on September 19, 2019
Snacks can be one of the toughest categories of food for keto dieters to crack. The main problem is that most prepackaged snacks are filled with ingredients that will bust right through your ketosis, like sugar, potatoes and refined starches.
But there’s one packaged snack that’s a keto dieter’s godsend: beef jerky. In this post, we’ll explain how beef jerky can be an excellent addition to your keto snack arsenal and the best brands to add to your shopping cart.
Loaded with protein and a good amount of fat, beef jerky has everything you could want in a keto snack. According to USDA food data, a serving of the average beef jerky contains about 9 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat. Both of these macronutrients are essential to staying energized and feeling full on the keto diet.
Best of all, beef jerky contains virtually no carbs (although many brands unfortunately add ingredients that have them--more on this below). The important thing to know is that carb-free brands of beef jerky do exist and they’re relatively easy to find.
Beef jerky is made from, well, beef. To make it, strips of beef are marinated in some form of curing solution and then dried to remove about 50% or more of the moisture. This results in a strong flavor and the characteristic chewy texture.
Beef is one of the most complete dietary sources of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids required by the body for growth and maintenance. In fact, its amino acid profile is nearly identical to that of our own muscles, making it an excellent choice for those looking to build or maintain muscle mass.
Beef is an abundant source of many nutrients. Along with other animal proteins, it’s one of the only sufficient dietary sources of Vitamin B12, which plays an important role in red blood cell formation and neurological function.
Beef is rich in zinc, a mineral necessary for your body to metabolize nutrients, maintain your immune system and grow and repair tissue. Zinc cannot be stored by the body, so it’s up to us to eat enough each day to meet our body’s needs.
Red meat is also a good source of selenium, niacin, Vitamin B6, phosphorus, riboflavin, iron and choline.
Inexpensive, easy to eat on the go and oh-so-delicious, beef jerky might just be the keto diet’s most perfect snack. And your jerky options don’t stop with beef. Pork jerky, chicken jerky and turkey jerky are all great keto friendly options, as well.
Now that we’ve sung beef jerky’s praises, we also have to share some bad news: not all brands and flavors of the savory snack are created equal. While beef jerky in its truest form is carb-free, many popular brands contain 8 grams of carbs per serving--or more!
If beef jerky is made from meat, then where do all those carbs come from? A small amount of them come from seasonings, but the vast majority of carbs in beef jerky come from sugar.
If you’re like us, this might leave you scratching your head, as sugar seems so out of place in a snack like jerky. Sugar is added to beef jerky for several reasons, both as a flavor enhancer and as part of the manufacturing process.
Sugar can be used as a curing agent for preservation and the enhancement of flavor and color in beef jerky. It’s also used as a filler. Since the cooking process pulls moisture out of the beef, the finished product is much lighter than the initial cut of meat. Some makers unfortunately use corn syrup and other sweeteners to bulk up the product and make up for that lost weight.
And sugar isn’t the only alarming ingredient to watch out for in beef jerky. Two others to beware of are nitrites and nitrates (which are two different derivatives of the same chemical compounds). These are preservatives used in many processed meats, including jerky, that have been linked with an increased risk of heart disease. The Mayo Clinic recommends limiting consumption of processed meats that contain nitrites and nitrates.
You can still enjoy beef and other kinds of jerky without ingesting potentially harmful ingredients or getting kicked out of ketosis. Here are a few of our favorite varieties we’ve hand picked for keto dieters.
Made with just three simple ingredients--beef, water and seasoning--this classic beef jerky from Keto Carne is about as wholesome as it gets. It contains no carbs and no sugar, which means it’s free from the sweet flavor some jerky eaters bemoan.
The manufacturer uses premium cuts of 100% USA beef with extra marbling for a texture that’s chewy but not fatty. This jerky contains no preservatives or added nitrates. Try the spicy flavor too for an extra kick!
If you enjoy some heat in your palate, you’ll love the bold, spicy flavor of Naked Cow’s fire jerky. Made from grass fed beef, this jerky is seasoned with cayenne pepper, habanero pepper and a touch of the infamous ghost pepper for a deliciously fiery kick.
With 130 calories and 24 grams of protein in every package, this is one of the most protein-dense snacks around. The carb and sugar count? Zero.
Love beef jerky but hate reaching into the bag and getting residue on your fingers? Then you’ll love these filling beef sticks from Mission Meats. They’re just like jerky but in a stick form, which is particularly great for kids or for munching while driving.
Mission Meats beef sticks are made from 100% pasture raised, grass fed beef with no hormones or antibiotics. Perhaps the best part is that with each stick you unwrap, you’re giving back. The company contributes 10% of proceeds to charitable initiatives that advance the greater good, like fighting deforestation and transforming the lives of homeless mothers.
We told you the benefits of jerky weren’t limited to beef! A little bit smoky, a little bit spicy, these flavorful Chomps turkey jerky sticks are made from free range turkey raised without antibiotics or hormones, as well as other non-GMO verified ingredients.
With zero grams of carbs and sugar and 10 grams of protein, they make an ideal munchie to tide you over between meals. They’re Whole30 friendly, as well.
Kalahari Biltong calls their garlic jerky ‘a unique cross between jerky, slow roasted beef and fine Italian prosciutto.’ Sign us up! Built upon the centuries-old South African tradition of air drying meat, this jerky is made from marinated American beef that undergoes an 18-day hang dry process.
It’s free of gluten and soy. Each package contains less than one gram of carbs, zero grams of sugar and a whopping 32 grams of protein.
The process of making beef jerky may seem daunting, but it’s actually super simple and much more nutritious than many of the store bought varieties. Making your own keto beef jerky allows you control exactly what ingredients are used and lets you avoid unwanted additives like preservatives.
Speaking of preservatives, since you won’t be using them in this recipe, this snack will need to be refrigerated if you don’t eat it right after cooking. If you prefer a version that will keep outside the fridge, you’ll need to spend a bit more time marinating and dehydrating the meat. We’ve skipped that in favor of a simpler recipe, but if you’re game to try it out, check out this keto beef jerky recipe from Keto Diet App.
Supplement your ketogenic snacking with premium products from Left Coast Performance. Our keto supplies like organic bone broth powder, multi collagen protein capsules and MCT oil will give you the fuel you need to get through your day while maintaining ketosis. We only use high-quality ingredients and bar the use of artificial flavors, colors and fillers. Shipping is always free and all orders come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.