If you’re going to try keto, do it carefully

The ketogenic diet can help with rapid weight loss, but can also result in serious side effects. Just because you’re following a diet that tells you to eat more bacon and fewer carrots doesn’t mean you should get carried away. Here are some common mistakes to avoid if you’re currently on, or considering doing, the keto diet. You should always consult a doctor before going on such a program.

Not eating enough fat

Since the point of keto is for your body to enter a state where it primarily burns fat, naturally you’re going to need to up your fat intake. That means it’s time to toss all items labeled “low fat” (hot take: do that even if you’re not on Keto) and load up on eggs, avocados, nuts, full-fat dairy, and meat. Not eating enough fat while attempting to do Keto will set you up for failure pretty immediately, so it might be a good idea to start meal planning to figure out how best to incorporate regular fat into your diet.

Eating too much saturated fat

It’s still important to watch your saturated fat intake when following keto. Some of these naturally fatty foods can raise your cholesterol, which could increase your chances of heart disease or stroke. The American Heart Association recommends that only 5 to 6 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fat. Though coconut oil, super-fatty cuts of meat, animal fats, heavy cream, and butter are compliant for those following keto, you should still limit your consumption of them.

Eliminating major nutrient sources

There are three macronutrients that make up food: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Since keto recommends eliminating as many carbohydrates from your diet as possible, there's a chance you could become seriously malnourished. It’s important to remember that keto is a low-carb, not no-carb diet. Foods like leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and nut flours are foods that contain carbs, but are considered “good” carbs for those following keto.

Not staying hydrated

Because people following keto are dramatically reducing their carbohydrate intake, this also means the body will lose fluids and electrolytes. Start drinking more water regularly—the best way to do this is to carry around a reusable water bottle and keep track of how many times you fill it up each day. To replenish electrolytes, add more nutrients like sodium (salt, bone broth), potassium (avocado, leafy greens), and magnesium (hemp, pumpkin, chia seeds) to your diet. You also may need take an electrolyte supplement, but it’s best to consult with a doctor before doing that.

Developing a fear of “non-compliant foods”

So you’re doing keto and everything is going well. Then you go to dinner at a pasta restaurant and agonize over whether you should have some. It’s a hot summer day and nothing sounds better than a cold beer, but you’re nervous. These feelings indicate that you’re developing a fear of certain foods, and they’re warning signs that the diet it controlling your life. If you’re already on such a restrictive diet, don’t limit yourself further by stressing over a few ounces of spaghetti. It’s ultimately more important that you don’t fear food. Some Keto proponents might say this isn’t the right move, but I don’t really care.

Obsessing over your weight

Many people who try keto do it for quick weight loss. However, obsessing over numbers on the scale is just as bad as fearing food, and you should be cautious. If you’re doing the diet to lose a significant amount of weight, consult your doctor or nutritionist about how often you should step on the scale. Guess what? You could also throw away your scale and you’ll still be a valid human being.

Doing it forever

If you want to try a restrictive diet like keto, it’s best not to do it forever. Your body needs all nutrients, and there’s really nothing wrong with most foods. If you found your overall health improved while you were on keto, you can shape your diet to remain higher in fat and lower in carbs, but you don’t have to cut out foods forever.