Is Ham Keto?

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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Ham is a convenient source of protein. It can be served as the main dish for a dinner party or used in a sandwich for a quick lunch. 

Either way, it can provide you with enough protein for your meal to help boost your fullness levels and help support your muscle mass. 

However, if you are on a keto diet, you might be wondering if it’s okay to have ham. Maybe it contains carbs that you don’t know about. 

In this article, we will explore everything related to the keto diet and ham. How many carbs does it have? Are you allowed to eat it? How much can you eat? And we’ll take a look at keto-friendly brands and other keto-friendly alternatives. 

Let’s get started! 

 

What is ham?

This is a type of pork that comes from the leg of the pig and has been preserved in some way. Some of the most common methods of preserving this deli meat include curing (soaking in salt or using preservatives), smoking, drying, or combining several methods. 

It is also possible to find fresh ham, which has not been preserved and must be cooked before eating. This will always be labeled “fresh” since the regular type is presumed to have been preserved.

While traditional ham is made from pork, you can get different types, such as turkey or chicken—ideal for those who don’t eat pork. 

The flavor varies according to the cooking method. Baked or smoked ham has a smoked and earthy flavor. On the other hand, when it’s cured or dried, it has a saltier and more intense flavor. 

One of the advantages of this meat is how long it can be stored. Since it is a processed meat, it can last in the fridge for 10 days without going bad. 

 

Ham nutrition facts 

There are several different versions of this deli meat. Some are higher in fat. Others are higher in protein, sugars, or sodium. It depends on the recipe each brand has. 

Here you can find the nutritional information for a standard slice.

Serving size: 1 slice of ham (13.5 g)

  • Calories: 14 kcal
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Net carbs: 0 g
  • Total carbs: 0 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 2.3 g

Meats don’t typically contain carbs unless some are added during processing. This makes it an ideal option for those on a ketogenic diet. 

However, if on the ingredients list, you find names like starches, maltodextrin, or thickeners, the carb content might be higher. Just read the nutrition label to determine how many grams of carbs it has. 

Another thing to consider when consuming this meat is that it might be high in sodium.

A high sodium diet can increase your blood pressure, which may increase your risk for heart disease.

When purchasing this deli meat, ensure it has less than 140 mg of sodium per serving to be considered low in sodium. A moderate content is between 140 to 400 mg of sodium. In this case, pair higher sodium ham with lower other sodium foods so you don’t accidently eat too much. 

 

Are you allowed to eat ham on keto?

Yes, ham is keto-friendly. 

It is very low in carbs (usually zero) and high in protein. Protein plays a crucial role in a keto diet. It supports your muscle mass, raises your fullness levels, and slightly increases your metabolism, helping you burn more calories. 

However, remember that on keto, you must be careful how much protein you eat since it can be converted into glucose, affecting your ketosis state. Balance your plates with veggies and healthy fats to prevent overeating on proteins.

 

How much ham can you have on a keto diet?

Although it is low in carbs, because it is a processed meat, this should be eaten in moderation.

The World Health Organization classifies processed meats, including ham, as Group 1 carcinogens, meaning that they are known to cause cancer.

It’s always important to keep in mind that just because something is low in carbs, that doesn’t necessarily make it a healthy choice for keto.

 

What kind of ham can you have on keto? 

It’s not recommended to rely on this meat to achieve your protein requirements since it is high in sodium, processed, and carcinogenic.

If you do choose to eat it in moderation, make sure to look at the ingredient list and seek out versions that have fewer additives.

If you are looking for the best ham on keto, some brands can be a good addition without adding too many carbs (or any) to your diet. 

  • LandOFrost Premium Meat Black Forest. In about 2 oz of this meat, you only get 1 g of net carbs. However, notice that the same amount also contains more than 20% of the recommended daily amount of sodium. Good to be aware of!
  • Prima Della Brand Black Forest. In 2 oz of meat, you get 2 g of carbs. While it is higher than the previous option, it is still within a good carb range. 
  • Prima Della Fully Cooked Off-the-Bone. In 2 oz of meat, you get less than 1 g of net carbs. 

There are other options you can find at your local butcher. They can guide you into which is best on a low-carb diet. 

Always make sure to read the ingredients for sugars, starches, and additives, while also checking the carb and sodium amounts.

 

What can you eat with ham on keto?

Since this meat is low in carbs, you can combine it with anything you can have on a ketogenic diet. 

For example, if you want a quick snack or lunch, you can have some deli meat with keto bread for a ready and on-the-go meal. 

You can also create ham and cheese roll-ups as a high-protein snack if you’re hungry between mealtimes. This can help you feel full. 

If you get fresh ham, you can bake it and serve it during one of your dinners, along with some colorful veggies and cauliflower mashed potatoes. 

The advantage of this meat is that it is a very versatile protein that tastes good with almost anything. 

 

Keto-friendly ham alternatives

In case you don’t like this meat, or you are trying to find other options to have on a keto diet, here is a list of other keto-friendly alternatives: 

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Roast beef
  • Pastrami
  • Sausage
  • Smoked salmon 

All of these options are high in protein.

Make sure to check the nutrition label to check how much sodium and carbs each one has before purchasing it. 

 

FAQ about ham on a keto diet

If you still have questions related to this deli meat and the ketogenic diet, here are some of the most frequently asked questions people often have. 

It depends on the additives the brand uses. For example, if they use thickeners, starches, or maltodextrin all of these are high carb additives. 

Check the nutritional label to see if it is low in carbs. As a general rule, on a keto diet, look for options that have less than 3 grams per serving. 

High-protein foods like ham can aid in weight loss since protein helps increase your fullness levels, and it slightly increases your metabolism. 

However, this deli meat can also be very high in sodium, making you retain water which will increase your weight. Check how much sodium it has (aim for less than 140 mg per serving), and vary the protein you have throughout the day. 

Like ham, bacon is okay for keto. It is high in protein and fat, which can help you reach your total fat intake. 

However, because bacon is high in saturated fats and is a processed meat, you want to consume these in moderation.

Meats that are not processed are the most keto-friendly. Meats, by nature, are high in protein and may be high in fat (depending on the cut). 

Fresh cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and all other meats (including organ meats) are good for a ketogenic diet. 

Even though they don’t contain any carbs, you still need to balance out your plate with lots of veggies and healthy fats to avoid consuming too much protein. 

Cured meats like ham, sausage, pepperoni, hot dogs, salami, and bacon can all be included in a ketogenic diet. They help you provide some protein and fat to your diet. However, they are processed meats so it’s best to limit how much you eat.

Fresh ham is the healthiest type. However, when processed, this meat can be high in sodium and additives like nitrites. According to the World Health Organization, consuming too many processed meats increases the risk of cancer.