Deciphering the Definition of Ketogenic Diet

By Robyn Blackford, RDN, LDN

As one of the Registered Dietitians for the Ketogenic Diet Team at Lurie Children’s, I have found that one of the most common questions I hear is, “What is the difference between what I read on the internet versus the ketogenic diet that you’re teaching our family?”

Always a great question that I love answering.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb diet. When you eat a ketogenic diet, the body flips from using glucose for energy to using fat and ketones for energy. The presence of ketones in the blood is the proof that you are burning fat as the new fuel.

For those in the world of seizures and epilepsy, we have simply called this diet the ketogenic diet. But, it recently has become the most searched for topic on the internet, so the label was changed to identify it more specifically as: the classic ketogenic diet. There is an admission to the hospital to begin this seizure treatment due to the monitoring necessary for safe transition into ketosis and potential side effects. Intense nutrition education by expert registered dietitians also takes place.

The modified ketogenic diet is now commonly known to help with weight loss, diabetes, migraines, autism symptoms, types of cancer, neurological conditions, like Parkinson’s and epilepsy, and since it’s anti-inflammatory, preventative against certain diseases. This diet can be started at home after an initial assessment by your health provider. Carb counting and adding additional healthy fat sources to your diet is the goal. This is called the modified version of ketogenic diet since it is now widely used after the strict classic ketogenic was introduced in the 1920s for epilepsy.

Regardless of what you call this diet (modified or classic or anything in between), you need to be monitored by a health professional who is familiar with ketogenic therapy. Constipation is the most common side effect of the diet, which can easily be corrected with adequate amounts of fluid intake and a good dose of fresh vegetables and certain fats. Initial elevated serum lipids may occur requiring a change in the fat content of the diet. But, most significantly, if you are taking daily medications, it is important to know how these will interact with the metabolic changes your body will go through during the course of diet therapy.

So, the simple answer to the question about the difference in ketogenic diets lies in the percentage of fat, protein and carbohydrate for each individual and the purpose of its use in the disease it’s fighting against.

Lurie Children’s has one of the largest ketogenic diet centers in North America. We have more patients on ketogenic therapies than most neurology and epilepsy centers and have the most experienced and qualified ketogenic team professionals. If you or your child has uncontrolled seizures despite medications, I would advise you to consider ketogenic therapy as an option in collaboration with your physician. Learn more about Lurie Children's Ketogenic Diet Program

Robyn Blackford, RDN, LDN, has been the ketogenic dietitian expert at Lurie Children’s since 2005. She loves to help people be successful with following medical nutrition therapy and meeting their nutritional goals, as well as, inspiring, supporting, and mentoring other health professionals in guiding people on ketogenic diet therapies. Robyn has several publications on the ketogenic diet, including being an author for the International Ketogenic Diet Group Consensus Statement.

Follow Robyn at:

Facebook: @KetoQueenB

Twitter: @KetoQueen



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