The Keto diet seems simple. You just keep carbs low and fat high.
It’s so simple a caveman could do it. And they most certainly did.
But Keto success in modern society requires more strategy and nuance. Without this nuance, Keto mistakes happen.
If you’re struggling on Keto—or know somebody who is—it’s probably a simple fix. But before you can fix a problem, you have to identify it.
That’s what this article is for: To identify the most common Keto mistakes so you can prevent them.
#1: Too Many Carbs
The cardinal rule of the Keto diet is to keep carbohydrates low. Keeping carbs low keeps blood sugar low, which keeps the hormone insulin low, which allows your cells to access and burn stored body fat.[*]
But if you aren’t careful, hidden carbs can sneak into your Keto diet. You’ll find them in salad dressings, soups, sauces, and even shellfish.
If these carbs exceed 10% of your daily calories—closer to 5% for some—you won’t switch your metabolic machinery to fat-burning mode. You won’t enter ketosis.
The solution: Read labels carefully and log your meals with the Carb Manager app to ensure you’re not overdoing carbs.
#2: Too Much Fat, Not Enough Protein
A lot of people have the wrong idea about the term “high fat”. They think it means you should load up on cream, butter, and ghee like you’re prepping for a butter-churning festival.
But while most of your Keto calories will come from fat (55-70%), at least half of your Keto plate should be filled with protein.
Why? Because protein—the essential macronutrient for building muscle, synthesizing hormones, and healing wounds—contains 4 calories per gram. Fat contains 9.
This means that a Keto meal of 60% fat and 30% protein will have more protein grams than fat grams. Many people miss this nuance and end up with inadequate protein to support body recomposition.
The solution: Use a macro tracker like Carb Manager to calibrate your Keto meals to have enough protein.
#3: Vegetable Oils
You’ve probably heard the term dirty Keto. It describes a Keto diet high in inflammatory vegetable oils and low in actual vegetables.
The problem with vegetable oils is that they’re high in a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) called linoleic acid. It turns out that consuming lots of linoleic acid creates inflammatory conditions that lead to fat storage.
Researchers, in fact, have linked excess linoleic acid consumption (especially from soybean oil) to the American obesity epidemic.[*]
To make matters worse, high-PUFA vegetable oils are vulnerable to high heats. When cooked, they form compounds called oxidized lipids that are believed to accelerate the progression of heart disease.[*]
The solution: Minimize consumption of soybean oil, safflower oil and the rest of the veggie oil gang—and focus on healthy Keto fats like extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, and butter.
#4: Neglecting Low-Carb Vegetables
The other hallmark of dirty Keto is the absence of non-starchy vegetables. Picture a plate of processed bacon sizzled in sunflower oil with nothing green in sight.
Vegetables are a rich source of micronutrients hard to find elsewhere. Spinach, for instance, is high in vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, and magnesium.
Even if you supplement, you’ll miss out on the unique array of beneficial phytonutrients found in plants.[*] You can’t get these anywhere else.
The solution: Fill your Keto plate with low-carb veggies like kale, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, chard, lettuce, and cabbage.
#5: Inadequate Electrolytes
Most sources recommend drinking more water on Keto. This isn’t bad advice, since restricting carbs has a diuretic effect.[*] You lose more fluids through urine.
But you also lose more electrolytes like sodium and potassium. And if these minerals aren’t replaced along with fluids, deficiencies can result.
The symptoms of electrolyte deficiencies include headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, confusion, and insomnia. Sounds a lot like Keto flu, doesn’t it?
Keto folks have multiple forces pushing them towards electrolyte deficiency:
- Increased electrolyte loss through urine.[*]
- Decreased sodium intake because whole foods don’t contain much sodium.
- Decreased potassium intake because potassium-rich foods like fruits and root vegetables aren’t low-carb.
- A tendency to over-hydrate, which can dilute blood sodium levels.[*]
The solution: Eat electrolyte-rich foods like leafy greens, salt your meals vigorously, and consider taking an electrolyte supplement if necessary.
Dairy can be Keto-friendly, but there are two potential problems with consuming milk products on Keto:
- The dairy product isn’t, in fact, Keto-friendly
- You can’t tolerate dairy
First of all, not all dairy is high in fat and low in carbs. Just visit the dairy aisle of any supermarket and you’ll find a cornucopia of sugary yogurts, low fat chocolate milks, and flavored creamers. These foods will not support your Keto health goals.
The second problem is tolerance. Many people have trouble digesting milk sugar (lactose), milk protein (casein and whey), or both. If this sounds like you, consider eliminating dairy entirely.
The solution: If you can tolerate dairy, lean towards high-fat options like whole milk, cheese, and butter.
#7: Chasing Ketones
When you eat a Keto diet, your body produces ketones to fuel your brain and body.[*] You can measure ketones in the blood, breath, and urine. (Carb Manager integrates with the BIOSENSE® breath ketone meter and the Keto-Mojo blood ketone meter).
Many people obsess over maximizing ketone levels. It becomes the sole focus of their Keto diet.
But while it’s useful to do an occasional spot check, Ketone levels aren’t everything. In fact, a drop in ketones may suggest enhanced Keto-adaptation. It might mean your body is using ketones more efficiently.
Higher ketones aren’t necessarily better. Something to keep in mind.
The solution. Instead of chasing ketones, focus on why you went Keto in the first place: to lose fat, improve energy, feel sharper, etc. These are the metrics to track.
#8: Obsessing Over The Scale
If you’re trying to lose weight on Keto, it’s wise to weigh yourself occasionally. But “scale weight” doesn’t always tell the whole story. And weighing yourself obsessively is a mistake.
The first thing to understand is that weight loss is distinct from fat loss. You might be losing fat and gaining muscle—and the number on the scale could go up! (Pro tip: A DXA body scan is an accurate way to measure body composition.)[*]
Also, early Keto weight loss is mostly water, not fat. Losing fat is a more gradual process, so don’t expect the pace to continue.
Finally, if you constantly weigh yourself, you’ll often see a number you don’t like. This will make you feel bad, outweighing any positive feelings from earlier.
Negatives carry more force than positives. That’s just human psychology for you.
The solution: Weigh yourself once a week upon waking, and remember the above points if you don’t like what you see.
#9: Eating Too Many Keto Sweets/Snacks
Loading up on Keto-friendly sweets and treats may appear like a harmless way to curb your carb cravings. However, even low-carb cookies can be loaded with calories, and the urge to graze continually may ultimately hinder your progress and prevent you from reaching your health and weight loss goals.
The solution. Make sweets and snacks an occasional indulgence rather than a regular part of your routine. If you have a sweet tooth and are looking for a low-calorie option, this Keto Coffee and Cream Granita makes a deliciously refreshing treat.
#10: Not Considering Food Quality
If you are not seeing the result you hoped for or are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms such as dehydration, digestive discomfort and skin breakouts, consider the quality of your food sources.
If your ultimate goal is to attain vibrant health and maintain weight loss, dirty Keto is probably not the way to go. This style of eating may well keep you in ketosis, but the lack of nutrients and overall dietary diversity comes with its downsides.
To optimize the benefits of your Keto diet, ensure a wide range of low carb, nutrient-dense whole and unprocessed foods.
The solution. Opt for organic vegetables and low-carb fruits where possible. Choose grass-fed animal products, high-quality, healthy fats, nuts and seeds.
#11: Failing to Prepare
As the saying goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” If you are new to your Keto journey, the key to success is in planning.
Make meal prepping and batch cooking part of your weekly routine to free up time and help you stay on track. Having lunch and dinner ready to go means you are less likely to panic buy a takeout or reach for a gas station snack.
The solution. Check out our handy guide to easy Keto for some top tips on simplifying your Keto life.
#12: Not Consuming Enough Fiber
Fiber-rich and high carb are two terms that often go hand in hand. This can make it challenging to obtain enough roughage on a low-carb diet. However, with some careful planning, you can still meet your fiber needs with a healthy and balanced Keto diet.
Fiber is found in plant-based foods and comes in two forms - soluble and insoluble. Both types are touted to offer a range of potential health benefits, including weight loss, supporting a healthy digestive system, and they may even protect against diabetes[*][*][*]
The solution. If you are struggling with constipation or sluggish digestion after transitioning to Keto, you may want to consider upping your intake of these low-carb fiber-rich foods: cruciferous vegetables, chia seeds, psyllium husk, nuts, avocados and low-carb berries.
Preventing Keto Mistakes
Did we cover every possible Keto mistake? Of course not.
But get these areas handled and you’ll be in a great position to succeed with low-carb living.
And remember that while Keto is a relatively simple diet, it does require some nuance. Refer back to this blog post whenever you want a refresher.