3 Tweaks to the Traditional Ketogenic Diet

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

The ketogenic diet is very popular these days. It's a common weight-loss strategy, and many people use keto to get healthier overall. But is doing the traditional keto diet enough? I believe that the basics of eating low-carb, high-fat foods to get into ketosis doesn't quite cover all the bases. That's why I am going to share my top 3 tweaks to the traditional ketogenic diet. These additional guidelines will help you maximize the benefits of doing keto.

My three changes to the basic low-carb, high-fat keto diet approach can help you make the most of going keto. And they'll help you avoid common pitfalls that often occur when beginning the keto diet.

My top three tips for making the most of the ketogenic diet relate to a few basic principles.

  • Eat plenty of veggies (don't count them towards your carb limit!)
  • Try intermittent fasting (no snacking between meals!)
  • Make healthy fat choices (go for coconut oil, nuts, grass-fed proteins, and more!)

These are essential principles of my ketogenic diet plan. The Healthy KetoTM way of eating makes sure your low-carb, ketogenic lifestyle is a truly healthy one. So let's take a closer look at the top three adjustments I would make to the traditional keto rules.

#1. Don't count veggies towards your carbohydrate limit

Woman holding a plate of donuts and high-carb foods in one hand and a plate of vegetables in the other hand.

The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate diet.

Limiting carbs is important for keto because it means your body won't have access to carbohydrates and can't use glucose as fuel. Instead, the body will turn to fats as fuel, allowing you to lose weight and see health benefits. The state of burning fats as fuel is called ketosis. Learn more about ketosis here.

To stay in ketosis, the basic rule of thumb is to only eat 20-50 g of carbs daily while doing keto.

The problem with this guideline is that it does not differentiate between what kinds of carbohydrates you are eating.

Limiting high-carb foods such as chips, bagels, potatoes, sugary fruits, and donuts to 20-50 g a day is certainly a good thing and will help with weight loss. But what do you do about vegetables? Since they have carbs in them, do you have to limit them as well?

My answer is no.

Vegetables (even super nutrient-dense options like spinach, kale, bell peppers, or spring greens) all contain some carbohydrates. The good news is, eating vegetable carbohydrates will not stop ketosis. And it will not prevent weight loss.

In fact, sticking to the carb rule when it comes to vegetables can pose a major concern and make you less healthy while doing the ketogenic approach.

To get an idea of what 20-50 grams of carbohydrates in healthy vegetables looks like, take a look at the table below.

Vegetable 20 g of carbohydrates 50 g of carbohydrates
Spinach 2.5 cups 6.25 cups
Kale 1 cup 1.5 cups
Bell pepper 1 cup 2 cups
Spring greens 2.5 cups 6.25 cups

This means that if you were to eat only 1 cup of kale (a very small portion of this hearty veggie) you would have eaten your entire daily limit of carbs. That is, according to the 20-50 g of carbs rule.

This simply does not leave room for enough vegetables in your diet. If you count vegetables toward your low-carbohydrate limit, you will not get even close to enough of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy.

So, I recommend not counting vegetables towards your daily carbohydrate limit. You don't want to hold back with these healthy foods. If you do the ketogenic diet without vegetables, one of the side effects can be a fatty liver. Learn more about how this can happen here.

To be truly healthy, you want to keep your vegetable intake very high, at around 7-10 cups per day. It is hard to overeat when it comes to veggies.

So feel free to make a salad with several cups of kale, spinach, or spring greens. Chop up a bell pepper, too. Eat veggies with every meal on the ketogenic diet, if you can. Your body will thank you.

The bottom line:

  • Vegetables shouldn't count towards your daily carb limit on the ketogenic diet.
  • Eat plenty of veggies: 7-10 cups per day.
  • Understand that not all carbs are the same. Donuts, bagels, chips, and sugary foods should be avoided. But nutrient-dense vegetables should always play a starring role on your plate.

#2. Add in intermittent fasting to the ketogenic diet

FASTING written on an orange sticky note on top of an empty green plate.

The traditional approach to the ketogenic diet doesn't say anything about when to eat. It simply tells you to eat low-carb foods and to eat high-protein, high-fat meals.

While this is a good start, I believe that when we eat is just as important as what we eat.

My approach to the keto diet, Healthy KetoTM, incorporates intermittent fasting. Normal keto doesn't have this. It allows snacks, and it allows you to eat any time of day you want.

So why do fasting with the keto diet? Because of a basic physiological principle. Whenever you eat the food of any sort (whether it is fat, carb, or protein), Fat Storing Hormone is produced in the body.

Fat Storing Hormone is a hormone that prevents weight loss. It shuts down the fat-burning process. Overproduction of Fat Storing Hormone is also a risk factor for symptoms of Fat Storing Hormone resistance and pre-diabetes.

Even low-carb keto foods spike Fat Storing Hormone levels in the body. And Fat Storing Hormone stops ketosis and any benefits of it such as weight loss. This is why eating between meals can really get in the way of your ketogenic diet efforts.

It is why the no snacking rule on keto is so important.

To get most of the keto diet, you will want to eat less frequently and try intermittent fasting. This means only eating at meal times, and shortening the window of time during which you eat during the day.

To learn more about this pattern of eating and how to go about it, watch my video here.

The bottom line:

  • Try intermittent fasting.
  • Start by only eating at meals. Build up to shorter eating windows during the day.
  • Avoid snacking.
  • Keeping Fat Storing Hormone levels down can help you stay in ketosis, lose weight, and more.

#3. Opt for nutrient-dense fats on the keto diet

A selection of healthy fat sources like salmon, nuts, olive oil, and avocados

When people make the switch from low-fat diets to the high-fat ketogenic diet, it is easy to get confused with what to eat.

Unfortunately, the conventional approach to keto doesn't differentiate between what kinds of fats you should include in your diet. But in order to be as healthy as possible on the ketogenic diet, you will want to opt for nutrient-dense, healthy sources of fat.

That is why my third recommendation for fine-tuning the ketogenic diet relates to making healthy fat choices.

When you aren't careful about your fat choices, you may include harmful fats in your keto diet. For example, you may rely on heavy cream and dairy, produced with hormones and antibiotics. Basic keto doesn't tell you what kind of vegetable oils to cook with, either. So you may cook a lot with unhealthy options like soy oil or corn oil that are GMO and thus not a good option.

It is important to pick and choose when it comes to fats. Fortunately, there are many fats that are healthy and good for you.

Best healthy fats for the ketogenic diet

When choosing the fats to include in your keto diet, opt for:

  • fats naturally found in proteins (like grass-fed meats or dairy)
  • coconut oil
  • grass fed butter
  • olive oil
  • olives
  • avocados
  • nuts
  • nut butters
  • fish (wild caught)

The bottom line:

  • Be choosy about your fats. Not all fats are created equal.
  • Choose nutrient-dense fats that are good for you, like those listed above.
  • Avoid GMO vegetable oils, dairy with hormones or antibiotics, and other sources of unhealthy fats.

Dr. Berg's top 3 keto diet tweaks: a review

My Healthy KetoTM diet plan is all about a healthy approach to the keto diet. It's not about losing weight to get healthy, but rather getting healthy first and weight loss coming after as a result.

If you are doing the ketogenic lifestyle and trying to be in ketosis as much as possible, eating low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein meals is a great start. But you can take things even further and see even greater results with your health if you follow the three tips I outlined in this article.

To review:

  1. Don't limit vegetables. You should be getting 7-10 cups of vegetables per day. Vegetables should not count towards the 20-50 g of carbs per day rule.
  2. Do intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting allows you to keep your Fat Storing Hormone levels down and stay in ketosis. This helps with weight loss, Fat Storing Hormone resistance, blood sugar, prediabetes, and more. Skip snack time and eat only at meals. Learn more about this principle here.
  3. Include only healthy fat sources. Ditch harmful vegetable oils, hormone-loaded dairy, and other sources of unhealthy fats as part of your keto diet. Choose nutrient-dense forms instead, like fish, nuts, olive oil, and coconut oil.

These are three of the most important tweaks to keto, in my opinion. Try adding in these three approaches when starting the ketogenic diet, and you will see even greater health benefits.

What other tips do you have for making the keto lifestyle as healthy as possible? Have you tried any of the approaches listed above? What have your experiences been with making adjustments to the traditional keto diet? Share in the comments section below.

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