Keto(ish) for 14yo boy -- advice?


My son turns 14 this month and has been steadily gaining in mostly abdominal fat for the past three years. He is roughly 5’7" and 160 pounds so on BMI it doesn’t look too concerning, but he has virtually no muscle at all. He is on the autism spectrum although high functioning, but was born with very low muscle tone, was very delayed on all gross and fine motor skills, and is difficult to get moving much at all.

I love him just the way he is, but he is self conscious about the big tummy, and has even been name-called a bit by little jerks at school. He is receptive to making some changes in his diet. We also have him seeing a personal trainer a couple times a week where they work on some calisthenics and weight bearing. It exhausts him but he does like it. I would LOVE to have him in swimming but he gets very bored with the laps for swim team prep and realistically he will never put in enough of the long practice to get as competitive as the other kids, so always finishing last has been pretty demoralizing and demotivating for him in that area.

Our ped has not been much help. So far her advice has been don’t worry, he’ll grow into it when he gets his growth spurt; and beyond that, switch him to skim milk (which I’m very dubious about). He’s grown 3" in the past few months so the growth spurt is definitely happening, but the belly is growing right along with it. I don’t think we are managing to “maintain weight while he grows.” We live near Dr. Westman’s clicnic at Duke, but they told me he only sees patients over 18.

We have made some minor changes like getting all cereals/sweets/chips out of the house and making cheese and fresh fruit freely available instead. I found this link interesting, since it suggests that my son may be just about to hit a testosterone phase which will make building muscle easier and thereby start burning fat more effectively.

I have read that epileptic children on a strict keto diet can experience stunted growth, and I certainly don’t want that. He is on a growth curve to be at least 6’ tall, like his daddy. I don’t want to inadvertently jeopardize his health or mess with his optimal growth so I wish I didn’t have to figure this out for myself. But it seems like at the least trying to replace high carb foods with low carb versions would be beneficial here? I doubt I could get him down to 20g carbs per day anyway without lots of drama/sadness, but maybe 50-100 would be doable and still helpful?

Anyone else working with a teen in similar circumstances?

(About me: keto for about a month, lost 10 pounds, 15 to go)

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #2

Phinney and Volek define LCHF as carbohydrate under about 100-125 grams a day. Of course, a lot of us need to eat a lot less carbohydrate than that in order to become ketotic, which is why the dudes and those forums recommend under 20 grams.

Though normally, an important part of LCHF is to keep the protein level moderate (to avoid gluconeogenesis), an adolescent in the middle of a growth spurt needs protein in order to grow, so be sure your son gets enough. I’m sure he’ll be fine, as long as you keep his carbs low.

Is this kind of nutritional project possibly the sort of thing that might engage his curiosity? That might be an aid to getting him to comply with the new way of eating.


Hi ketoparent, I am new here, but I really respond to your post. My 22 year old started keto in May, and even back at college he continues. It is more work and carbs are everywhere, but he tells me he is keto-ing on because he likes the new body and how it makes him feel.

That said, oh ho I wish that I had learned about keto when he was younger. He was slightly overweight n high school and as a youngster. And he rued every minute of it.

Do, do give your son a shot at this. Pick a limited time, say, 3 or 6 months, and go full out keto.
Number one, I read that keto diet promotes hgh, so doubtful it will stunt his growth.
Number two, going all in for keto will show whether your son’s body responds positively to it, as he most likely will. And losing the body fat most likely will add some confidence in these tough teen years. I have two keto friends who are psych practitioners who swear by the keto diet for enhancing mood and mental health.

So read up on it for teens. I hear that Facebook has a keto parent group you can join.

I keep my carbs 20 g or below. I believe my son who is more active does 50 g or below per day. So that could be a range to aim for.
Feed him mostly meat.
Cut out that fruit, it is very high in sugar.

Give him this shot and see. You both may be happier for it.

(Lauren) #4

I have 5 kids. My oldest is a 14yr old boy at 5’4" and 130lbs. They eat under 75g of carbs daily, sometimes lower, except for the once a month they are at Grandma’s. They eat the keto meals I make, and I don’t really limit them on fruit, veggies, and cheese. These foods are where their extra carbs come from. I don’t purchase foods I can’t eat while keto, with the exception of the fruit.

My son has grown 2 inches this summer and has lost 9lbs. All my kids are doing extremely well on this way of eating.

(Keto in Katy) #5

Last year our 16 yo son weighed about 233 lbs — he’s a big boy, about 6-1 but he had put on a lot of weight.

In June of last year he asked his mom and I if he could do keto with us. So he started eating mostly meat and a little bit of veggies — he totally dropped the soft drinks, chips, sweets, etc.

By the end of the year he was down more than 60 lbs. He weighs about 170 now and feels great. Below is his chart where we have tracked his weight. He did this with zero exercise, just diet.

Our other son just turned 15, he started keto five weeks ago and he is down 15 lbs now.

If they have the discipline and some support, it works.


Thanks for all the feedback! He is definitely on board. We talked some more this morning about swapping some high-carb foods in his diet for some low-carb ones. Breakfast is a toughy, he doesn’t like scrambled eggs unfortunately, that would be so easy. He does like oatmeal, and this week he ate a couple of these Powerful Oatmeal cups. That’s 32g carbs but also a lot of protein! I’m thinking I could try to recreate something similar, and replace most/all of the oats with something like hemp hearts maybe? Add some protein powder and replace the sugar with Swerve? It might take some experimenting. But if I can get the recipe right, I can store it as a premade mix and he can make it up hot each morning.

Same for his school lunches, he’s been taking these Ready Meals (he has access to a microwave) but I think I could make ahead and freeze a low-carb, higher-protein version.

(Jodi) #7

Have you thought about bacon for breakfast? You could precook it and just store it in the fridge for the week, a few slices eaten cold or slightly warmed in the microwave would be easy, quick and tasty.

My son is 21 and severely autistic. He also is very self restricted in his choices so it has made it challenging sometimes, but still workable. We do more LCHF than keto, but he lost around 50lbs in slightly over a year. We are still working on some of the ab fat but he’s in a medium down from XL. We have also done little exercise, but a decent amount of casual walking. Started at 5’7", 210ish pounds, down to 160ish.


That is a great idea about pre-cooking bacon! He loves it, but we usually only have it on weekends. I will try pre-cooking some and then warming it on school mornings.

I’m really glad to hear how helpful it’s been for your son. I know for sure how tough it can be to try to limit an already restricted palate to only healthy choices.

My son also really likes the Stonyfield Farm Strawberry Smoothies so I was letting him take them for lunch, but even with the 10g of protein the 39g carb hit is a lot. I’m thinking to suggest maybe it could be a once a week treat, like on Fridays. I think that could be a good compromise as I think he will be very disappointed and discouraged if I just take them away completely.

(Jodi) #9

Good idea on the compromise! :blush:
I just looked at it as I needed to start somewhere. Some things we had to go slower on than others. We still do artificial sweeteners and occasionally he gets a small dish of his favorite chips. We do keto cookies and quite a bit of sugar free ketchup. He absolutely hates water but he will drink really watered down flavored sf drinks. He doesn’t seem to really miss fruit much.
We just make it work best as we can.:blush:

(Jane Reed) #10

Breakfast can be anything you like to eat, not just eggs or cereal.

I’m thinking of small sausages wrapped in Fathead pizza dough, both items precooked, ready to warm in the microwave; dinner leftovers; cheese and ham rollups. If your boy has some strong preferences, suggest he come to the kitchen and experiment with making dishes with combinations of those foods, and which he’d be willing to eat.

(Keto in Katy) #11

My other son turned 15 in September and he wanted to do keto with me and his mom so he could drop some weight. He begin on July 22 and as of October 21 he is down 23 pounds — from 190 to 167.

We track his weight every Saturday morning and here is the chart so far. He looks great and feels so much better.