If a Strict Low-Carb Diet Doesn’t Work For You…


If you’ve struggled to follow a strict low-carb or ketogenic diet, it’s okay! In fact, it’s not surprising considering the human brain loves glucose. While nearly your entire body can use ketones for fuel instead of glucose, ketones can only meet about 70 percent of your brain’s energy needs.

This is one of several reasons why your body is begging you to eat some carbs after a few days or weeks of eating a strict low-carb or ketogenic diet. And quite simply, while a ketogenic diet can be an awesome and helpful experience for some people, that doesn’t mean it’s a great fit for everyone. (We are all different!)

But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a few tips or new habits from the strict low-carb experience and apply it to something more flexible and easier to sustain long-term.

Take what works and leave the rest

You don’t have to cut out all the carbs in order to benefit from being thoughtful about the carbs you do eat. Reducing your total carb intake comes with plenty of benefits while still eating carbs on a daily basis. A reduction can be helpful! That doesn’t mean reducing it to zero or another extremely low amount is necessary.

Here are a few tips for creating your own approach to managing your carb-intake.

Make a couple of your meals lower in carbs.

You don’t have to eat low-carb all day long for it to make a difference in your blood sugar management. If you crave carbs the most at dinner, you could consider eating a lower-carb meal for breakfast and/or lunch. And…this means making room for the carbs you love the most once or twice a day which helps prevent feelings of deprivation and binge-eating all the carbs later on.

Choose the carbs you care about most.

Don’t care much about bagels or pasta but love your homemade cookies for dessert? Prioritize your carbs based on which types of carbs you can easily go without, and which types of carbs you feel deprived of (and possibly obsessed with) when you try to eliminate them altogether. If you don’t need a bun with your burger, then ditch it, and put that burger patty on a big salad!

Choose more real food and less processed junk.

One of the biggest benefits of a low-carb diet is that it instantly removes all those processed/packaged products from your diet. Instead of heavily processed crackers, your whole-food snack of carrots and hummus is a huge nutrition improvement, even if it does contain (extremely healthy) carbohydrates! Learning how to make a really satisfying salad with plenty of veggies, protein and fat on it is an awesome step-up from a bag of crackers and a pizza.

Add veggies to your breakfast.

A low-carb breakfast needs some fiber…from veggies! If you’re enjoying breakfast sausage and eggs, try making vegetables (peppers, spinach, broccoli) part of breakfast to get more fiber and high-quality low-impact carbs. Use frozen veggies for a quick cook-and-run approach, like frozen broccoli or a frozen “medley.”

Swap rice & pasta for veggies.

Pasta sure does pack a punch in the carb-count and your blood sugar. You can fully or partially swap your pasta portion for veggies that offer that same string-like shape to any meal. Try steam-sauteed bean sprouts, sliced onion and pre-shredded carrots, then pair it with any protein and sauce that you’d normally be pairing with pasta!

At the end of the day, it’s about creating a healthier approach to food that you can sustain and enjoy long-term! An extremely strict diet that you can only follow for a few days or weeks is not the right fit for you. Take what’s works for you from that rigid plan and leave the rest.

WRITTEN BY Ginger Vieira, POSTED 08/24/22, UPDATED 05/15/23

Ginger Vieira is an author and writer living with type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism. She’s authored a variety of books, including “When I Go Low” (for kids), “Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes,” and “Dealing with Diabetes Burnout.” Before joining Beyond Type 1, Ginger spent the last 15 years writing for Diabetes Mine, Healthline, T1D Exchange, Diabetes Strong and more! In her free time, she is jumping rope, scootering with her daughters, or walking with her handsome fella and their dogs.