Low-Calorie Diet vs. Keto Diet

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Written by Rahul Malpe, Certified Nutritionist and medically reviewed by Jennifer Olejarz

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There are many different types of eating plans that can be used to help achieve your health goals. Two of the popular ones include low-calorie and ketogenic diets, so you may want to know how they compare or which one would work best for you.

Reducing your calories can be effective in some cases, but it's not always healthy or sustainable over the long term. While keto may seem like an intense way to go about things because you would need to restrict your carb intake. 

So how do these plans work, and which one is healthier? Let’s find out in detail!


What is a low-calorie diet?

A reduced-calorie diet, also known as LC, is one that restricts calorie intake to promote weight loss. Most LC plans allow between 1,000 to 1,500 calories per day. For context, the average American diet contains about 2,500 calories per day. These kinds of LC diets are often used in medically-supervised weight loss programs. 

These eating plans typically focus on reducing the intake of energy-dense foods, such as those high in fat or sugars. Foods such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are typically promoted on LC diets. These foods tend to be more filling than energy-dense foods, helping people to feel satisfied while still eating fewer calories. 

While a reduced-calorie plan can be effective for weight loss, it's important to work with a registered dietitian or doctor to ensure that the diet is right for you and that you're getting the nutrients you need. Following an LC plan without professional guidance may lead to nutrient deficiencies and other health problems.

Can you do low-calorie and keto at the same time?

Yes, it’s possible to do both by keeping both calories and carbs low. However, this makes it even more important to seek guidance from a professional to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.


Similarities between low-calorie and keto 

A reduced-calorie plan and the keto diet may seem like two very different things, but they actually have quite a bit in common. 

For one, both diets emphasize eating whole, unprocessed foods, including plenty of vegetables. Another similarity is that both diets involve limiting your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates. 

On an LC diet, this is done in order to reduce overall calorie intake. However, on the keto diet, the goal is to enter and maintain ketosis, a metabolic state in which the body burns fat for fuel. 

Finally, both diets require a certain amount of commitment and discipline to stick to, especially when you are starting out. 


Differences between a low-calorie diet vs. keto

When it comes to choosing between the reduced-calorie and keto diets, there are several factors to consider.

Between these two eating plans, the most notable difference is carbohydrate intake. 

LC diets do not specify carb limitations; the primary goal is to limit calories to 1,000-1,500 kcal per day. On the other hand, keto diets typically restrict net carbs to less than 50 g daily.

Intake of protein is another important difference. 

The protein content in LC diets could be high, but keto diets should have a moderate protein content of around 20-30% of overall calories, depending on the individual and whether they exercise heavily.

Lastly, keto requires a higher fat intake since fat replaces carbohydrates as the energy source. Fat-rich foods are calorie-dense, so they are not ideal when keeping calories low.


Benefits of a low-calorie diet and keto

There are plenty of benefits to both kinds of eating regimes.

Benefits of consuming less calories

  • An efficient way to lose weight

Following this way of eating systematically leads to good results for weight loss, particularly in the short term. However, in the long term, in order to continue losing weight, you must continue to decrease your calorie intake. This is because when you weigh less, your body requires less calories than it did to begin with. 

This kind of meal plan requires lifestyle changes and a commitment to exercise to be successful long-term. It is important to understand that as you lose weight, your body needs fewer calories, so you can't simply go back to your previous eating habits after reaching your goal.

  • Low-risk

LC diets are generally considered safe if they are carefully followed with guidance from a medical professional. Make sure you are getting the proper amount of nutrients and calories by consulting with a doctor or registered dietician.

  • Easy to integrate

LC does not come with a list of foods you need to eat. In fact, specialty foods or dietary supplements are not necessary to maintain an LC diet. So there is no need to purchase fancy foods, most of the foods you need are likely available at your local supermarket.

However, to avoid going overboard on your daily calorie intake, you might want to seek out reduced-calorie and reduced-fat versions of some foods, such as dairy.

Benefits of a keto diet

  • Rapid weight loss 

Since ketogenic diets are very low in carbohydrates and high in fats, it causes metabolic changes in the body. Glycogen, which is the storage form of glucose, holds onto the water in the cells of your body, so when you are restricting your carb intake, you lose all the water weight rapidly in the first few weeks. As time goes on, weight loss continues more slowly as you burn fat for energy when in ketosis. 

  • Leaves you feeling full

Although keto restricts some fiber-rich foods, the plan also provides other foods that will help you feel full longer. Foods that are rich in fat have been shown to trigger the satiety hormones in your stomach, which means you feel fuller faster.

  • Potential for health improvements like decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

It’s important to make healthy ketogenic food choices (like limiting intake of saturated fat and highly processed foods) to experience the most benefits.


Side effects of a low-calorie diet vs. keto

While the benefits may be plenty, these eating plans do come with their downsides as well.

Downsides and side effects of a low-calorie diet

  • Not for everyone

The LC diet is not appropriate for some individuals, such as pregnant or breastfeeding women. Therefore, before starting a weight-loss program such as this or any other weight-loss plan, you should consult your physician.

  • Cravings

Meals that don’t have many calories can cause you to still feel hungry after you’ve eaten. It is important to choose nutrient-dense foods that are satisfying and within your daily calorie allowance to manage appetite and remain nutritionally balanced.

  • Implementation

It takes a lot of planning and careful attention to track the calories you consume when you follow a reduced-calorie diet recommended by a doctor. These types of plans allow you to decide what, when, and how much you eat, but you have to add up all the calories to ensure you don’t go over. Being free to make these choices can be empowering, but it can also be difficult and can put you under a lot of stress.

Side effects of the keto diet

  • Nutritional deficiencies

The keto diet reduces a lot of essential nutrients that are often found in grains, beans, legumes, and fruits and vegetables. To make sure you receive all the essential nutrients you need, it is recommended that you carefully plan out your meals, especially with the help of a professional.

  • Limited food choices

Even though it maintains an optimal calorie intake, it is very restrictive. Meal plans that follow the keto diet do not include foods you may be used to eating, like potatoes, pasta, and bread. To stay in this program, you will have to drastically change your eating habits.

Keto vs. low-calorie foods  

In the following chart you'll see which foods are allowed (✓) or not allowed (X) in both these eating regimes.

Beans and legumes In moderation
Condiments and sauces ✓ (low-carb)
Dairy ✓ (low-carb) ✓ (in moderation)
Sugar-free drinks
Sugar-sweetened beverages X ✓ (in moderation)
Alcoholic drinks ✓ (low-carb, low-sugar)
Fish and seafood
Fruits ✓ (in moderation)
Grains and starches Only in moderation
Herbs and spices
Meat and poultry
Nuts and seeds
Oils and fats ✓ (in moderation)
Processed foods ✓ (low-carb, in moderation) ✓ (in moderation)
Sugar-free sweeteners
Natural sweeteners ✓ (low-carb, in moderation)
White and brown sugars X ✓ (in moderation)
Starchy vegetables ✓ (low-carb, in moderation) ✓ (in moderation)
Non-starchy vegetables


The biggest difference between these two eating regimens is that LC does not specifically restrict any foods as long as you are able to be within your daily calorie limit. While on keto, you may have to avoid or limit the consumption of any food that is high in carbs. If you’re unsure about which foods are low-carb, this page will help you check.


Which is cheaper?

As the list of foods suggests, the keto diet requires you to consume a high proportion of fats and very few carbohydrates. This means that meat, dairy, and healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and nuts are staples of the diet, and these can be expensive. In contrast, the reduced-calorie diet does not place any restrictions on macronutrients.

In other words, LC followers can choose to eat whatever they like, as long as they stay within their daily calorie limit. Because of this flexibility, the low-calorie diet can be cheaper than the keto diet.


Which one is healthier?

The answer may depend on your individual goals and preferences. If you are looking for a quick way to lose weight, the low-calorie diet may be a good option. However, if you are looking for a sustainable way to lose weight and improve other aspects of your health, then keto may be a better choice.

A keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that helps to burn fat for energy, instead of carbs. This process, known as ketosis, is more efficient and results in fewer cravings and a stable appetite. In contrast, a lower-calorie plan simply involves eating fewer calories than you burn. While this can also lead to weight loss, it is more challenging to stick to and often results in hunger and cravings.


Closing points

Basically the goal of any meal plan should be making sure you get all your nutrients and that it should not be hard on your body in any manner. As we saw, a lower-calorie plan might be beneficial in the short term when it comes to weight loss; however it may not be sustainable in the long term. 

A properly planned keto diet can fulfill your nutrient requirements and also help you achieve your health goals. However, before going on any meal plan it is prudent that you talk to a healthcare professional to make sure you are well informed on how to implement it in your life according to your individual needs.