- For people following a strict meal plan such as the keto diet, the holidays can be a difficult time to stay on track.
- But holiday breaks don’t have to be a permanent setback.
- Instead of cutting out carbs totally again, nutritionists say easing back into ketosis after a break is typically the healthiest way to get back on this diet.
During the holidays, did you decide to take a short break from following a diet that lasted a little longer than you originally intended?
Maybe you only meant to ease up for a couple of days, but then Aunt Doris offered you another piece of her famous pecan pie and the next thing you knew those few days became a few weeks, the holidays were over, and you’d gained more weight than you realized.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Holiday weight gain is a challenge for many people. In fact, the average person will gain about a pound during the season.
But taking a break from following a keto diet to celebrate the holidays doesn’t have to be a permanent setback.
In fact, nutritionists say these seven tips can help get you back into ketosis in no time.
Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and an adjunct assistant professor at the Fielding School of Public Health, said the most important tip she can give is to let go of a perfectionist mind-set.
In fact, having an all-or-nothing attitude is why many people yo-yo diet, she said.
Hunnes noted that keto is a lifestyle diet. It’s meant to be a change in your way of eating that you can stick with for life. This means that you can build in times for treats, rewards, and fun time-outs like the holidays, as long as your overall way of life is a healthy one.
Also high on Hunnes’ list is that you should have a game plan.
She explained that it’s much more difficult to get derailed if you have a solid plan in place for what you’ll be eating and doing.
She suggested that you should have a plan for each day that includes your meals and exercise.
You should also have a weekly meal plan or grocery list that you’ll follow.
Setting lofty, perfectionistic goals can set you up for failure.
Rather than thinking that you want to get back on track quickly and eat perfectly, Hunnes advises that you think about doing something you feel sure you can achieve.
For example, start with something small, like committing to eating on plan for the day and getting in a 15-minute walk.
Setting goals that you can reasonably achieve will help you feel encouraged and prime you for future success.
Liz Weinandy, MPH, RDN, LD, lead outpatient dietitian for nutrition services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, recommended that you don’t go cold turkey and drop all of the carbs right away.
Shifting into ketosis rapidly can be uncomfortable and hard to do. A gradual transition is more ideal, according to Weinandy.
She recommended dropping your carbs by 25 grams a day until you reach your goal.
A big reason that people feel bad at the beginning of a diet is keto flu, said Weinandy.
When we lower carbs, there’s a diuretic effect that causes a rapid shift in electrolyte balance.
As the body gets adjusted to burning fat for fuel, it can leave a person feeling tired, irritable, and dizzy.
To counteract these symptoms, Weinandy suggested adding about 2,000 milligrams of sodium — about a teaspoon of table salt — to meals each day.
However, people with high blood pressure should consult their doctor before doing this, she advised.
Because keto dieting has a diuretic effect, it can also be
Dehydration is responsible for some of the symptoms of keto flu, including fatigue and dizziness.
Feeling thirsty and having a dry mouth are also signs of dehydration.
To avoid dehydration, Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, HHC, an integrative medicine dietitian and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommends 2 liters (about 8 cups) of water per day.
Weinandy said many people do keto in a way that’s not healthy or sustainable.
For example, they might eat large amounts of processed meats like bacon, sausage, and lunch meat, which have been linked to increased cancer risk.
Eating this way can also lead to feelings of boredom and deprivation.
Her suggestion? Eat more plant-based foods.
Healthy fats can be added in the form of olive oil, avocado, nuts, and plant-based oils that are low in saturated fat.
Instead of processed meats, select lean meats like fish, skinless poultry, and occasionally lean red meat.
Plant protein from soy is a good fit for a keto diet, too, Weinandy said. Also, add plenty of non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens to your meals. Leafy greens are especially good because they’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties.
And to give even more variety and nutrition to your meals, she suggested adding a small serving of a low-carb fruit.
So a meal might look something like this: 4 to 5 ounces of lean protein, surrounded by a large amount of vegetables with added olive oil, avocado, and a small serving of berries.
Healthful selections like these can make your keto way of eating easier to stick with and more nutritious.
The holidays can be a very difficult time to maintain a diet plan, especially one like keto that involves cutting out the carbohydrate-rich foods that many people associate with the season.
Taking a timeout from your diet isn’t a failure. Diets such as keto are meant to be a change in your way of eating that you can stick with for life. This means you can build in times for treats, rewards, and fun breaks like the holidays, as long as your overall way of life is a healthy one.
Nutritionists say it’s important to have a solid plan in place while getting back into ketosis. By knowing how to deal with common pitfalls, like keto flu and carb cravings, ahead of time, greater success can be achieved.