How to Avoid Carb Creep on a Low-Carb Diet

Four Strategies to Stop the Carbohydrates That Try to Sneak Back Into Your Diet

reaching for a cupcake
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There is an insidious problem that happens at some point to most people on low-carb diets. Over time, people start adding more carbohydrate, until it becomes too much. Studies that track people on diets almost always show this. For people following a low-carb way of eating, this is called "carb creep." How can you combat this tendency to eat more carbohydrate than is good for you as time goes on?

It is part of the low-carb Atkins and South Beach diets to start out with a very low-carb phase and then add carbohydrate.

The trick is to figure out how much to add, how fast, and to be alert for the signs that you've gone overboard.

How to Tell if You are a Victim of Carb Creep

As the name implies, carb creep happens slowly, but when you've gone over your limit, one or more of the following can happen:

  • Weight loss stops.
  • Food cravings and excess hunger return.
  • Symptoms return that went away while eating low-carb and benefits of low-carb eating go away.
  • Blood glucose is less-well controlled.
  • For those who are aiming for nutritional ketosis, blood ketones are below recommended levels.

How to Combat Carb Creep

  1. Go back to the beginning and track your carbs carefully: Often it's a good idea to start over again and get that good low-carb feeling back. Make sure you're familiar with how much carbohydrate is in different foods. There are lots of ways to track your food, including mobile apps and online. Be sure to read or scan labels carefully.
  1. Watch your serving sizes: A common mistake is to think that a food is so low in carbs that you don't have to pay attention to how much of it you are eating. But some foods have more carbs than you think, and they will add up. Nuts are low-carb, but they don't have zero carbs, and it's easy to eat too many. Also, there are foods that may say zero carbs on the label, but due to serving sizes they are not, and larger amounts will add carbohydrates. Cream is an example of this. It says a tablespoon is "0 grams of carbohydrate", but in fact it is just under one gram. This can add up if you're putting lots of cream in your coffee.
  1. Don't eat the same things over and over. People sometimes eat more carbs as a way to combat boredom with the food they are eating. This especially happens when people are dieting and restricting their food choices, eating the same things over and over. For low-carb eating to be something you can stick to, eat a wide variety of types of foods, use different cooking techniques, and try new spices. Also, it's usually possible to de-carb your favorite foods, such as pizza, or at least find a different way to get the flavor combinations you're craving.
  2. Don't get too hungry. Are you reaching for carb-laden foods because they are handy and you are hungry? If so, perhaps more planning is required. Make sure you have food that is on your plan accessible to you. If you seem to be running out of carbs in your allotment before you run out of time in your day, consider adding more fat to your diet, which will satisfy your hunger without carbs. Add extra healthy salad dressing to your salads, for example. Have some guacamole with your meal. Put extra butter or olive oil on your vegetables.

These tips should bring you back to the amount of carbohydrate that is right for you, so you can reap the many benefits of low-carb eating again.

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