The thing that makes the ketogenic diet so effective is also the thing that makes it so darn difficult: You eat pretty much zero carbs.
By depleting your body of carbohydrates (and the glucose your body usually uses for energy), you shift to using ketones produced from dietary and stored fat for fuel, instead.
Despite keto’s many benefits, breaking up with carbs can be hard—especially at first. However, with a few expert-backed tips, you can keep carb cravings from derailing your diet and sending you face first into a baguette. The next times cravings for the sweet or bready stuff strike, use the following strategies to stay in fat-burning mode.
1. Just Starting Keto? Remind Yourself That Cravings Are Normal
“During the initial stages of the keto diet, especially the first week or two, carb and sugar cravings are common,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council, founder of Ancient Nutrition, and author of the upcoming Collagen Diet. “During this time, ketone levels are still increasing and the body is adjusting to running on fat over glucose.”
In these first weeks, many keto newbies also experience the ‘keto flu,’ which typically involves carb cravings, fatigue, and headaches. These symptoms usually subside as your metabolism adjusts.
Related: 5 Tips For Easing Into The Keto Diet
Remember that resisting carb and sugar cravings will help your body zoom through the ‘keto flu’ and start feeling good faster, says Axe.
2. Whip Up A Keto-Friendly Dessert
Though most typical desserts are off the table on keto, you can make high-fat, super-low-carb treats with a few smart ingredient swaps.
With these sweeteners (and alternative flours like almond flour and coconut flour) in your pantry, you can whip up everything from keto ice cream to keto cookies, and more. Get started with this keto peanut butter fudge, these keto pumpkin spice donuts, or this keto peanut butter cheesecake.
Don’t feel like baking? Sink your teeth into a Lenny & Larry’s Chocolate Chip Keto Cookie or one of these Ketologic Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Keto Indulge Candies.
3. Eat A Serving Of A Fatty Food
When you’re in a pinch and feel carb cravings coming on, grab a serving of fat, instead.
“Fat is your main source of energy and you’re likely to feel run-down, fatigued, and overly hungry if you’re too low in it,” says Nisevich Bede. A few options: avocado, nuts and cheese, unsweetened nut butter, or a keto shake. All of these easy eats provide a quick boost of healthy fats while keeping carbs minimal.
Nuts and nut butters are particularly helpful, because they also provide protein, another macronutrient that helps you feel satiated and craving-free, says dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller, R.D., L.D.N., advisor for Smart Healthy Living. (She’s a fan of plain almond butter, in particular.)
4. Drink Some Water
Often, we mistake hunger for thirst. Drinking a refreshing glass of water (or another beverage) when cravings strike can help them disappear.
Even if you’re well hydrated, grabbing a glass of water or making tea can be just the distraction you need. “Cravings usually have a time element to them,” says Cabeca. “If you can distract yourself for 15 minutes, you may find the craving subsides.”
To prevent cravings from popping up in the first place, sneak more water breaks into your day.
5. Consider Other Craving Culprits
“Many factors can affect how well someone responds to the keto diet, one of which being stress,” says Axe. “If you’re dealing with high amounts of stress (and thus high cortisol output), you’re more likely to experience cravings, trouble sleeping, mood swings, headaches, digestive issues, and more.”
If you’re dealing with consistent cravings, reflect on your stress levels and how they might be impacting your keto experience. Think stress might be having an impact? Refocus on your self-care by prioritizing quality sleep, eliminating as much stress from your life as possible, and making time for relaxing practices like meditation.
“You’ll set yourself up for success, giving you more motivation and energy to work towards your goals,” adds Axe. You’ll also be pleased to notice your carb cravings dissipate.