Code Red Diet vs. Keto Diet

Imge of Code Red Diet vs. Keto Diet



The realm of the low-carb and high-fat diets has various dimensions to it, each with its own tweaks and twists to guide their followers in what they believe is the most successful path to weight loss and optimal health.

Two of these approaches are the keto diet and the Code Red (CR) diet. In this article we will scrutinize the components and aspects of these diets and assess their similarities and differences and come to a conclusion as to what we think is the more positive choice. Enjoy!


What is the Code Red diet?

The CR program is actually not just about dieting, it’s a complete paradigm shift in lifestyle choice. It focuses on nutrition, sleeping between 7-8 hours a night, and drinking a gallon of water a day. 

In terms of nutrition, the central dogma of this plan is for your body to be secreting as little insulin as possible. To that effect, it restricts all carbohydrate-rich food sources such as grains, fruits, legumes, and, of course, ultra-processed carbohydrate sources such as candy.

So what can you eat?

Meat, seafood, vegetables, nuts, eggs, seeds and other healthy fats. Potatoes are excluded from the permitted category of veggies due to their high carb content. Certain dairy products are also allowed such as cottage and cream cheese. 

In terms of beverages, adherents are advised to stay away from alcohol and sugary drinks, and limit coffee to 2-3 cups per day.

There are some other CR rules on which are essential for successful weight loss:

  • Consuming 2-3 meals per day
  • Including vegetables in every meal
  • No snacking between meals
  • No eating after 6:30 pm

It is important to note that there are two phases in this plan: the weight loss phase and the maintenance phase.

The rules need to be followed strictly until you reach your target weight. After that you can relax those rules a little. You may be able to indulge a bit in fruits, potatoes and whole grains.

This diet is the brainchild of Cristy Nickel, a celebrity nutritionist and formerly a world-class boxer and athlete. That being said, she is not a medical professional and, to the best of my knowledge, no scientific studies to date have investigated this eating plan.


Similarities between Code Red and keto

The two dieting plans do have some similarities:

  • Limiting carbs
  • Consuming high-fat foodstuffs
  • Moderate to high protein consumption
  • Aid weight loss
  • Rely on the same mechanism for fat-burning: ketosis


Differences between Code Red and keto

While the end goals are the same, the diets employ different philosophies.

CR is a more holistic approach with rules governing sleep, meal frequency, meal times, meal composition, snacking, and liquid intake

Another very important difference is that the macronutrient target for fat is 60% whereas the target for the Standard Ketogenic Diet hovers between 70-80% fat. 

Finally, the CR program categorically prohibits all hard, mature cheeses, a feature that does not exist with a ketogenic plan. 

In contrast, keto is simply a controlled way of eating with defined proportions of macronutrients to be consumed day to day. Success on keto revolves around positively getting your body into ketosis. 

The attitude to carbs as well is slightly different. With keto, it is all about keeping account of how many carbs you have consumed and ensuring you don’t breach your net carb maximum. So, in effect, the carbs you eat may be different day to day depending on how many grams you have left on your allowance. 

And while it is a holistic regimen as well, it has no clear cut requirements regarding how long to sleep or how much water to drink. 


Benefits of the Code Red diet and keto

The health benefits associated with both these programs are:

  • Weight loss - this in turn reduces risk for many serious complications, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • Blood sugar control - by consuming so few carbs, you are giving your pancreas a chance to rest and rejuvenate itself. It can be great for diabetics or those with prediabetes, but will also benefit everyone to some extent. 
  • Optimal health - there are many anecdotal incidents of those cured from a wide range of diseases by strictly adhering to these diets and leading healthier lifestyles.

In addition, keto has certain specific benefits as listed below:

  • Epilepsy treatment - lots of research has been carried out in this domain, with the consensus of doctors being that it is often a safe and desirable eating regimen for epileptic children who do not respond to medication. This obviously needs to be administered with doctors approval.
  • Cancer -  while results are not yet conclusive, there is preliminary evidence of the use of the ketogenic diet as an adjuvant therapy in combating certain types of cancer.


Side effects of both diets

Code Red diet side effects:

  • Constipation - due to less fiber being eaten. Remember fruits and whole grains are high in fiber and it is likely to undereat fiber on a low-carb eating plan.
  • Fatigue - all restrictive diets can induce fatigue.  This is especially true at onset while your body is learning to adapt.
  • Malnutrition - micronutrients are not distributed equally among foodstuffs; some foods are rich in iron while others contain none. On a restrictive diet, it is possible to neglect certain micronutrients due to cutting back on foodstuffs that are rich sources of that nutrient. Care has to be taken to compensate for this by finding alternative foods, especially with this diet which does not promote taking any supplements.

Side effects common with the ketogenic diet:

  • Carb flu - When starting off on this plan, it is common to experience flu-like symptoms such as headaches, migraines, fatigue and nausea. These symptoms are expected to dissipate over 3-10 days.
  • Bad breath - another common side effect is bad breath. This is due to rising levels of acetone in your blood. Acetone is a fruity-smelling ketone that is produced as a byproduct of fat metabolism. As you metabolize more fat, levels of this acetone increase and some of it is expelled through your breath. Here again this side effect is usually temporary.
  • Leg cramps - the mechanisms for this phenomenon are due to the fact that during ketosis, it is common to get dehydrated as your body expels water. Suspended in that water are minerals which contribute to regular muscular function. Dehydration and subsequent changes in mineral balance are thought to be responsible for leg cramps. Ensure to drink sufficient water and mineral-rich food.


Keto vs. Code Red foods

The table below lists a whole range of foodstuffs and determines if they are allowed or not allowed for consumption while practicing these programs.

Beans and legumes Yes - if within carb limit No
Condiments and sauces Yes (low carb) Yes (low carb)
Dairy Yes - unsweetened only No, except cottage and cream cheese
Sugar-free drinks Yes No
Sugar-sweetened beverages No No
Alcoholic drinks Yes - only if within carb limit No
Eggs Yes Yes
Fish and seafood Yes Yes
Fruits Yes - mainly low-carb fruit like strawberries and cherries Yes
Grains and starches No No
Herbs and spices Yes Yes
Meat and poultry Yes Yes
Nuts and seeds Yes - within carb limit Yes
Oils and fats Yes Yes
Processed foods Yes - within carb limit No
Sugar-free sweeteners Yes -  if low/no carb No
Natural sweeteners


White and brown sugars No No
Starchy vegetables In moderation Yes, but no potatoes
Non-starchy vegetables Yes Yes


It is important to note that the table above is referring to foodstuffs restricted in the weight loss phase of CR, where restrictions are most limiting. Once weight loss has been reached, there is a general relaxation of the rules so as to allow more flexibility in terms of starchy veg and fruit intake, for example. To learn more about this diet, reading Cristy’s book would seemingly be a good first stop.

To learn more about what foods and drinks are allowed on a keto-compliant diet, use the keto-friendly food checker.


Keto vs. CR costs

Which is cheaper?

This is an interesting question, it seems there are at least 2 ways to go about starting these programs. 

One way is to do it yourself by sourcing information from the internet and then keeping personal records of what you eat, your weight, etc. In that context, both diets would be similar in costs. 

They are not cheap to be sure; high-fat healthy foods such as avocados, nuts, meat, and fish are high-end products and cost a premium. However, compared to one another, the difference would be marginal.

The other track you can follow is joining a nutrition program that employs the particular diet. 
With CR, there are 3 weight loss coaching programs; home study at $397, a home study coaching program that goes for $797 per year, and a one off challenge to lose up to 10 pounds of body weight in 30 days for $27.

How about the keto diet?

It seems there are many free keto plans on the internet as well as free trials for the programs that do charge. Either way, it does not seem to be as expensive as the costly options mentioned above for CR.

A third option would be to reach out to a nutritionist or a dietitian and ask them to make you a plan based on either one of these programs. The price will of course depend on the charges of the particular individual you choose.


Which one is healthier?

Let's begin by comparing the two plans in terms of how restrictive they are. 

As mentioned, CR is more of a lifestyle change; this means there are rules about sleep quantity and mealtimes and a ban on snacking between meals. All these restrictions are in addition to the list of foods that can’t be eaten. 

Keto, however, focuses its limit on how many grams of net carbs and protein you consume daily. A lot of foods that would be restricted on the first diet would be okay on the latter if consumed within your carb limit.

This does not compromise on the health profile of the food; keto does not promote unhealthy processed food just because they are low in carbs. But it does give you a wider flexibility, which is important for your physical as well as mental health. 

Having more choices is expansive for your mind and takes some of the stress off. Also, by having a wider choice of foods you are less likely to become deficient in micronutrients or eat insufficient fiber, as you will be able to eat small portions of grains and fruits which would not be allowed on CR.

On the other hand, the lower fat content of CR is also appealing; eating a diet rich in saturated fats and cholesterol may increase your risk for developing cardiovascular disease, consuming less fat reduces that risk. However, that can be ameliorated by choosing minimally processed foods that are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats instead.

While in terms of diet we would conclude that the keto diet is the slightly better option, the aspects of getting sufficient sleep and drinking enough water and not snacking, features central to the CR program, are important and should be considered even for those on keto.


Bottom line

We have seen how both approaches share some similarities in the broader concepts such as focusing on high-fat low-carb, and encouraging natural foods in favor of processed foods. 

They differ in the smaller fine-print details. On the whole, taking into account all the restrictions, as well as taking into account financial considerations, we consider that the keto diet is the better of the two choices.

However, Code Red makes some valid points such as getting enough sleep, weighing regularly, and not eating late in the evening, so these points should definitely be considered.

Also, always make sure you discuss any diet choices with your medical practitioner before you embark on your journey so you can ensure your body is adaptable to the dietary plan you have chosen.

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