Ketogenic Eating Plans: What Are They? Are They Healthy?

Ketogenic Eating Plans: What Are They? Are They Healthy?

Spicy Peanut Dressing

1 ½ Tbsp natural peanut butter 

1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce 

1 Tbsp rice vinegar 

1 ½ tsp toasted (dark) sesame oil 

1 tsp black bean-garlic sauce 

1 tsp minced fresh ginger 

½ tsp chili-garlic sauce or sriracha, or to taste 

¼ tsp trivia (can leave this out)

¼ tsp finely chopped garlic 

¼ tsp ground sichuan peppercorns  (Substitute regular pepper corns if unavailable)

Tofu Cucumber Salad

8 oz extra-firm water-packed tofu, drained and cut into ½ inch cubes

1 large English cucumber, quartered and sliced 3/4 inch thick 

1 C coarsely chopped cilantro, divided 

¼ C chopped salted roasted peanuts 

¼ C thinly sliced scallion greens 


  • To prepare dressing: Combine peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, black bean-garlic sauce, ginger, chili-garlic sauce (or sriracha),  garlic and ground peppercorns in a medium bowl; whisk until well combined.
  • To prepare salad: Combine tofu, cucumber and 3/4 cup cilantro in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the dressing; toss until well coated. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • To serve, transfer salad to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining dressing. Top with peanuts, scallions and the remaining cilantro.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 Cup

Per Serving:

167 Calories; Protein 10.2g; Carbohydrates 7.2g; Dietary Fiber 2.6g; Sugars 2.5g; Fat 11.8g; Saturated Fat 1.9g; Vitamin A IU 483.8IU; Vitamin C 6.9mg; Folate 19.4mcg; Calcium 188.3mg; Iron 1.9mg; Magnesium 38mg; Potassium 278.4mg; Sodium 315.6mg; Added Sugar 1g


1/2 Vegetable

1 Medium Fat Protein

1 1/2 Fat

When did food and our kitchens become our enemy – something to conquer and defeat? Food is something that should bring us together. We need connection in our lives now more than ever.

With my new series, I plan to break things down and not make food choices so difficult. My goal is to make eating and preparing food fun and empowering. I try to do so with my patients by encouraging them to get back to the kitchen. Let’s start with the ever-popular keto diet.

What is the ketogenic (keto) diet?

Ketogenic diets first became popular in the 1920s and 1930s as a therapy for epilepsy. Typical ketogenic diets incorporate a higher proportion of fat, protein, and a low amount of carbohydrates. Ketogenic diets mimic the fasting state during which the body produces an energy source known as ketone bodies. During a non-fasting state or a period when there is a ready supply of carbohydrates around, the body breaks down glucose to feed the tissues – most important, the brain.

People use ketogenic diets to lose weight by forcing their bodies to burn surplus fat stores. There are numerous ketogenic eating plans, including the Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet, and Paleo eating plans.

What are the benefits?

A 2013 review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition wrote that there is “ample evidence to support the notion that a low-carbohydrate diet can lead to an improvement in some metabolic pathways and have beneficial health effects.” This research also cited favorable effects on cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndromes, including type 2 diabetes. There is also evidence that ketogenic diets can improve acne and treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Alzheimer’s disease.

Who should avoid a keto diet? What are the long-term risks?

Ketogenic diets typically rely on higher amounts of fat in the eating plan. Too much saturated fat can lead to or exacerbate heart disease. Patients who are severely limiting their intake of fruits and vegetables can have significant nutrient deficiencies, including selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C. Ketogenic diets may worsen underlying liver disease and kidney disease.

Is it possible to eat fewer animal proteins on a ketogenic diet?

It is possible, but it is more challenging. Usually, the cornerstones of plant-based and vegetarian diets are grains and legumes – both of which are very high in carbohydrates. To follow a plant-based ketogenic eating plan, make protein a priority. Plant-based proteins such as tofu and tempeh and some legumes would fit. There needs to be an emphasis on these proteins balancing the fats from seeds, nuts, and nut butters every meal. 

My take-home is that a ketogenic eating plan can work for many people with proper planning and focus. Incorporate a mixture of lean animal or plant-based protein sources, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats into your diet. The key is to find foods and recipes that are not going to become repetitive day after day.

To learn more about ketogenic eating plans or starting a weight loss plan, please contact TPMG Williamsburg Geriatrics and Lifestyle Medicine for a culinary medicine consult.

Culinary Medicine Specialist

About Sarita Golikeri, MD, ABOM, CCMS

Certified Geriatric and Culinary Medicine Specialist, Sarita Golikeri, MD, ABOM, CCMS, seeks to prevent and manage chronic disease and promote healthy lifestyles through cooking. Her primary focus is weight management and nutrition. Dr. Golikeri treats patients for diabetes, hypertension, dementia, high cholesterol, asthma, and obesity. She believes it’s better to prevent problems than to treat them. Dr. Golikeri joined TPMG Colonial Family Medicine in 2014 and opened her own practice, TPMG Williamsburg Geriatrics and Lifestyle Medicine in 2019.

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