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Should You Count Calories on the Keto Diet?

Wondering Whether You Should Count Calories on the Keto Diet? We Asked the Experts

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If you've signed on to the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet, you already know what foods you need to avoid, but should you also limit your calories? To a certain extent, yes.

"Calorie-counting generally isn't necessary on the keto diet because its macronutrient composition — high fat, moderate protein, low carb — suppresses appetite, leading to a spontaneous decrease in calorie intake," Franziska Spritzler, RD, a certified diabetes educator in Huntington Beach, CA, told POPSUGAR. "This allows you to achieve a calorie deficit and lose weight without feeling hungry. However, not everyone experiences the keto diet's appetite-suppressing effect, and it's entirely possible to eat more calories than needed for weight loss."

Desiree Nielsen, RD, author of Un-Junk Your Diet, agreed, noting that even when eating a well-formulated ketogenic diet, if your goal is weight loss, you do need to pay attention to calories. "A ketogenic diet will shift you to burning fat for energy, but if you are eating enough fat, your body won't need to liberate its own fat stores to do so," she said.

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Nielsen suggests working with a registered dietitian at the outset to develop a meal plan based on your energy needs; this will ensure that you hit your macros without stressing about calories. Then, if your weight-loss stalls, you can talk to your dietitian about shaving off another 100 to 200 calories of fat from your day. "In weight loss, you typically don't want to reduce your protein intake too much as it is necessary to maintain your lean muscle mass," she said.

Spritzler also recommends tracking your calories and macros if you've been following the keto diet for several weeks but aren't losing weight. "There are many food diary apps available, including MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, SparkPeople, and KetoDiet Buddy," she said.

If your goal is to improve your overall well-being, rather than lose weight, Nielsen suggests focusing more on the quality of your food than calories: "A truly healthy ketogenic diet means getting enough low-carb vegetables and plenty of healthy plant fats from olives, avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil."

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