The Honey Controversy: Which Keto Are You?
Did you know there are several different types of keto? When you hear people telling you which foods are keto friendly, you may want to look closer at their definition of what keto is. Some people don’t eat legumes (no peanut butter?? How?) and others take an AIP path (autoimmune protocol). Just like any diet, the ketogenic diet has many sub-diets.
(And if you’re just here to find out if honey is okay on keto, you’re also in the right place.)
Let me break it down for you!
And if you’re just starting out, you may want to nab MY (free) version of a keto diet grocery list for beginners.
Keto Diet, Explained (and a keto honey substitute)
I have to admit, I’m motivated to write this informational post by a feeling of irritation and concern. I recently posted a recipe that was super duper popular, but apparently it bothered some people. It was my amazingly yummy Easy Chia Flax Noatmeal Crème Brûlée in Instant Pot.
Because there were several people who came to my rescue to stand up for the choice of sweetener in my noatmeal crème brûlée I knew I had to write something about keto styles.
I’m not the only one who isn’t dogmatic about keto.
If you’re just starting out, I want to formally apologize for all the keto haters or the keto police you’ll inevitably encounter. Be patient with them. They’ll get it someday. (I’ve explained my use of honey on the noatmeal crème brûlée post already, so if you want to know more about why I did that, go there.)
Let’s go over the definition of the ketogenic diet again, shall we? The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet in which the goal is to get the body to produce and rely on ketones for energy instead of glucose. When a person gets to that point, they are said to be “in ketosis.”
That’s it, people. Getting the body into ketosis.
And if you don’t feel like arguing with the “that’s not keto!” folks about honey, just point them in the direction of this KETO HONEY SUBSTITUTE.
So, Which Keto Diet Foods Or Keto Diet Do I Need?
Here’s the thing. That looks different for different people. If you start browsing the keto, diabetic, AIP (autoimmune protocol), Atkins, and similar forums, you’ll see people talking about how zero-calorie sweeteners kick them out of ketosis or stall their weight loss.
On the same post, you’ll hear stories in the comments about how one person can eat 80 grams of carbs per day and still be in ketosis, while the next commenter has to stay strictly at 20 grams.
Some people are affected more strongly by honey or stevia, while others don’t have to worry as much. There are people who can do carb-up days (yay bananas and sweet potatoes!!) or intermittent fasting and there are people who prefer to eat more consistently.
And let’s talk about reasons.
Sure, I’d say there are a whole lot of people who are doing keto for the weight loss. But there are a whole lot of people doing keto for health reasons.
For me, my three biggest reasons are to reduce inflammation, gain mental clarity, and increase energy. If I lose 5 pounds, great! But my keto looks very different from someone who is doing keto to reduce autism symptoms for their child or is trying to get their PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) under control in order to be able to have a baby.
A weightlifter is going to do keto very differently from a nursing mother or a marathoner. There are vegan and vegetarian ketoers and those who dabble in the carnivore diet. There are people who count net carbs and there are people who count total carbs. There are paleo-keto dieters and low FODMAP keto dieters.
I do want to note that I recognize that some people have to eat a certain version of keto for medical reasons. I understand that. But that’s still their version, not THE version.
So here’s me doing some research so we can all understand this concept. I looked up every type and variation of the keto diet I could find.
Let’s get educated and see how many keto diet versions and variations we can name and define here (and comment below if I miss one!).
Macronutrient and Scheduling Focused
Keto Diet Versions (Types of the Keto Diet)
These first four versions are the basic keto diet variations. They are the best place to start because they tell you which macronutrient count is best for you depending on your lifestyle, health base, medical issues, or goals. After choosing one of the first four versions, you can narrow it down further with the variations in the following lists.
- Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): This diet is the most popular and well-known of the keto versions and a great starting point for beginners.
Great for: Weight loss seekers, beginners, those with medical/therapeutic needs, diabetics, anyone!
Daily macronutrient percentages: 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbohydrates.
Carbohydrate count: 20-50 net grams per day.
- Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): The targeted ketogenic diet is the same as the SKD detailed above, except that you will target your carb intake around your workouts.
Great for: People who workout and exercise regularly. Some people find that they feel better when they condense their day’s carbs around their workouts. I would like to add here, though, that I’ve read studies that say actual performance is NOT decreased in keto dieters (as long as they’re fat-adapted and not in the beginning stages of their diet process when the body requires time to adjust), and that keto dieters may have better stamina due to even and consistent energy (rather than the burst that you get from glucose). But that’s something you’ll have to figure out for yourself.
Daily macronutrient percentages: Varies depending on the individual (usually same as SKD), but carbs are always consumed pre- or post-workout (usually 30-60 minutes pre-workout).
- Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet is also known as “carb loading.” With the CKD, you’ll eat a Standard Ketogenic Diet for 5-6 days of the week, and then eat a higher amount of carbs for 1-2 days. The CKD will kick you out of ketosis if you’re not using it in conjunction with high-intensity workouts. The reason it works is that the glucose is being burned instead of stored.
Great for: Advanced athletes and bodybuilders, those who have high-intensity workouts
Daily macronutrient percentages: Same as SKD for 5-6 days, and then a high carbohydrate day or two.
- High Protein Ketogenic Diet (HPKD): Similar to the SKD, but a higher percentage of protein.
Great for: Those who need more protein for various medical reasons or health goals.
Daily macronutrient percentages: 60% fat, 35% protein, 5% carbohydrates.
The “What” Versions of the Keto Diet
Those first four versions are mainly concerned with macronutrient count and scheduling. Below are some versions that take one of the four macro- and schedule-focused versions above and add more categories. These categories are more concerned with the “what” to eat.
- Clean Keto: Clean keto is all about avoiding processed or refined foods, unhealthy additives and artificial sweeteners. Clean eaters eat “real” foods and more plant-based foods. Anything prepackaged will have few ingredients and they will be recognizable and generally organic and non-GMO. Meats will be pasture-raised and/or grass-fed, with no antibiotic use. To me, this is the gold standard.
- Dirty Keto: Dirty keto is different from clean keto is the source of the calories. Both keto versions are high fat, low carb, but clean keto focuses on the healthier versions of fats, carbs, and proteins, and dirty keto seems to say. “As long as it keeps you in ketosis, go for it!” A lot of people only using keto for weight loss go this route. It’s hard for me to say that it’s bad for you, because if someone was eating dirty high carb prior to dirty keto, then they’re probably better off eating low carb no matter what. But to me, the benefits of eating clean keto are worth it. You may have heard of Josh Axe, clinical nutritionist. He says, “Will you lose weight while eating crappy, albeit low-carb, foods? Possibly. Will dirty keto support a healthy body? Absolutely not.”
- Lazy Keto: Lazy keto is a less extreme keto diet that does not follow a strict macronutrient count. It’s great for people who get frustrated or overwhelmed trying to track every calorie. Some people start out SKD, tracking everything, and slowly move into lazy keto. It actually works well for a lot of people because it’s not really lazy if you’re in the habit of keto already and have memorized counts to where it’s almost second-nature and you really don’t have to google macronutrients for spinach or heavy whipping cream anymore.
- Autoimmune Protocol Keto (AIP keto): The AIP keto diet upholds keto macros while avoiding any foods that cause inflammation.
- Carnivore: Carnivore dieters eat meat, dairy, animal products, and fish. As long as they’re not avoiding the fatty parts of the animal and not solely eating muscle meat, a carnivore diet is naturally ketogenic. (Fun story: A friend of mine tries to jumpstart his Atkins dieting with only eating meats. We recently realized the reason he eventually plateaus with his weight loss is because he was focusing on lean meats–like chicken and turkey–and only eating muscle meat. Oops! Now we know.)
- Vegetarian Keto: People on the vegetarian ketogenic diet eat all the normal foods they would eat on a vegetarian diet, but they stay away from sugars, refined grains, including breads, rice, pasta, etc., and decrease starchy vegetables and high carbohydrate fruits.
- Vegan Keto: Vegan keto is the same as vegetarian keto, but with absolutely no animal products. No dairy, no eggs, no honey, no gelatin, etc. In general, a vegan or vegetarian keto diet is necessarily higher in carbs than the other types of keto diets because you’re eating mostly vegetables with a few fruits, which are higher in carbs than animals and animal products. This still works for a lot of people and there are some amazing vegan keto and vegetarian keto recipes sites out there!
As I said earlier, Clean Keto is the gold standard for health, in my opinion. It avoids any potentially harmful substances while maximizing the health of the animals we eat.
To those who are worried about it being expensive, don’t give up on it yet! I haven’t tried it myself entirely, so I can’t say that I’ve tracked our grocery bill on clean keto, but I’ve heard from SO many people who say that because keto keeps you full, you’re buying less food altogether, so why not use those savings to increase the quality of the food you’re already buying in the first place?
It makes sense to me! And as the famous Michael Pollan says, “Vote with your grocery bill!” As more people show they’re serious about pastured beef, non-GMO produce, unprocessed natural foods, etc., more companies will be willing to make the leap to producing more of these foods.
I’m not there yet at all, but that’s the goal. We’re looking into a local grass-fed meat source as we speak, actually.
This is not to say that I’m not intentional about my keto. I certainly am.
My version of keto is tailored to ME and MY needs. I know what my limitations are and I stick to them. I absolutely cannot have gluten, ever. I do not use refined sugars. I do use stevia and erythritol, which is new to my version of keto.
I don’t purchase or use vegetable oils any longer. Olive oil and coconut oil are my fats of choice. I’m working more organ meats, offal, and skin into my diet (Oh liver, you evil disgusting thing!) so I’m not eating mainly muscle meat. I rarely eat grains (and never wheat!).
I eat as much prebiotic vegetables as possible. I incorporate as many anti-inflammatory foods in my diet as possible (and may have to switch to AIP keto in the future if that isn’t enough). Read my About Me page if you want more details on my personal health choices and why I do what I do.
That’s Not Keto!
To me, a vegetable is still a vegetable, even if it’s high in carbs. I’ll still eat carrots and beets. I just won’t eat them as often and I’ll adjust the rest of my meals to be lower carb the days that I do eat them.
It bothers me to NO END when I hear someone say “That’s not keto!” Thank you, dear diligent keto police. Please don’t arrest me. I’m not doing your version of keto. I’ll put my minimal amount of raw, unfiltered honey in my dessert here, and you can use your cups of erythritol there, and we’ll both go on living.
Is Honey OK on Keto? My Take
You know I’m a mom, so I have to relate this to something I read about parenting that completely parallels what I’m trying to say here. I read a book that talked about consistency in parenting. They said the goal is consistency, not perfection. No one can possibly be a perfect parent, and there are SO many versions of what a good parent looks like.
If you mess up and are impatient with your 5-year old one day, but you’ve been consistently kind and patient the last 257 days before that, you’re not going to screw your child up for life. Apologize and go back to being patient the next day!
As long as you’re not eating Easy Chia Flax Noatmeal Crème Brûlée with honey every single day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you have no particular metabolic sensitivity to honey, you will be fine! Skip dessert tomorrow or sweeten yours with stevia next time!
Let’s all just breathe. You do you. Namaste.
Keto Honey Substitute
AND, if you just cannot do real honey at all, and you just cannot give it up completely, I have good news! I found a keto honey substitute! Click the photo below for the link for a low carb honey sub:
And if you really truly can’t have honey, try this Ketogenic German Pancake for breakfast instead!
Those of you who are patiently waiting for Taco Week, don’t worry! It’s coming next week! In the meantime, here’s a Mexican-inspired veggie dip to tide you over.
Don’t forget to pin this article for later!