If carbohydrates—either processed packaged sweets or nutritious whole foods—are your jam, the ketogenic diet will, at best, take some getting used to. And at worst, it could be a total nonstarter. The diet will necessarily steer you away from foods that have added sugar, are calorically dense, and don’t offer much in the way of nutrition, like cookies, cakes, white bread, sugary cereals, fries, chips, crackers, and sugary drinks, which are all high in carbohydrates. (It's important to keep in mind that it's not necessary to totally avoid all processed carbs; healthy, balanced diets can in fact include processed foods and sweets). On the other hand, the diet also creates an unneeded aversion to nutritious foods that are also high in carbohydrates, like fruit, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, beans, lentils, and whole grains.
Of course, one of the biggest benefits of the keto diet—aside from the weight-loss results many see—is the creativity reboot it can give your meals. A lot of healthy foods are banned because of their high carb count, so following the keto diet forced me to experiment with other ingredients, like cauliflower rice and tuna. Since I'm a creature of habit during the day, dinner was the time to play, and the recipes that Green Chef delivered really pushed my husband and me out of our comfort zones. One of our favorite discoveries? Shirataki noodles, a zero-carb Japanese noodle made from yam husks. They work perfectly as a pasta alternative. We enjoyed them in this Pasta with Italian Sausage recipe, but since the noodles easily take on the flavor of the ingredients they're paired with, you could sub them into any favorite pasta dish.
Josh Axe, a doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist, estimates that about 25% of people who try a ketogenic diet experience these symptoms, with fatigue being the most common. “That happens because your body runs out of sugar to burn for energy, and it has to start using fat,” he says. “That transition alone is enough to make your body feel tired for a few days.”
Implementing the diet can present difficulties for caregivers and the patient due to the time commitment involved in measuring and planning meals. Since any unplanned eating can potentially break the nutritional balance required, some people find the discipline needed to maintain the diet challenging and unpleasant. Some people terminate the diet or switch to a less demanding diet, like the modified Atkins diet (MAD) or the low-glycaemic index treatment (LGIT) diet, because they find the difficulties too great.
Take a multivitamin. “Because you are removing grains, the majority of fruit, some vegetables, and a significant amount of dairy from your menu, a multivitamin is good insurance against any micronutrient deficiencies,” says Jadin. Depending on what your individual overall diet looks like, Jadin says you might also need to add a calcium, vitamin D, and potassium supplement.
Advocates for the diet recommend that it be seriously considered after two medications have failed, as the chance of other drugs succeeding is only 10%. The diet can be considered earlier for some epilepsy and genetic syndromes where it has shown particular usefulness. These include Dravet syndrome, infantile spasms, myoclonic-astatic epilepsy and tuberous sclerosis complex.
If you’ve decided to move forward in trying the keto diet, you will want to stick to the parameters of the eating plan. Roughly 60 to 80 percent of your calories will come from fats. That means you’ll eat meats, fats, and oils, and a very limited amount of nonstarchy vegetables, she says. (This is different from a traditional low-carb diet, as even fewer carbs are allowed on the keto diet.)