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!
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:
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.
The two dieting plans do have some similarities:
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.
The health benefits associated with both these programs are:
In addition, keto has certain specific benefits as listed below:
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|
|Alcoholic drinks||Yes - only if within carb limit||No|
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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.