Chances are that you, or someone you know, has experimented with the keto diet. As we as unpleasant side effects such as strange body odour and a pathological fear of carbs, there’s the keto-rebound which happens when a former keto-tragic realises that a life without pasta is just bland.
The keto diet has been the ‘it’ diet for quite a while, but now, the tides have started to turn. People are realising it’s pretty unsustainable long-term – and thank God, because who wants to say goodbye to bread forever or have their social calendar ruled by what they put in their mouth?!
If you’ve found yourself coming to this conclusion recently, I’m here to help you make the shift back to a more maintainable way of eating. Although you might be craving bottomless bowls of spaghetti bolognese, my top tip is make the transition gradually, rather than going hell for leather on all the carbs you’ve been missing out on.
Why? Chances are, your keto diet has been pretty low in fibre, so to avoid a whole lot of gut discomfort, you need to slowly build up your fibre intake to give your body time to adjust. (In case you missed the memo: good quality carbs are some of the most fibre-rich foods you can get your hands on). At the same time, make sure you up your water intake – without it, your stools will dry up and you’ll become constipated pretty quickly. Not fun.
How to stop the keto diet without gaining weight
While my main concern with the keto diet is the nutritional inadequacy of it (that’s another story for another day), your main concern with stopping it is probably fear of regaining the weight it might’ve helped you lose.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but chances are, you are going to gain a little bit of weight when you re-introduce carbs… but don’t freak out. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of fuel and they’re stored in your body with water. So you’ll probably gain a little bit of water weight if you’ve depleted your carb stores – but that’s really no big deal.
If long-term weight maintenance (and overall good health) is on your radar, say goodbye to your keto carb counting tendencies and instead, try my top three tips for a healthier outlook on food.
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1. Adopt the healthy plate model
Carbs are not bad for you. I repeat: carbs are not the devil.
This might surprise you, but the current dietary guidelines state that up to 65 per cent of your energy intake should come from carbs. That might sound like a lot, but when you consider that four out of five of the core good groups contain carbs (read: fruit, grains, dairy and some vegetables), it makes a lot more sense.
To get the balance right, I like to use a formula called the healthy plate model for main meals. It goes like this: fill half of your plate with non-starchy veg, a quarter with protein and a quarter with carbs. Opt for fresh fruit and dairy (or calcium-fortified alternatives) for your snacks and voila – you’ll have a dietitian-approved eating pattern on your hands that has the right balance of macro and micronutrients.
2. Cut back on fats
Did the keto diet teach you to cover everything in oil and serve all meals with a side of bacon? While you might’ve trained yourself to eat as much fat as possible, post-keto it’s important to recognise these foods are super energy-dense and could easily contribute to unwanted weight gain if consumed in excess.
As a general rule of thumb, aim for just one portion of healthy fats per main meal. That might be a quarter of an avocado, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or a small handful of nuts and seeds. Steer clear of fatty meats and coconut oil, too, they’re rich in saturated fat which isn’t good news for heart health.
3. Create a new normal
Pre-keto, you might’ve been obsessed with diets, but long term health isn’t about trying every new fad that’s written into the fad diet handbook. There’s no time like the present to say goodbye not only to the keto diet, but fad diets altogether, and start focusing on a more holistic, balanced way of eating that makes you feel good from the inside out.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.