Keto Diet Simplified: What It Does NOT Mean (Ketogenic vs Low Carb Explained)


Keto vs Low Carb: What’s The Difference?

There seem to be A LOT of misunderstandings of how “keto” is defined, causing serious arguments and unnecessary negativity in low carb communities…

Ketogenic Diet Simplified – Low Carb Q&A

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Like I mentioned in the video above, every time I eat the sausage & fried eggs from McDonald’s it causes a bit of a stir.

Like this comment I got on Instagram recently, for example:

Keto Criticism

The round fried eggs at McDonald’s are just real eggs, cracked on site.

Eggs are .4 or half a carb each (all eggs).

The sausage at McDonald’s is processed meat – just like all sausage, even what you buy at the grocery store. The sausage patties at McDonald’s are 1 carb each. You can see all of this on their website, of course.

People give me slack for eating the McDonald’s sausage, saying “that’s not keto” just because it’s from McDonald’s, or because of the ingredients.

My favorite sausage I buy at the grocery store is Tennessee Pride brand. Two of the ingredients include sugar and monosodium glutamate. Nobody ever says a word about the sausage and eggs I make at home. Which makes NO sense at all. πŸ˜›

So just because it’s from McDonald’s doesn’t automatically make it NOT keto.

At 1 carb per patty, regardless of the ingredients or your personal preferences – it certainly DOES fit into a ketogenic low carb diet – by the standards of 20 net carbs max, 70% fat minimum.

This is my typical response to those types of comments, btw:

My Low Carb Lifestyle - Eating LCHF at McDonald's won't kill you, lol

LOL πŸ™‚ ♥ πŸ™‚


Being a public figure, I catch a lot of slack and get tons of negative comments on my low carb food choices. Even though I eat a ketogenic low carb diet, and have had GREAT success with it. So like I said, there’s obviously a lot of confusion about what β€œketo” IS and what it isn’t…

Just because something has sugar in it for example, doesn’t mean it’s not a keto friendly (low carb) food.

Many low carb foods that are appropriate for a ketogenic low carb diet have sugar in them naturally – even broccoli has sugar in it, yet it certainly IS a keto friendly food – and you’ll even find it on the Atkins Phase One Acceptable Foods List.

While fruit is too high in carbs & sugar, berries are perfectly fine on a ketogenic low carb diet, or a keto diet – in moderation of course. Berries do have natural sugar in them, just like broccoli – more actually – which is why you eat them in moderation, because that natural sugar is part of the net carb count.

As for what type of butter, grassfed or not, even margarine or not – although real butter is ideal (not margarine) but still – that’s simply a matter of preference – it doesn’t define the keto diet at all.

The standard definition of a ketogenic low carb diet is: β€œvery low carb, very high fat, moderate protein” – or: 20 net carbs max, 70% fat minimum, 25% protein max.

If you just keep it super simple: 20 net carbs max, 70% fat minimum, the protein pretty much takes care of itself. For a simple explanation & illustration of that, see:

Ketogenic Macros – Simple Explanation/Illustration

Nothing in a standard definition of the ketogenic diet has anything to do with: organic, clean eating, home cooked, gluten free, made from scratch, grass fed, etc.

Those things are simply preferences. Period.

People often ask the difference between low carb and keto. Low carb can have some variations – some people consider β€œunder 100 carbs a day” to be low carb, and it IS lower carb than a typical diet.

Keto is VERY low carb and also HIGH fat (ideally healthy fats). It is the same as Phase One of the Atkins Diet pretty much, minus any restrictions Atkins recommends during that phase.

The high fat is key to a ketogenic low carb diet, by the way. Ideally you want 70% of your total daily calories in healthy fats. But even fats with no nutritional value – like butter, mayo, bacon grease even – count toward that.

But healthy fats are those that actually DO contribute nutritional value – foods like salmon, avocado and pecans that are very high fat – but also rich in other nutrients like potassium, magnesium, fiber, etc.

Also See:

Getting Started Checklist for a Ketogenic Low Carb Diet

I hope that clears things up a bit…

If you haven’t watched the video yet, scroll back up and watch that – because it includes even more information, and my suggestions for a HEALTHY low carb lifestyle.:)

If you have any questions about it… just ask! πŸ˜‰

Lynn Terry,
aka @LowCarbTraveler

p.s. If you need a motivational kick start, take the low carb classes this week.;)

Enjoy my videos, tips & food diaries? Drop a tip in the jar. πŸ™‚


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About Lynn Terry

I love making the low carb diet EASY for people with a busy lifestyle (like me!) with my KISS / Keep It Simple method. :) About Lynn Terry: Host of the Low Carb Challenge
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46 Responses to Keto Diet Simplified: What It Does NOT Mean (Ketogenic vs Low Carb Explained)

  1. Franna says:

    Thank u for all u do for our keto family out here. We appreciate you very.much and your ideas. I am sure u are use of folks being negative towards you but don’t let them get to u☺ keep your head up and doing you lady!!I have lost 15lbs just by following your plan with my own spin. Thank you

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Thank you Franna, and congrats on your weight loss! πŸ™‚

      I don’t let it get to me at all, but I know that the negativity and condescending comments DO affect a lot of people, especially someone who is new to eating low carb… and at that fragile state in their weight loss journey.

      My video and post is for those people, so they can relax a little and ENJOY finding their own way on their own terms to a healthy low carb lifestyle – with GREAT results. πŸ˜‰

      I’ve seen people QUIT because of pushy people or condescending comments, and that breaks my heart. I started out figuring things out as I went, learning as I went, improving as I went – and I want to give everyone else full permission to do that as well… with no shame. πŸ™‚

  2. Dianna says:

    Your critics have to much time on their hands. Don’t they realize the title of your blog IS low-carb traveler!!! You are perfect for all of us that for whatever reason don’t always have time to shop and cook “natural foods” and it is great having advice as to what we can get at fast food and regular restaurants that will still keep us on our diets. We also appreciate hearing about the variety of new food items out there to order on line that we most likely would never hear about if it wasn’t for you. Don’t worry about the odd remarks…no matter if you are doing Keto or Atkins or Low-Carb or whatever you provide a valuable service and motivation for us. Keep up the good work!!!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Thank you, Dianna! πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you enjoy the food reviews. They are A LOT of work, but I do enjoy them as well. Unless the foods are yucky, lol – but at least then I know what NOT to recommend and can save everyone money πŸ˜‰ haha!

      I think it’s really important to know what your options are OUTSIDE of the kitchen, and in situations & circumstances like: catered events, parties, holidays, vacations, restaurants, date night, etc. Because those are a normal part of our every day life…

  3. Saralynn Lessord says:

    Lynn I no longer follow your Facebook page because of the judgments of the members.they are down right cruel to people who don’t do is to “their way”.I still receive your email/blog because you have a practical approach to the low carb lifestyle.I am happy you have set the record straight.people are busy and can’t anyways cook for themselves,and you basically take the guess work out of where and what to eat .THANK YOU!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi Saralynn πŸ™‚ I think you mean my Facebook Group? Everyone is super nice on my Page at πŸ˜‰

      I have new moderators in place and am moderating every new post in the group, so we’ve tightened that up A LOT over the last few months!

      Still, you find that negativity and pushiness and criticism in practically every low carb community around the web, even just on Instagram. It’s human nature I suppose, lol. Anytime you get large numbers of people in one place, especially online, there’s bound to be trouble. πŸ˜›

      I really appreciate your kind words. I rather ENJOY being practical. πŸ™‚ I live a real life, and have a super busy lifestyle like most of you – and just have days I do not feel like cooking, which happens to all of us. Someone had to step in and share the secrets in this space… when you don’t want to (or can’t!) live in a cookbook. πŸ˜‰ lol

    • Gina says:

      I do not follow that pageanymore either
      Yeah some people therewereee really mean. Lyn’s page is drama free. Her low carb traveler page

  4. Sandra says:

    Lynn, as my dear old dad used to say “Opinions are like a$$ holes, everybody’s got one!”

    You inspire me and I know you inspire a lot of other people. I’m not perfect, and I feel I’m setting myself up to fail – big time – if I try for perfection. Who needs that negativity from within us when we get so much from others?

    Keep on doing what you are doing: a healthy way of life. It may not be what others think of as healthy but it sure works for you (and me!)

    • Lynn Terry says:

      True, it’s definitely working for me. πŸ˜‰ Thank you Sandra! And I agree: perfection is a recipe for failure. Yet another recipe I do not have time for πŸ˜› haha. *cheers*

  5. Connie says:

    Lynn, you live in the real world…traveling, on the go, and doing business. I’m a youth pastor’s wife and a stay home, homeschooling mom of 2 grown men, 2 college men, and 2 teenage daughters, so life can be too fast to think of watching what I eat! I’m busy, so I appreciate your suggestions for fast keto. Your awesome ideas keep me on my WOE when I’m out. When I have time to stay home and cook a meal, I use fresher ingredients too. Thank you for helping all of us when life gets busy! You are an inspiration! KETO ON!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Thank you Connie. πŸ™‚ I really enjoy the beautiful meals I cook when I have time, or when Aaron comes over and we have time to cook together. And I love fresh spinach, and roasted vegetables.

      Lately we’ve both been traveling a lot, and have heavy work schedules and personal things going on in our lives – so we’ve both been having to “grab & go” and just keep on trucking.

      When we can sit down for a meal, we order the healthiest possible take-out or menu item, like the chicken & shrimp with steamed broccoli and salads. I’m SO glad there are easy options that can keep me running… when I’m running! πŸ™‚

  6. bonnie Whitworth says:

    Well said! Our fast food restaurants are listening to us about Keto and low carb eating, we can always find something to eat!!!! and it does not have to be in the kitchen.

    • Connie says:

      Restaurants are listening! At a nearby Burger King, it actually shows on the order screen as “Low Carb”. Thanks to Lynn’s suggestion, the waiters at our Applebee’s love the concept of “Loaded Broccoli”. We live in Seattle, and we’re beginning to see Bulletproof Coffee! Awesomeness!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      I love that! πŸ™‚ There are so many diabetics in America, so even without people eating low carb to lose weight… it’s nice to see low carb options, and accommodations otherwise.

  7. Katie says:

    I can’t imagine how annoying it is getting attacked for trying to help people with low-carb food ideas that normal people can actually fit into their lives. I LOVE reading your blog and am so thankful you let the hater comments roll off your back. And your success speaks for itself!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      It really doesn’t bother me anymore. I laugh about it more than anything. πŸ˜‰ The people who are mean just to be mean… I block. But otherwise I think responding helps others who may be feeling too restricted, realize it doesn’t have to BE that strict.

      The options for quick & easy low carb foods on the go, whether at home or out & about, and the new low carb products that replace old high carb favorites – those are the things that keep me on track.

      And because of that, I’ve been consistently staying low carb now for over a year – instead of going on and off plan. Getting off that on/off roller coaster is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself! πŸ˜‰ Because it was maddening. πŸ˜› lol

  8. Phyllis O. says:

    Thanks Lynn, I enjoy all of your posts and your knowledge that you share, Keep on keeping on

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Thank you, Phyllis πŸ™‚ I really enjoy what I do here and around the web, and LOVE our low carb community! I feel like I’ve made invaluable friendships, and always have a great group of people to share my life with. πŸ™‚

  9. Anne says:

    Frankly, I eat and thoroughly enjoy the McDonald’s round eggs and sausage. I get tired of cooking, and crave quick and easy, uncooked by me, frequently. Opinions are like a**es; everybody’s got one. Grammar aside, some folks really need to proof what they post. I’m with you!

  10. amber says:

    All I know is I look at your site daily for focus and motivation to make better choices in food. You have educated me in weight loss and shown me what works for me. I still love bacon. I still love Diet Coke. They go together even better!! Least it’s not a dozen donuts and a bottle of wild turkey…? I’m not at my goal yet, but I’m not where I was. As for the legalistic folks….. “Well, I guess we can’t all be just “perfect”.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      lol Amber – me too πŸ˜‰ And if you could see what I used to eat… you’d be shocked. I always think that too when people judge what I eat now. If they had ANY idea, haha. πŸ˜›

  11. Beth Loyd says:

    I enjoy your site so much for the same reasons as many have stated above. I have be doing keto/lchf for 19 months. I don’t care what it is called but since it is my lifestyle now I enjoy your down to earth simple meals. I’m 62 not much bothers me anymore but I am mostly down to 3 sites including yours. Keep up the good work and ignore the negative. You are doing a great job plus you are courteous and respectful. That is all that matters.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Thank you, Beth. πŸ™‚ It really bothered me in the beginning (more than 6 years ago) and I remember how that FELT. I never want others to feel that way. Especially as an emotional eater – it would tank me straight into an entire box of donuts. πŸ˜›

      I feel like it really helps others feel more relaxed and less judged, and to be able to ENJOY a low carb lifestyle without all the pressure – when I share real everyday solutions. That’s been my goal from the start, and it’s been FUN! πŸ™‚

  12. Sandi Kirnbauer says:

    Thank you Lynn. I am a 61 year old team truck with my husband who is 70 and we do a lot of cooking but there are times we eat out and your suggestions are great. We also like to get in the car when off work and travel. We live traveling and I really enjoy your emails and videos. I have lost about 30 lbs with Keto and have more to go. Keep those posts coming. Thank you so much!
    Sandi from Canada!!

  13. Mary Ann Thomas says:

    Dear Lynn,
    I have been following your Low Carb Traveler posts now for several years. I was a former Atkins dieter, and I always slack off and gain the weight back that I lose. You are such a great motivator, even when I am not following the WOE, I love to read your blogs! I usually try to stay below 30 net carbs, but eat a lot of protein and dairy products. Now I am convinced of the importance of increasing fats and limiting protein and carbs, thanks to your discussions. I am trying this approach now as I begin the WOE once again. Thank you, Lynn, for your posts and suggestions…….you ROCK!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      I’m so glad to hear that, Mary Ann! πŸ™‚ You definitely want to limit protein as that’s hard on your kidneys. BUT, as you can see from my low carb food diaries here – I get more than the recommended daily amount of protein. So it’s not about eating “low protein” – but rather about going by percentages or ratios, instead of grams. πŸ˜‰ That’s the key!

      Here’s a simple explanation & illustration of that:

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  15. Jenni says:

    Preach it!!!! I have been telling everyone that Keto is a state of Ketosis period. You can do it whichever way is best for your lifestyle. I swear it drives me batty…I was doing Atkins before most…Which is keto done differently but guess what it is ketosis based. I now do higher fat moderate protein 20 or less carbs. I am so glad I am not the only one who sees this as a problem. People need to stop saying this. It’s just discouraging and wrong.

  16. Marijo says:

    Thanks so much for your video on keto/low carb. I loved it. I often forget about fats. Whenever I go out for lunch I will get a salad with grilled
    salmon on top. Yummy.

    Other than salmon, butter, avacado,and mayo, what are some other fats I can add to my diet.

    I thought too much of the low carb bread might be stalling me also.

    Thanks for all your great info, you are truly valued.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi Marijo πŸ™‚ Salmon is GREAT, full of healthy fats and omegas! Just choose fatty meats (ribyeye vs sirloin, salmon vs white fish, chicken thighs instead of breasts, etc). Also eggs are 50/50 protein and fat. So egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad are all great.

      I make almond meal biscuits that are great macros, and add all sorts of things to them. Here’s one example:

      Almond butter, peanut butter, cream cheese, those are some of my favorites!

      When you are tracking your macros in MyFitnessPal (or another app that tracks ratios/percentages like MFP does) you can log as you go – before you eat, make or order a meal. That helps me easily see if I should switch something up, or add something to my meal.

      I like mayo & ranch for dipping. Or if I go to Ruby Tuesday, their parmesan cream sauce is great for dipping your salmon & veggies in! πŸ™‚

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi again Marijo πŸ™‚ I just realized I missed your comment, re: “I thought too much of the low carb bread might be stalling me also.”

      How long have you been eating low carb – or doing 20 net carbs max, 70% fat minimum consistently? I ask because there are natural weight loss trends and holds – and also you mentioned maybe not eating enough healthy fats?

      Eating too lean, or under 70% fat, stalls my weight loss. So I would definitely start with tracking your macros and doing the 20/70 consistently for two full weeks without changing much else.

      Or try NOT eating the bread for two full weeks, without changing anything else. It really helps to do “clean testing” so you can figure out exactly what you CAN enjoy or what you SHOULD change instead of making any drastic cuts. πŸ˜‰

      That’s what I’m working on and I shared the details of “clean testing” here: It could be the bread, or it could just be that you aren’t getting enough healthy fats. πŸ˜‰ But there’s only one way to find out! *cheers*

  17. Becky Buehrer says:

    Let me preface this comment by telling you just how much I enjoy, appreciate, and faithfully read your blog. But, I’m a retired English teacher and old enough (73) to be your mother, and hope you’ll take this advice as a self learning tip……….it’s the the use of “slack” when what you mean is “flak”. Here is a link that explains it better:

    Please don’t hate me, and keep up the great work for people like me who need all the help I can get to stay on the straight and narrow of this Keto/Low Carb life!! Thanks for all you do!

  18. Sue Raczak says:

    I appreciate all you do. You are amazing and so giving of your time. Own that awesome!!!!
    I love so many of your ideas. You are not on a diet, you are living a lifestyle. I love that. You make it work for you. I especially love when you eat one of your cookies topped with cream cheese or peanut butter and call it lunch. That is my kind of lunch πŸ™‚

    Haters going to hate. I love that you follow your own path and invite us to join you in your journey.

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    Hi Lynn,
    I’ve been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for over 35 years, and I’ve followed the Atkins phase 1/keto woe for over 15 years. I teach it to my diabetes patients, and those who follow it faithfully experience all kinds of positive results. I have put your site and blog at the top of my “Highly Recommended Resources” in my educational materials.Your blog and site have been so useful to me and to them–full of practical, balanced advice and product suggestions. The above video is a fantastic resource- well said, and well done! Your calm manner and, professional presentation is refreshing.

    I would like to add to your healthy fat inventory.
    You listed butter, mayo and bacon grease as having no nutritional value. Butter, however, is exceptionally healthy and, due to its chemical makeup, actually contributes to our immune system, helps regulate hormones, increases brain function, reduces inflammation, keeps our gut bacteria in balance and helps fight Crohn’s and IBS, actually reduces chances of heart disease (esp when combined with a low carb woe), protects vision and can actually protect us from some cancers. There are lots of other great things it helps, but this is a good list to start with, don’t you think? ;-D

    It has been about a year since your above video and you may have already revised your stance on butter. If so, yay! and ignore the above. If not, I respectfully ask you to do so. Your influence is widespread, and you have demonstrated that you care about accurate info.

    I do so appreciate your efforts. You cannot imagine how many people you are helping live healthier and happier lives. To quote Marijo, “Thanks for all your great info, you are truly valued.”
    Warmest regards,

  21. Loni says:

    Thank you so much for this. In college 10 years ago β€œlow carb” was how I lost and maintained my weight. I was in the best shape of my life. Now after having children I’m wanting to get back to it but now with all the Keto craze, there’s just WAY too much info out there. I get that dreaded feeling that I’m not quite doing it β€œright.” This a such a great reminder to just get back to what I already know and what worked before. Back to the basics! Low carb doesn’t have to be as complicated as the β€œketo craze” makes it!

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