia recipes added to certain daily diets could potentially put you just over the net carbs border, out of ketosis. Depending on the goal you have with keto this may or may not be a problem.

If your goal is to stay strictly in ketosis 24/7 you want to be careful about your carbohydrate intake.

If your goal is to lose weight and become healthier, tilapia can be a good food option even if it potentially puts you at a carbohydrate level slightly above your ketosis level.


Matt Claes

Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.