Keto vs Low Carb Diets: What's The Difference? -PeakCodex
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Keto vs Low Carb Diet

9th August 2019
sausage and eggs

What is a low carb diet?

A normal diet consists of anywhere between 200-400g of carbohydrates in a day. Foods like fruit, vegetables, grains (wheat, rice ect) and legumes (beans, lentils ect) are made up mainly of sugars, starches and fibers; otherwise known as carbohydrates.

On the other hand a low carb diet contains between 50-100g of carbohydrates in a day.

Low carb is a general term which can include a lot of variations. There are low carb paleo diets, low carb carnivore diets, low carb mediterrean diets and low carb vegetarian diets. The ketogenic diet is also a kind of low carb diet.

Most diets can essentially be turned into a low carb diet by simply eating less carbohydrates.

A low carb diet is one where individuals restrict the amount of daily carbohydrates in a diet to be between 50-100g which is much lower than in a standard diet.

What is a ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is a type of low carb diet in which the goal is to burn ketones for energy instead of glucose. The body will go into ketosis when glucogen (sugar) storages are depleted which triggers a chemical process to turn fat into ketones.

A keto diet is composed of the following macronutrients:

  • 5%-10% carbohydrates (20-30g )
  • 65%-75% fat
  • 20%-25% protein

While the focus is generally on counting carbohydrates, the only macronutrient that needs to be achieved is the amount of protein. This is the only goal you should strive to have daily. The carbohydrate and fat are merely upperlimits and not goals to be met.


The goal in a ketogenic diet is to use ketones for energy instead of sugar. Ketosis does not happen in a general low carb diet.

Definitions:

  • Net carb = the total number of carbohydrates in a whole food not including fiber.
  • Macros= short for macronutrient, or the carbs, protein and fat that make up food
Plate with salmon egg and kale

What can foods make up the diets?

The same kinds of foods can be eaten on both diets. Neither diet restricts or prohibits any food or ingredient. This means neither diet is strictly gluten-free or paleo.

On a ketogenic diet it is extremely challenging to eat any kind of grain products, higher carbohydrate vegetables such as potatoes, beans and sweet potatoes and stay in ketosis. However these foods can be eaten in moderation on a general low carb diet.

Notes

  1. No rules on what you can eat as long as you stay within the right carbohydrates.
  2. Most people on these diets find it is easier to stay within carbohydrate limits while avoiding all grains.
  3. Both the ketogenic diet and low carb diet are great options for those wanting to go gluten-free.

Which is easier in practice: low carb vs keto diet?

On a general low carb diet individuals focus on loosely tracking their carbohydrate intake. A low carb diet is more forgiving with the types of food you are able to consume and less tracking and monitoring is involved.

The keto diet is based on consuming a strict number of carbohydrates and adequate amounts of fat and protein. Beginners especially need to track the correct amount of every ingredient they eat. This is a time consuming task and it's not easy to learn to eat intuitively without tracking food intake. However, premade meal plans can help beginners navigate their keto journey.

While it can be argued that the ketogenic diet is harder compared to a low carb diet because it’s more restrictive and requires more tracking, both of these diets require you to change your eating habits and to be mindful of what you are eating.


Tracking ingredients and foods is more important on a ketogenic diet than on a general low carb diet.

Which diet is easier to follow longterm?

There is nothing wrong with trying a diet for a short while. Not every diet is right for your body and lifestyle.

Both diets can be easily followed long term and making them a consistent part of your life. It all depends on your short and long term goals and whether you feeling good on a diet.

If you are feeling great on a ketogenic diet, getting results and enjoy counting macros and measuring ketones the diet is probably a good fit for you. On the other hand if you don't notice a significant difference compared to a low carbohydrate diet, there is no real benefit in following a ketogenic diet.

Experimenting with different diets allows you to gain significant insight into your body and wellness

Blue corn in a cob

Measuring ketones

Ketones are present in the blood either on very low carb or during fasting. They are a great biomarker to test for in order to determine if an individual is in ketosis. There are cheap blood prick tests available for this purpose.

However a ketogenic diet can be followed without testing blood ketones. The benefit of measuring ketones is to figure out if the amount of carbs you are eating is low enough to induce ketosis. Without measuring these ketones you will not have this insight.

On a low carb diet there is no need to measure ketones since the diet isn’t low carb enough to promote ketosis.

Testing for blood ketones provides great feedback about your diet and is the biggest difference between the low carb diet and a ketogenic diet

Can you eat in restaurants on both diets?

Eating out is easier on a low carb diet because the carb allowance is so much higher. You’ll be able to eat a larger array of meals in restaurants.

Eating out on a ketogenic diet is slightly trickier but entirely achievable. In certain cases you may have to ask to remove or substitute ingredients in meals. Unless you are at a pasta or pizza restaurant there should be options for the ketogenic diet. A steak with vegetables or salad are great options.

You can eat out in restaurants on both diets with some modifications to meals.

Which diet is more nutritious?

No diet that exists is inherently healthy and every diet can be done in a poor, un-nutritious way. How healthy a diet is is entirely depended on what food choices are being made.
Since both the ketogenic and low carb diet require awareness of food choices they can both be healthy and nutritious quite easily.

It is easier to hit all those target micronutrients on a low carb diet because you are able to eat more variety of foods. Sweet potatoes, lentis and beans are high in vitamins and minerals which paired with high nutrition foods like eggs, dairy, fats and meat made a very complete diet.

Generally it is harder to achieve the RDA’s of potassium, magnesium and calcium on a ketogenic diet. It is recommended to track daily nutrition intake to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Since users already track their macronutrients it is easy to track the micronutrients as well.

Making sure all essential micronutrients are achieved should be part of every diet.

carrots, onion and mushrooms diced on a chopping board

Which is cheaper to follow?

Carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and rice are cheap and filling. When you’ve chosen to eliminate cheap high carb ingredients from your diet it might mean that your grocery cost might be different.

There is no definite answer to which diet costs more as it is entirely dependent on what you eat. Both diets can be affordable. We've calculated the cost in our meal plans and found that an organic ketogenic diet with expensive produce such as salmon and steak averages at around $5 per meal.

However, generally maybe a low carb diet is cheaper than a keto diet as you can substitute more starchy cheap vegetables for energy which you can’t do on a keto diet.

If you don’t buy premade keto or low carb approved snacks, protein bars meals, and instead focus on vegetables, eggs, cheese, butter, olive oil and different meat your grocery bill will be manageable.

There is no need to buy luxury cuts of meat like tenderloin or filet mignon. With a slow cooker even the most underrated cuts of meat will melt in your mouth.

Avoiding processed and prepackaged things and buying real food will cut your grocery bill down.

Start thinking of food as nutrition and as a health investment for the future

Keto vs low carb: general lifestyle benefits


Both of these diets have similar general lifestyle benefits and create new eating habits. Following a low carb diet or keto diet means you are more aware and mindful of what you are eating. Simply paying attention to what and how much you are eating can result in a healthier lifestyle and even weight loss.

Just focusing on what you are eating can cause you to make better choices resulting in feeling healthier.


Many individuals on a low carb and ketogenic diet report feeling fuller for longer. Feeling full and not experiencing crashes in energy can have a significant benefit in every day life.

Eliminating sources of high carbohydrates can eliminate sugar cravings. Less cravings for sugar combined with feeling fuller for longer means less need for unnecessary snacking. Not consuming those excess calories which provide no nutritional benefit can have an impact on your weight.

A low carb or a ketogenic diet also allows you to change the way you react to feeling hunger. Feeling hunger doesn't have to be accompanied by dizziness, weakness, nausea or being hangry. It can simply be not a big deal.

Two broccoli florets

Which one should you try?

Whether you should try a ketogenic or low carb diet depends entirely on your goals. Always consult with a medical professional before trying a new diet.

If you are transitioning from a normal high carb diet, it might be beneficial to first go low carb before trying keto. This would allow your body to get used to a low carb diet before going ketosis. You might even be able to avoid or reduce the amount of time of the keto flu (otherwise known as carb withdrawal). Your body is in the process of adapting to life without carbohydrates resulting in not feeling all that great.

A lower carb diet is also more forgiving with the types of food you are able to consume and less tracking and monitoring is involved. When you feel like you’re responding well to a low carb diet you can be confident that transitioning to a keto diet will be achievable.

That being said there is no reason you can’t throw yourself straight into a keto diet. We've created keto meal plans to help beginners learn the ropes without doing any of the hard work.

Always consult with a medical professional before trying a new diet.


Kickstart your journey

Keto & Low Carb Meal Prep Plans

Meal prep your weekly meals with handy shopping lists and step-by-step instructions. Complete with optimised weekly nutritional intake and calculated calories.