While the keto diet can be extremely effective for some people in achieving weight loss and other health goals, there are a number of ways that it can go very wrong. While a simple concept at the surface, the keto diet requires careful planning and execution to be successful.
No one intends to make mistakes on a keto diet, and as with any diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist before making any drastic changes. Wondering if you’re doing your keto diet correctly? Here are the most common mistakes people often make when doing keto.
9 Mistakes People Make on Keto
1. Not Tracking Macronutrients
The ketogenic diet requires careful tracking of macronutrients, especially carbohydrates, to ensure that the body enters and stays in a state of ketosis. Most individuals will aim to consume 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day. This isn’t very much, and if you aren’t tracking your carbs you might be exceeding that threshold. For perspective, 1 banana can have around 30 grams of carbs!
2. Ignoring Micronutrients
Vitamins and minerals are crucial, and getting an adequate amount of them depends on eating a variety of foods. The keto diet, with its heavy emphasis on fats, can easily start to lack in some of those key micronutrient-rich foods. Including some fruits and veggies as carb sources can help mitigate this problem. A dietary supplement may be beneficial for some people struggling to meet their needs with the restrictions of a keto diet.
3. Not Staying Hydrated
Dehydration can be a common issue on the keto diet, especially during the initial phase when the body sheds water weight. It's important to drink plenty of water and replenish electrolytes, as ketosis can lead to increased excretion of electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. 
An electrolyte imbalance can lead to symptoms like muscle cramping, fatigue, headaches, dizziness and nausea. This is commonly referred to as the “keto flu.” The simplest solution is to increase your electrolyte intake through either supplements or electrolyte rich foods like pickles, avocados, nuts and seeds.
4. Not Adjusting to Individual Needs
Staying in ketosis requires a different amount of carbohydrates for everyone. If you’re just going off of general guidelines, you may be over or under fueling with carbohydrates. Individual needs will depend on a number of factors to include age, sex, and physical activity. The keto diet should be adjusted based on your own needs and responses.
5. Low Fiber Intake
The keto diet is notorious for neglecting dietary fiber, which is essential for digestive health. While the keto diet is low in carbohydrates, it's important to include non-starchy vegetables to ensure an adequate fiber intake. While vegetables contain carbohydrates, non-starchy vegetables are very low in them and provide a huge amount of fiber and micronutrients. You need some carbs, and choosing where you get them might make or break your diet.
6. Too Many Processed Keto Products
With the increase in popularity of the keto diet, there are now a wide range of convenience products on the market designed to be keto friendly. While bars and shakes lessen the burden of meal and snack preparation, they may not always provide the same nutritional benefits as whole, natural foods.
These foods often contain some carbs, and even a few grams here and there can add up. The best thing to do is check the label so you know what nutrients and ingredients you’re getting, and limit the overall consumption of processed foods.
7. Lack of Planning
Planning and preparation is vital to success on a keto diet. People may struggle if they don't have keto-friendly options readily available, leading to poor food choices. It doesn't take much to derail your whole diet and land you back at square one. Meal prep isn’t one size fits all, but at a minimum most people find greater success having a general plan for each meal and ready-made snacks to grab in a pinch.
8. Eating Too Many Calories
While the keto diet can be effective for weight loss, consuming excessive calories of any kind can still lead to weight gain. A keto diet is mainly fat, and fat is more energy dense than other macronutrients. For example, 1 gram of fat is 9 calories, whereas 1 gram of carbohydrates or protein are each only 4 calories per gram. It's important to be mindful of overall calorie intake and make sure it is aligning with your individual energy needs.
Likewise, you should probably be eating more than an egg for breakfast. Eating too few calories can have detrimental effects on weight loss and overall health. You may be over restricting on a keto diet for fear of falling out of ketosis, or to seemingly speed up your weight loss. While you may initially see results, your body will begin to go into starvation mode and hold on to everything it can. This will lead to decreased basal metabolic rate (BMR) and weight loss plateau.
9. Not Listening to the Body
Everyone is different in how they respond to a keto diet, and it is important to take note. A keto diet may not be right for everyone. While those “keto flu” symptoms should go away fairly quickly, prolonged symptoms and side effects can be a red flag. Listen to your body and start assessing what may be causing your symptoms. If you haven't already, now's the time to check in with your healthcare professional for help.
As with any diet, it's essential to approach the ketogenic diet with awareness, balance, and consideration for individual needs. While there are some common keto fails, most of them have a pretty easy fix. Just because you are making some of these mistakes doesnt mean a keto diet can't be right for you.
Preventing Common Mistakes on Keto
One of the easiest ways to keep several of these common mistakes in check is to use a food tracker. Logging everything you eat, especially at the beginning of your diet, can help you keep track of calories, macros, and micros. It can also help ensure you’re getting enough fiber and make it easier to identify gaps in your nutrition.
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Keto Diet Checklist
Along with food tracking, following a few easy steps can help ensure that you’re on the right track with your keto diet.
Before you start
- Talk with your healthcare professional to see if the keto diet is right for you
- Assess your daily energy needs
- Assess your recommended daily macros
After you start
- Track your calories and macros, at least for a few days, to make sure you’re hitting your targets
- Include lots of high fiber, low carb foods such as non-starchy veggies and even some fruits.
- Keep up on the water intake!
- Eat electrolyte rich foods like leafy greens, olives, nuts and avocado.
- Plan your meals ahead and keep keto-friendly snacks on hand
- Prioritize whole foods
While there are no guarantees, sticking to these major steps when following a keto diet is likely to maximize your results. Listening to your body and following the guidance of a healthcare and/or nutrition professional is key. Approaching your keto diet with awareness of these common pitfalls should help you feel more confident and successful in your efforts.