Calorie Counting: Don't Bother

Calorie counting is not really necessary on a ketogenic diet. As long as you keep your carbohydrate intake super low, and your protein intake moderate, you shouldn't have to worry about calories.

Why? A ketogenic diet is very satisfying, and after you adapt, you'll find you just aren't as hungry as you were when you ate lots of carbohydrates.

Ketones have a damping affect on the appetite, and most people spontaneously reduce their food intake when they eat a high fat diet.

However, if you want to track your calorie intake, you can. It also might be a nice exercise to figure out if you are sticking to the goal of about 70% of calories from fat, about 20% from protein, and under 10% from carbohydrate.

To track your food values and intakes, you can use the free database at the USDA website, or pick up a food counter book that gives you the calorie, carb, fat and protein counts in common foods. Or you can buy a piece of software like Fitday or an online calorie counting service to help you keep track.

Here's an example on how to do it.

Let's say you set your total calorie intake for the day to be 1500. This is how you would calculate how many grams of fat, carb and protein to eat:

  • 1500 x .70 = 1050 calories from fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram = 1050/9 = 116.5 grams of fat. (Reference: 1 tablespoon of butter has 11 grams of fat.)
  • 1500 x .20 = 300 calories from protein. Protein has 4 calories per gram, = 300/4 = 75 grams of protein. (Reference: an ounce of meat has 7 grams of protein).
  • 1500 x .10 = 150 calories from carbs. Carbs have 4 calories per gram, = 150/4 = 38 grams of carb. (Reference: 1 slice bread has 25 grams of carb.)

Here's an example of breakfast on a ketogenic diet, and how the percentages get calculated:

Food Carb grams Carb Calories Fat grams Fat calories Protein grams Protein calories Total calories
2 eggs 2 8 10 90 12 48 146
1 tablespoon butter 0   12 108 0   108
Totals 2 8 22 198 12 48 254

Percentages: nutrient calories divided by total calories

  3% (8/254)   78% (198/254)   19% (48/254)  

This kind of calorie counting seems really difficult at first, but it's actually easier than it seems.

Short version: Assuming a calorie intake of 2000 per day, your main goals are:

  • Counting carbs religiously, and keeping your carb intake in the ketogenic range (20-45) per day).
  • Eat enough protein containing foods (meat, fish or chicken) to satisfy. A general measure is the 20% of calories, which would be about 14 ounces per day on a 2000 calorie plan. However, if you find yourself craving protein, eat more protein containing foods.
  • Fill in the rest of your calories with fats and salad vegetables like lettuce and cucumbers.

Of course, if you are eating more calories, these numbers will increase accordingly.

Because your carb count is so low on a ketogenic diet, you have to limit the higher sugar vegetables (squash, peppers, tomatoes) and fruits. And of course, any product made with flour or sugar is totally out.

Calorie counting can be helpful, but it's really not necessary. If you wondering what foods are best to eat, see this low carb food list for examples of the foods which are allowed on a ketogenic diet plan.

Done with Calorie Counting, back to Ketogenic Diet Plan