The ketogenic diet, known as “keto” for short, has exploded in popularity thanks to its quick weight loss results. Many people turn to this low-carb, high-fat dietary plan to aid in weight loss by forcing their body into ketosis, a state where you burn fat instead of glucose for energy.
(Here’s everything you need to know about the science behind keto diet.)
However, the keto diet isn’t exactly the most balanced approach to weight loss, and many people regain weight if they’re not eating the right foods — or are making common keto diet mistakes. Like many highly restrictive diets, affordability, convenience and long-term sustainability are the biggest roadblocks to maintaining ketosis.
Here are six of the most common keto diet mistakes and how you can avoid them by making healthier choices. Regardless of which diet you’re following, all of these tips can help support your weight loss efforts.
Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before beginning a weight loss program.
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Mistake #1: You’re skimping on vegetables.
A diet that encourages eating high-fat, protein-rich foods means enjoying all of the cheese, bacon and butter you want, right? Unfortunately, this myth is too good to be true. When you’re following the keto diet, you have to make even more of an effort to get low-carb vegetables into your diet. Folate, selenium and vitamin C are just some of the nutrients that you might become deficient in if you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and many non-starchy vegetables are loaded with these essential nutrients.1
The fix: Focus on integrating at least one vegetable at each meal. Non-starchy vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, kale, bell peppers and Brussels sprouts are low in carbs and rich in many other essential nutrients — not to mention fiber. Throw some chopped onions and spinach into your morning scrambled eggs; have a poke bowl loaded with chopped cabbage and cucumber slices for lunch; and complement your chicken dinner with a side of steamed broccoli or zucchini. This just isn’t a great keto diet tip, it’s also beneficial for anyone trying to lose weight and boost their health.
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Mistake #2: You’re eating too many calories.
Unfortunately, just because you’re on a high-fat diet doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want and still lose weight. Enjoying smart portion sizes is key to your weight loss success. Foods like steak, cheese and butter tend to be calorie-dense and can add up quickly. There currently isn’t much guidance about the recommended daily calorie intake for the keto diet — most advice centers on macronutrient breakdowns and how to limit carbs — which can make it difficult for dieters to manage their calorie consumption.
How many calories a day do you need to lose weight? Our R.D. explains.
The fix: It’s difficult to know just how much you’re eating when you make such a drastic shift to your diet, so start by using a food journal or calorie calculator to track your daily calories. This portion size guide can also help. Once you have a grasp of what foods are providing the most calories, you’ll be able to wing it a bit more. Focus on fiber-rich, non-starchy vegetables, which are filling and nutritious, and portion out fatty, calorie-dense foods like nuts and oils so you don’t mindlessly eat and overdo it.
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Mistake #3: You’re not focusing on quality foods.
Just because it’s labeled keto-friendly doesn’t mean it’s quality food. Bacon, butter, heavy cream and cheese are all on the list of keto-approved foods, but they’re loaded with sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat, and aren’t very nutritious. If you’re building an entire nutrition plan around low-quality, empty-calorie foods, you could be setting yourself up for vitamin deficiencies and potential heart problems down the line.
The fix: As always, fiber-rich vegetables are the key to remedying this keto mistake and you should aim to have at least one portion at every meal. When it comes to protein, limit low-quality proteins like fatty cuts of red meat and opt for higher quality foods packed with healthy fats like salmon, avocado, eggs and cottage cheese.
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Mistake #4: You’re not drinking enough water.
Many Americans simply aren’t drinking enough water. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately half aren’t drinking the recommended amount of water per day.2 Those on the keto diet in particular need to be cognizant of staying hydrated as dehydration can be a side effect of ketosis.3
The fix: Make a concerted effort to drink water throughout the day, especially if you’re active or live in a warm climate. Experts recommend drinking a minimum of eight, 8-ounce glasses a day. To help you stay hydrated, try to drink a glass of water before your each meal, which might also help prevent overeating.
Foods can be hydrating, too! Check out the best foods for hydration.
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Mistake #5: You’re eating foods with too much added sugar.
You’ve increased your fat and protein intake and drastically slashed carbs, but you’re not losing weight. What gives? You might be mistakenly eating hidden sugar. Many savory foods that seem to fit the keto diet are hiding sugar stowaways. The biggest culprits? Tomato sauce, nut butter, salad dressing, salsa, coleslaw and almost all condiments.
The fix: When buying anything prepackaged from the grocery store, be sure to read the label. One tablespoon of ketchup is packed with 4 grams of sugar while a 1-cup serving of tomato sauce has a whopping 12 grams.4,5 When dining out, educate yourself on the biggest hidden sugar offenders. Avoid premade condiments, dressings and sauces, and opt instead for balsamic vinegar and olive oil to dress salads and blend your own sugar-free ketchup and tomato sauce.
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Mistake #6: You’re going it alone.
Like any diet or rigorous training plan, a strong community and solid support system are crucial. Because the keto diet can be so restrictive, having a medical or nutrition professional monitor your diet and give you guidance can be beneficial to avoid potential nutrient deficiencies and adverse side effects.
Furthermore, studies have found that making healthy changes to your lifestyle can have an almost contagious effect on your significant other and your social group.6 And support systems, even in the form of apps, increased the likelihood of adhering to a diet or fitness plan, particularly further down the line when maintenance became key.7
The fix: Find your community. Whether you partner up with your spouse or a friend, find like-minded people to help keep you on track and provide the necessary guidance. Today, finding support is easier than ever thanks to the internet. Connect on community forums, social media, or with a Jenny Craig dedicated weight loss coach. A personalized coach takes all the guesswork out of designing your nutrition plan — we’ll create a program specifically tailored to you! On top of that, you’ll receive one-on-one coaching, ongoing support, and be able to adjust your strategy to ensure you’re always making progress toward your goals.
If you're making one of a few of these common keto mistakes, don't fret. There are healthy ways to reach your goals. Learn more about how Jenny Craig can help you reach your weight loss goals by booking an appointment with a weight loss coach today.
Elizabeth has been a writer and editor for over 15 years. Over the course of her career, she has written for a variety of publications in lifestyle, celebrity entertainment and tech, but her biggest passion is in the fitness, nutrition and wellness space. She spends the majority of her free time rock climbing, making ceramics, experimenting with new dishes and exploring the outdoors. Her writing has appeared in Men's Journal, Us Weekly, Muscle & Fitness and HuffPost.
Favorite healthy snack: popcorn with nutritional yeast
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
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