Keto Diet 101

So MONTHS ago, I mentioned I was going to try to create a collection of handouts on special diets and today is the day that I finally have the first one for you!

The Keto diet is very hot right now. I can’t go far without hearing someone talking about being or doing “Keto.” As health professionals, it can be hard to take any fad diet seriously, but this diet has been around for over a century and is the real deal for the right people (seriously).

To preface, I am not a fan of fad diets. These are the short-lived diets that everyone and their brother does for 3 weeks and then quits because it’s too restrictive. I’m all about following a diet you can actually stick to forever. If you’re on a diet to lose weight, when you stop the diet your weight loss is going to come back to. Most people do these fad diets for weight loss, so you can imagine the frustration for all involved if you see great success but the diet is not sustainable. This is a concern about the keto diet because the true diet is very restrictive. So let’s get down to to why I would still encourage you (or your patients) to learn more about keto.

The keto diet is the primary intervention for epilepsy and some metabolic conditions. Its popularity is growing in other conditions, including neurodegenerative conditions (ALS, Parkinson’s MS, migraines), cancer, psychiatric conditions (depression, anxiety) and metabolic conditions (type 2 diabetes, PCOS, metabolic syndrome). The list of conditions it can be used for continues to grow. Interestingly, we don’t totally know why it works, just that it does.

Claim

  • Burning glucose instead of burning ketones changes the function of your cells, especially those of the brain that prefers glucose for energy. The exact changes that occur have yet to be fully understood by researchers.

Evidence

  • Over 100 years of clinical use as well as dozens of studies validating its use in the treatment epilepsy
  • Many trials have found benefits with weight loss, weight maintenance and improved metabolic markers

Criticism

  • High fat diet (70-80% of calories come from fat) could result in heart disease
  • Counter: No study has proven this link. In fact, those who have followed it long-term do not have worsened cardiovascular outcomes.
  • The diet lacks micronutrients and fiber
  • Counter: If people approach the diet without proper education and support this definitely can be the case. However, if the diet is crafted carefully, the nutrients obtained from carbohydrates can be maximized and the types of fats can be tailored to promote healthy biometrics without large gaps in micronutrients. However, this can be a challenge and everyone should be taking a multivitamin

How to Follow the Diet

If you’re a purist, the keto diet is extremely strict. The carb limits are around 20-50g. per day. The level of carbs allowed will depend on the underlying reason for doing the diet. Most neurologic conditions will need to stay closer to the 20g per day while metabolic conditions may allow you to see benefits at the higher 50g limit.

The keto diet is very strict and often requires support of an expert before getting started. Always consult your physician before starting to see if you need some basic blood work prior to starting and to track your progress. Consider seeing a dietitian who specializes in keto during the early phases to ensure you are following the diet correctly.

What’s included?

  • Vegetables: **almost** everything (see below)
  • Fruit: berries
  • Grains: none
  • Dairy: Butter, heavy cream, sour cream, whole milk yogurt, cheese
  • Proteins: everything

What’s not included?

  • Vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, corn, mature peas
  • Fruit: everything else
  • Grains: everything
  • Dairy: Milk, ice cream, standard yogurts
  • Proteins: Breaded or carbohydrate-added products

Sample Meal Plan (source: everydayhealth.com)

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs in butter on a bed of lettuce topped with avocado
  • Snack: Sunflower seeds
  • Lunch: Spinach salad with grilled salmon
  • Snack: Celery and pepper strips dipped in guacamole
  • Dinner: Pork chop with cauliflower mash and red cabbage slaw

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Bulletproof coffee (made with butter and coconut oil), hard-boiled eggs
  • Snack: Macadamia nuts
  • Lunch: Tuna salad stuffed in tomatoes
  • Snack: Roast beef and sliced cheese roll-ups
  • Dinner: Meatballs on zucchini noodles, topped with cream sauce

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Cheese and veggie omelet topped with salsa
  • Snack: Plain, full-fat Greek yogurt topped with crushed pecans
  • Lunch: Sashimi takeout with miso soup
  • Snack: Smoothie made with almond milk, greens, almond butter, and protein powder
  • Dinner: Roasted chicken with asparagus and sautéed mushrooms

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned above, you should never take on a diet unless you think you can stick with it for the long game. This diet can be tricky as it cuts out whole food groups (often not recommended). There appear to be some metabolic benefits. If you are working with a trained health professional, this diet would be reasonable to try as there is evidence that if just following it intermittently can be helpful. The key is making sure you aren’t compensating by binging on carbs. If you are reflective in your eating habits and working with a professional it is possible you could try this diet on for size and see how things go!

Interested in Learning More?

  • Head over to charliefoundation.org to learn more about the benefits of the keto diet and how to get started.
  • Interested in getting started with a keto-trained dietitian? Head over to ketodietconsulting.com
    ***Special thanks to the owner, Sarah Jadin, MS, RD,CSP, CNCS for the great content included in this handout!***
  • Leave any questions or comments below or message me. I’ll happily respond with more information!

Want to share this?

Be sure to pass it along on social media below! Tag me @nutrition.health.life

Interested in sharing it the old fashioned way? The full handout that can be freely reproduced is available on my Google Drive – http://bit.ly/2lR0KfD.

4 thoughts on “Keto Diet 101

Add yours

    1. If it seems like a great that you should definitely give it a try. I can’t say enough how important it is to have someone experienced it alongside with you. It will help you stay on track but also find a realistic approach to diet so you don’t get caught in the weeds. What is your goal for doing the diet?

      1. Primarily improved cognition, but also being more efficient at burning fat and utilising it as an energy source. I heard this adaptation can occur after 12 weeks or so, even after reintroducing carbs.

      2. The research is definitely strongest for the cognitive benefits. I think there is still a lot that is unknown about how best to do the diet during the maintenance phase. It seems pretty reasonable to do it very strict for a few weeks followed by some re-introduction to see how you feel. Good luck! Let me know how it goes when you start!

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