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Is Turkey Keto-Friendly? (& Substitutes)

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

Turkey is a type of poultry that can be consumed prepared on its own or as a part of many other dishes.

The net amount of carbs, which comes down to total carbs minus carbs from fiber, in cooked turkey is around 0 grams per 100 grams. This is the same for ground turkey, turkey breast, smoked turkey, etc.

In preparation methods like turkey bacon, turkey sausage, and deli turkey, you do want to look at the nutrition label to make sure the manufacturer did not add any carbohydrate-heavy ingredients.

That being said, turkey on its own is very keto-friendly. The main attention point when it comes to keto will be what you eat with this meat.

Something to keep in mind is that you do not have to force yourself to eat turkey. If you are not the biggest fan of this food there are substitutes that are about as good as turkey for staying in 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 turkey

100 grams of cooked turkey breast 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 turkey, it is not because of the 0 grams of net carbs in 100 grams of cooked turkey breast.

One ounce of cooked turkey breast 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 turkey breast, 0 grams, comes down to the same. You should have no problem fitting it into a keto diet if you don’t add carbohydrate-heavy ingredients.

Other nutrients in turkey

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

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

  • Calories: 189
  • Protein: 28.7 grams
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Part of the carbs that is fiber: 0 grams
  • Fat: 7.4 grams
  • Selenium: 42% of the DV (Daily Value)
  • Niacin: 32% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 24% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 21% of the DV
  • Zinc: 14% of the DV

And some other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts.

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

How to avoid eating too much turkey

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

Another option is that want to eat these less keto-friendly turkey recipes. Buying a big bag of turkey bacon with suboptimal ingredients and hoping that you don’t eat too much is not the ideal way to do this.

You can avoid eating too much turkey in any form with some of the following tips:

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

Eating too much cooked turkey will not kick you out of ketosis. Even so, two things to keep in mind are that calories still matter on the ketogenic diet and that the way you prepare turkey can add carbohydrates.

Substitutes for turkey on keto

Turkey is not the only option when you want to eat some extra protein on the ketogenic diet. Cooked turkey 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
  • Tilapia: 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 turkey.

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 turkey is great for the ketogenic diet too.

What is your goal with keto?

Even a small portion of certain turkey 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, turkey, even the non-keto-friendly recipes, 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.