Written by: Megan Rose, RDN, LDN
You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz around the ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet. Many individuals have seen rapid weight loss with this approach to eating, but what is the keto diet? What are some things to consider when following it? And is it really the best diet out there? Let’s dive into these questions.
Like every diet out there, there’s plenty of rules that go along with the keto diet – maybe more so than others.
Fat and protein are the main sources of fuel on the keto diet with fat making up 65-75% of calories and protein making up 15-20%. The best fats to focus on are olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, nut butters, nuts and seeds, avocado, butter, and cream cheese. The best protein choices to incorporate are seafood, poultry, grass-fed meats, cheese, and cottage cheese.
The keto diet is considered a very low carb diet with carbs making up less than 5% of calories. Foods not permitted due to carb content are grains, fruit, starchy vegetables and legumes. Berries are an exception since they contain a lower amount of carbohydrates, but portion control is still key. Keto focuses on non-starchy veggies with little to no carbohydrates and will be important to eat throughout the day to promote fullness, fiber, vitamin and mineral intake. Non-starchy vegetables allowed are asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, greens, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, leeks, onion, mushrooms, peppers, spaghetti squash, and tomatoes.
Things to Consider
If you choose to follow the keto diet, there are some things to consider before you start.
Fiber: Many individuals following this diet struggle to meet their fiber needs due to the lack of grains, beans, and fruits. Fiber promotes regularity and better heart health. Focus on eating non-starchy vegetables through the day to help reach your fiber needs. A fiber supplement can help, but it’s much better and more effective to get fiber from whole foods. The general recommendation for fiber is 25 g/day for women and 38 g/day for men.
Water: Adequate hydration is really important, especially when following a restrictive diet, such as keto. Water helps keep you fuller longer, boosts metabolism, and can help keep you regular.
Micronutrients: Since you’re cutting out whole food groups, this can make it hard to meet your vitamin and mineral needs. A good multi-vitamin with minerals supplement is recommended to be sure you’re not becoming deficient in any of these essential nutrients.
Think Long-term: When considering any diet, it’s important to look at the long-term pros and cons of the diet. Is this something I could follow for the rest of my life or would it be a short-term solution? If it is short-term, what will be my approach to maintaining the weight once I’ve reached my goal?
When researchers have studied diets long-term, and that means any diet, they’ve found that most individuals end up gaining the weight back, and sometimes more. So, it’s important to consider if you should go on a diet at all, and if you do, what your lifestyle will look like once it’s over.
What’s the solution to long-term weight loss, if diets aren’t the answer? Small, sustainable choices, every day. We all have changes we’d like to make and if you’re motivated to see change long-term, it’s best to choose one or two of those changes and implement them slowly. It’s those daily choices that add over time. If the keto diet is still something you’d like to try, consider approaching it as a change in mindset and long-term lifestyle, and not a quick fix for weight loss.