Safely Transition From Keto With These 7 Expert Tips
Starting a keto diet is not an easy adjustment. When you're going on the high-fat, low-carb diet, your body has to get used to running on food in a different way. Once you're in the thick of it, though, you generally feel less hungry and start to lose weight. However, this diet isn't generally recommended as a long-term plan, which means at some point, you'll have to transition back off the keto diet.
As with any change to your diet, there are some side effects you may experience (including weight gain), and there are some best practices for how to transition effectively and safely. In order to help minimize any issues when getting off the keto diet, we spoke to two nutrition efforts who offered helpful tips about how to take this leap slow and steady.
Slowly Reintroduce Carbs
Considering that the keto diet is almost a no-carb diet, you want to take care with bringing carbs back into your daily routine. "On the keto diet, you may be used to having just one or two servings of carbohydrates per day," says Ashley Larsen, RDN, owner of Ashley Larsen Nutrition. "Slowly increase this to one serving of carbohydrate per meal, and include protein and vegetables with your meal. You can slowly increase your carbohydrates to two or three servings per meal as part of a well balanced diet."
Valentina Duong, APD, of The Strength Dietitian, also recommends bringing those carbs back early in the day, so your body has more time to use them. "Slowly introduce carbohydrates into your breakfast," she suggests. "For example, start with rolled oats with yogurt and berries."
Make Sure You're Getting Fiber
Fiber is an important part of your diet no matter what healthy lifestyle you're following. After all, it's what helps regulate the body's sugars, so you should continue eating fiber-rich foods when you're coming off keto. "Choose whole food carbohydrates that are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals," Larsen says. "Some examples are sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, berries, and apples. Including foods with fiber in your diet can help to prevent a high blood sugar spike and weight regain while transitioning off the keto diet."
By eating high-fiber foods, you'll also help curb some of the intense hunger pangs that come with reintroducing carbs when you stop the keto diet. Larsen explains that carbs low in fiber tend to digest far quicker, making you hungry more frequently. "Fiber is not fully absorbed by our body, so it moves slowly through the digestive system, helping us to feel full for longer," Larsen says.
Slowly Bring in Legumes
When you want to introduce legumes back to your diet, do it slowly so you don't shock your system. "Include legumes and beans in small quantities at first — about 1/4 cup per serving — as your body gets used to the fiber again," Duong says. "If you introduce it too fast, it can lead to gas, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea."
Continue to Limit Refined Sugar
Keep sugary foods out of your diet until you're properly weaned off keto to prevent rapid weight gain when you're going back to eating a more well-rounded diet. "If you've been following the keto diet, chances are you haven't had refined sugar or white flour in quite a while," Larsen says. "It would be best to continue limiting those foods as you are transitioning off."
Maintain a High Protein Intake
You've just spent a period of time consuming a large volume of protein, so it's important to keep doing that, even when you're eating new foods. "Continue to maintain a high protein diet that is also high in vegetables," Duong says. "Start by reducing foods that are high in fats and replacing them with carbohydrates. Continue to include healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, and nut butters in moderation."
Resist Old Eating Habits
When you come off keto, one of the last things you want to do is go right back to the way you ate before you started dieting, especially if it wasn't a healthy, balanced diet. "Consider what worked well and what you would be willing to continue as a lifestyle change, such as less soda, sweets, and alcohol and more nonstarchy vegetables at meals," Larsen says. "Maintaining your weight loss requires consistent healthy lifestyle changes in order to keep the weight off long term."
Expect Some Weight Gain
Gaining a bit of weight when going off a diet is totally normal. Essentially, your body undergoes a sort of shock after it transitions from a limited diet to one where you're eating more and differently.
"You can expect to have slight weight gain, but don't worry because this is most likely water weight gain and not fat gain," Larsen says. "Following a keto diet can actually cause you to become slightly dehydrated. Carbohydrates hold onto water and help us to stay hydrated. Slowly increasing your carbohydrate intake and focusing on foods high in fiber can help your body to adjust and prevent large weight changes."