KetoDietCalculator: Calculating Ketogenic Meals
Although ketogenic diets are riding a wave of popularity, it’s fascinating to know the history of this discovery and how it evolved. The Charlie Foundation is celebrating 100 years since the invention of ketogenic metabolic therapy. In the 1920s, Dr. Russel Wilder at the Mayo Clinic began using a ketogenic diet in his patients who had epilepsy based on the notion that fasting was effective in preventing seizures. The origin of fasting went back even further, to the writings of Hippocrates in 460BC. Wilder and his colleagues worked on different equations for creating a diet that mimicked the effects of fasting. They tested these on people who had diabetes successfully then began testing them with adults and children who had epilepsy, also with success.
Eventually, Wilder published the ratio system of the three dietary macronutrients (aka “macros”), fat, protein and carbohydrate. The ratio is simply the relationship between the grams of fat to the grams of protein plus carbohydrate. In a 4:1 ratio there are four times the amount of fat in grams as there is protein and carbohydrate. The ratio system allows for variations which range between 5:1 and 1:1, however, not all ratios are appropriate for all people. For example, a 5:1 ratio provides scant protein and should only be used short-term. But how do you calculate a ketogenic diet achieve the correct ratio?
Now I’m getting deep into nerdy math territory that some of us thrive on and others run from. Although I get crazy excited by math and science, the tedious math equations involved in the classic ketogenic diet aren’t fun. In my early career of working with patients on classic ketogenic diet therapy, I struggled to find the time to figure out ketogenic macros then translate that into servings of food that also had to taste good. Computer applications were just becoming available and I was at the right place at the right time. I was fortunate to meet a computer developer who saw this as a doable application. After months of coding and testing, we had produced a program together that was user-friendly and created ketogenic meal plans in seconds, literally seconds! KetoDietCalculator has evolved into a multi-featured tool that has been upgraded many times over the years. This unique program can be used to create variations of the ketogenic diet including different ratios (5:1, 4:1, 3:1, 2:1, 1:1) as well as the MCT oil diet, modified Atkins, and the LGIT (all are approximately 1:1 ratios). The program may be used to design diets for any age and can be modified to the specific dietary needs of an individual. KetoDietCalculator can create meals with baby food, solid food, liquid diets (formulas), or any combination of these, and, it can be accessed on mobile devices i.e. smart phones.
Instructions for calculating ketogenic recipes by hand from The Epilepsy Diet Treatment, An Introduction to the Ketogenic Diet (Freeman MD, Kelly RD LD, Freeman) 1994. This book is now in its 7th edition.
In comparison, here is an example of the “calculation” of a meal and its recipe in the KetoDietCalculator (KDC). In this example, Keto Porridge is one of over 300 “Standard” meals” and snacks that users can choose from. After selecting, each meal is calculated to match the individual’s macronutrients. Macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate) are highlighted in yellow at the bottom. The user can adjust the meal for to suit their preference and add to or delete items in the meal. No long hand algebra necessary! Foods are weighed in metric grams for best accuracy since portion sizes tend to be very small, therefore, a gram scale is necessary.
A great advantage in using an internet-based system is that food data is updates are live to all users the instant they are uploaded. The KDC database includes several hundred foods, mostly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Composition Database. Commercial food nutrient information is obtained directly from the manufacturer. The carbohydrate content of medications and supplements is also obtained directly from the manufacturers. Registered professional users may add food, supplements and medications through their access.
KetoDietCalculator is for use by people who are under the supervision of a medical team, and some features of the program are only viewable to these professionals. The program is housed on a HIPPA server with anti-virus protection and is backed up every 15 minutes. This unique tool is free to health care providers who are then able to grant access to patients or clients. A licensed nutritionist must register for the program via the site (www.KetoDietCalculator.org). Once registered, a username and password are provided as well as instructions for navigating the program.
The Charlie Foundation recommends only professionally supervised calculators for medical ketogenic diet therapies. Although the KetoDietCalculator program is provided without fee, The Charlie Foundation welcomes an annual donation to help cover the maintenance costs.
If you are following a medically prescribed ketogenic diet therapy that requires accurate macronutrients, we discourage using calculators that are based on food labels alone – here’s why:
Did you know that you can quickly estimate the ratio of a packaged food item? This is a helpful skill to have when you are shopping and reading nutrition labels. You can quickly and easily estimate the ratio of a food item, but remember, there still may be hidden carbohydrate!