Sherene's Personal Maintenance Suggestions

NOTE: These tips are provided by Ideal Northwest, LLC and NOT sanctioned, reviewed nor endorsed by Ideal Protein.  These tips are a summary of the collective consensus of successful maintainers in our clinic, along with some general nutritional guidelines provided by one of our favorite professionals, Katherine McKenna, Certified Nutritionist and Mental Health Counselor
Why Create an Alternative Plan?

Many of us at Ideal Northwest (coaches and clients alike) have NOT found any version of Maintenance that Ideal Protein has provided since 2011 to work.  Sherene gained 15 quick pounds trying to follow the version of Maintenance that was recommended at the time she first hit her goal.  That version was based on this quaint French saying:

"Eat like a King for breakfast, a Prince for lunch, and a Pauper for dinner."  

That meant eat a COMBO of fat, carbs and protein together at breakfast,  JUST fat and protein at lunch, and ONLY protein and carbs at dinner. Separating fat and carbs was the whole of the equation.  The rationale was that athletes who rode in the Tour de France ate pasta the night before a race and didn't gain weight.  As with weight maintenance guidelines the world over, this advice was geared mainly toward those with Metabolism Type A.  There were no carb targets, no limits on quantity – just encouragement to go enjoy eating now that you've solved your weight problem.  Sherene and many of our clients who have Metabolism Type B found this approach to be far too unstructured. Without more defined nutrient targets, the influx of carbohydrates triggered all of their carb-cravings and tendencies to over-eat. 

Being die-hard Ideal Protein fans, it's been hard to watch them miss the mark with each subsequent version of a maintenance plan -- at least in terms of how it works for those with Metabolic Type B.  But, unfortunately, such has been the case with each revision.  Perhaps this is because the creators of Ideal Protein are experts at weight loss, during which phase Ketosis offers universal benefits to most people with weight issues.  But once Ketosis is over, we enter more complex territory where there is no one size fits all solution. Those of us with complex relationships with food (emotional eating, disordered eating, food / mood reactions), especially those of us with Metabolism Type B, face challenges that go beyond "food as fuel."  We experience bigger reactions to food in general and, as such, need a more structured approach to managing it. 

But HOW?  The coaches and maintainers at Ideal Northwest, all of whom have a personal stake in finding a solution, embarked on journey to answer this basic question:  After Phase 1, how do I keep this weight off?  We've had years of trial and error, success and failure, disappointment and triumph, but we believe we've FOUND the SOLUTION! And we are proud to present this summary for you now!  What follows is what has worked for our most successful maintainers and coaches who have managed to stick within a few pounds of their target - some of us now for years! 

"Eat Low-Carb, and make friends with dietary FAT!"
How to Use this Guide:
  1. The most important step you can take is to begin TODAY building your Maintenance plan using this information.  
    We offer Maintenance Menu Design workshops to assist those who would like help. However, if you prefer to do this on your own, realize this process will take some time and effort on your part. You will need to: 
    • Familiarize yourself with the new macronutrient targets. Most importantly, make *friends* with FAT! 
    • Create a spreadsheet and keep it up to date.
    • Use your spreadsheet to plan your meals each week.
    • Do research to design your menu (online or using books about low-carbing).
    • Learn how to read labels and apply this skill all the time!
    • Look up the nutritional data on foods you plan to eat. Eventually memorize these foods. 
    • Commit to tracking your food for at least a few months. Most successful maintainers track their food at least casually on an ongoing basis. 
    • Have a plan to evaluate how your menu/approach is working and understand how to make corrections if it's not. 
  2. Take advantage of the remaining coaching available to you. 
    Use us! Do your homework and bring drafts of your menu to each coaching session as you phase off.  Your coach is eager to help you and wants to ensure you are ready to be on your own again with food.  We are honestly surprised by the number of people who don't fully take advantage of this time.  The number one confession of people who come back to repeat Phase 1 is that they didn't plan the way they know they should've, and that's why the ended up gaining weight back. 


Our carb limit recommendations come from over 5 years of observation and collaboration with successful Ideal Protein maintainers.  Individual thresholds vary according to factors such as: activity level, level of prior insulin resistance, history of eating disorders, etc. Talk to your coach if you think your level should be different.

Women:  45-60g Net Carbs /day - on AVERAGE  

Men:  60-75g Net Carbs /day - on AVERAGE

When we say "Carbs," we mean:  

  • Carbohydrates ABOVE the ones from veggies found on the Select list of Phase 1. Most maintainers aren't counting the carbs in broccoli, cauliflower and the like.
  • Net Carbs - which equals TOTAL Carbs minus
    • Any grams of true fiber (be careful of fiber-based sweeteners like Isomalto-oligosaccharides, etc.)*
    • Half of any grams of sugar alcohol - or ZERO grams of sugar alcohol if you don't usually experience digestive upset from eating them.*

*See warnings about artificial sweeteners below.  


For women this usually means 9-12 oz of high quality protein a day.

For men, this usually means 13-16 oz of high quality protein a day.


Fat becomes your LARGEST source of calories and satiety.

On average, women eat 110 - 130 grams of fat each day.

On average, men eat 130 - 170 grams of fat each day.

(What does 20g of Fat Look Like?)

  1. Develop a Menu for the first 2 - 4 weeks.  
    Use a spreadsheet and the internet to research low-carb options that fit these parameters.


Create 5 meals in each category which meet the following parameters:

  • Breakfasts (15g carb or less)
  • Lunches (15g carb or less)
  • Dinners (15g carb or less)
  • Snacks (7g carb or less)
  • Next, integrate protein and fat into your total day's menu based on your individual needs. You'll have this data from your Nutritional Report and the general targets above. If you don't understand your targets, ask your coach.  It's up to you to ensure your daily totals are met to ensure satiety. Maintainers who don't eat enough protein or fat often "relapse" into eating too many carbs. 


Create 5 meals in each category which meet the following parameters:

  • Breakfasts (20g carb or less)
  • Lunches (20g carb or less)
  • Dinners (20g carb or less)
  • Snacks (7g carb or less) - plan to eat up 2 a day depending on your nutritional profile.
  • Next, integrate protein and fat into your total day's menu based on your individual needs. You'll have this data from your Nutritional Report and the general targets above. If you don't understand your targets, ask your coach.  It's up to you to ensure your daily totals are met to ensure satiety. Maintainers who don't eat enough protein or fat often "relapse" into eating too many carbs. 

Notes and suggestions

  • VEGETABLES: One of the biggest mistakes people make when they enter maintenance is to abandon the habit of building meals around vegetables.  Non-starchy veggies - those found in the Select list of Ideal Protein Phase 1- should make up about 50% of each meal/snack you have.   

  • FAT:  Make friends with fat!  Fat needs to become the new, biggest source of your calories!  As long as your carbs are very low, fat won’t hurt you! However, remember that the “kiss of death” for low-carb dieters is holding onto the fat while they let starchy carbs and sugar creep back in!   Adding them together will put you back into insulin resistance faster than anything else.  So generally keep carbs low if you’re having any fat. And vice versa.  

  • PROTEIN:  Good, high-quality, pure proteins  – chicken, eggs, steak, seafood, whey or soy powders, etc - will be a foundation of your maintenance plan.   

  • BEWARE mixed proteins like nuts, legumes and dairy.  All of these should be COUNTED FIRST in your CARBS, rather than just protein. This is a *very* important distinction.  Small amounts of carbs tend to really add up!  This has been a big tripping point for aspiring maintainers. Unless you utilize pure proteins as your mainstay, hidden carbs can add up faster than you realize. 

  • BEWARE alternative sweeteners.

    • Sugar alcohols are absorbed by some people and therefore cause blood sugar and insulin reactions just like carbs. How do you know if you absorb them?  If you don't, you get significant bloating, gas and discomfort. It will be difficult to overeat them.  If you absorb them, you don't get those symptoms, and you can be sure your body will treat them just like a starch or sugar.

    • Fructooligosaccharides, isomalto-oligosaccharides, and fiber-based sweetener variants which sound like them should be viewed with caution!  These sweeteners, commonly found in Quest Bars and other bakery-type items, tend to cause significant sugar cravings in a high percentage of the clients we see. My suspicion is that this class of sweeteners will ultimately be proven to impact blood sugar like regular sugar in a large percentage of people who consume them.

The alternative sweeteners we recommend are: 

  • Stevia (liquid if at all possible)
  • Splenda (again, liquid... and in moderation since it's still basically a chemical)
  • Xylitol and Erythritol in moderation (safer forms of sugar alcohol) 
  • STARCH/CARBS:  Any carb-containing food not in the Select veggie category should be considered a Starch or Carb for the purposes of maintenance.  This includes mixed carb/proteins like nuts, seeds, dairy, legumes, as well as obvious carbs like grain, sugar, starchy veggies, etc.  
  • ALCOHOL:  Don’t let any of the internet debate fool you- one way or another alcohol impacts your body like a carbohydrate and you need to treat it that way if you are going to maintain your weight loss.  Count it, plan for it and limit it.  

  • USE COMMON SENSE:  Many low-carb substitute foods entice you with claims of being "low-carb," but you always need to ask yourself, "low-carb compared to WHAT?"  It doesn't matter if something is low-carb if the carbs that are in that food put you over your personal threshold for carb tolerance. You can gain weight on nuts and dairy products, just like you can on pasta, bagels, sugar and candy. 
  • NEVER EAT CARBS BY THEMSELVES!  Always pair them with equal or more grams of protein! This is called "linking and balancing" carbs and protein.
  • CONTINUE TO TAKE SUPPLEMENTS:  This low-carb lifestyle keeps most people in a very mild state of ketosis (but without fat loss due to the higher dietary fat and calorie intake).  It also limits some food groups such as fruits, grains, etc.  As such, this requires ongoing supplementation with vitamins and minerals mirroring what you were taking during Phase 1.  Be sure to check with your doctor if you have questions about supplements related to any specific health conditions or concerns.

  • THINK IN TERMS OF AVERAGES for a week instead of targets for a day. 

suggested macronutrients

TIP:  Women, keep your carbs under 15g per meal, and 7 g per snack; 
men keep your carbs under 20g per meal and 7g per snack
to achieve these targets.

  • TRACK YOUR FOOD:  Record your food daily and plan to do that for at least the first three months. Successful maintainers often continue tracking indefinitely.  Popular options include apps like My Fitness Pal or CarbTracker.  They are not perfect but they are useful and convenient.
  • EXERCISE!  Even moderate exercise a few times a week can increase your carb tolerance / threshold and greatly aid maintenance. 
  • HAVE AN EMERGENCY PLAN AND ACCOUNTABILITY: Some people find it hard to regulate their intake of carbohydrates once they are no longer in ketosis and enjoying the appetite suppressing effect that came with Phase 1. If you have trouble with carbs, try to identify and avoid "trigger" foods. If you find you overeat when you don't want to, and that it's hard to stop and stay stopped, consider getting some counseling or calling in to an OA Phone Support group ( Some of us, including Sherene, have a tendency to compulsively overeat and need help to overcome this challenge.

Replacement Meal:   

  • Consider having one replacement meal a day – such as a shake instead of a chicken breast & veggies. This can reduce calories in the long run while keeping your nutrition sound. This has been proven by researchers to be a successful strategy for people who have maintained large weight losses over time.  Ideal Complete Shakes, the ones you used for your breakfast protein in Phase 3, were designed for this purpose. You can also make your own – shooting for:

    •  7-20 net carbs (depending on whether it’s a snack or meal for a woman or a man) 
    • 25g protein
    • Approx 10-20 g fat


The following list includes a few items we have found essential as we transitioned into a long-term low-carb lifestyle, including: 

  • SNACKS:  One of the hardest things to wrangle once you're in Maintenance is "on the go" snacks.  Many of us have gotten used to the convenience of Ideal Protein foods and find it hard to replace them with grocery store items.  We have some ideas for you!

  • LOW CARB SUBSTITUTES:  If you miss buns, tortillas, pastas, or whatever it may be, you can be confident you'll find many low-carb substitutes on the market. The trick is finding GOOD ones. We have listed a few of our favorites for you here to get you started. There are many sites where you can find reviews and recommendations online as well. We like researching on, even if we don't like buying our products there (higher prices). 

A more in-depth list of product recommendations, meal and snack ideas can be found in our downloadable .pdf - "Beyond Ideal Protein: Maintenance Guide."  (Coming soon!)  If you don't see substitutes or options that fit your desired menu design, use keywords to research online.  Each person is SO INDIVIDUAL in what they like to eat that we've found it impossible to create guides or lists that cover everyone's preferences. We have a lot more ideas than you'll see here but including them all would cause overwhelm. If you'd like help with additional ideas and solutions beyond this list, contact us for a Maintenance Menu Design workshop or enroll in Maintenance Coaching. 


Products we like to buy from Amazon: 

Products we find at the grocery store: 

  • String Cheese:  We recommend full-fat Frigo brand. We think they taste the best and the higher fat content makes them more satiating. Costco is a great place to stock up on these. 
  • CarbMaster Yogurt - usually $.50 each.  Inexpensive, decent tasting and convenient!  (Approx 4 g carb, 8 g protein). These are available ONLY at Fred Meyer and QFC since they are a Kroeger branded product.  
  • Fage – Plain Greek Yogurt (2% or Total (full fat)).   Most grocery stores carry this.  Avoid buying your Fage at Costco since they only carry the 0% fat. In maintenance, you are trying to include a much higher amount of fat so fat-free products are counterproductive.  0% also doesn't taste as good.  Each serving has only 9 g of carb, and 23 g protein for a cup!  You have to watch your quantities on these, but it can be a great base for a breakfast for when you’re missing dairy.
  • Raw nuts (1/4 cup):  Walnuts are the best, lowest carb nut, followed by Almonds.  You can keep a bag of these in your glove box and they stay good for awhile. Almond flour is a staple in low-carb baking, but the carbs add up so you have to be choosy about what “treats” you make with nut flours, and how much of them you have.
  • La Tortilla Factory Whole Wheat tortillas!  These only have about 5-6 net carbs each!  They can be found in the tortilla section of almost any grocery store.  We actually prefer the taste and texture of Mission's Carb Balance flour tortillas, but they are a little higher in carb. Sometimes that's worth it though. :) 
  • Low Carb Bread:  we honestly have not found a good retail option for this. If you find one, please share. Meanwhile, many maintainers just use thin-sliced sprouted grain breads **very occasionally.** In this case, something like Ezekiel or Silver Springs works well. Sprouted grain breads can be found at most grocery stores.  
  • Parsnip Chips: Eat Your Parsnip chips have only 2g carb per serving, but they *taste* like a lot more!  Amazon carries them but at a very high price! It's best to find these locally. Trader Joes has a version too! 
  • Hemp Hearts - a great additive to smoothies for texture and thickening. Costco has a great price on these. 
  • "Tempt” Hemp Milk:  A great base for smoothies!  More “good” fat, less carbs, and more protein than milk or other milk alternatives.   
  • Whip Cream:  a great stand-alone dessert! Many maintainers whip up some full-fat heavy whipping cream and have it for dessert on days they need to catch up to their fat targets. It can be flavored with some unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla and splenda for a mousse-like treat! It can also be blended with sugar-free jello. 

There is great debate in the land of dietary guidelines about what trigger foods are and even whether or not they exist.  We think that's because not everyone has food triggers, so they can’t imagine that they exist for anyone else. (See Metabolic Types Blog).  If you have triggers, you generally know it, and you probably also have a suspicion about what they are.  If you don’t, you may not need to pay attention to this section!  The easiest way to figure out if you have any trigger foods is to ask yourself this simple question:

Are there foods that when I eat them, I want more of them (right away or in the next few days),
or which start me on a track of eating more carbs than I mean to?

If you answer yes to either part of that question, you would probably benefit from identifying and avoiding those foods, at least in the early days of maintenance. 

Triggers can include specific foods or even groups of foods – i.e. grains, nuts, alcohol or ultra-pasteurized dairy products.  For instance,  Sherene has identified two main triggers for herself:  corn (even small amounts) and ultra-pasteurized dairy products (which contain chemical components akin to MSG).  Some foods are tricky to classify. Case in point: chocolate.  Some people can tolerate and even take or leave super-dark chocolate.  But lighter or milk chocolate causes them trouble. In that case, their issue may be with dairy more than chocolate. So identifying triggers takes some careful experimentation.  

In any case, we find it most helpful to add only one tricky or suspicious food at a time, watching it carefully until we feel sure it's okay.  If it starts to look like it’s causing a problem, we remove it at the first sign of trouble. If you have trouble removing any particular food, that alone is a sign that it may be a trigger.  Deep attachment to any food is usually a bad sign.  Above all, protect your food peace.  It will become the foundation for your weight maintenance. 


Many of the maintainers we work with have mixed feelings about the concept of splurge meals.  True to form, there is no "one size fits all" approach to splurges.  

Ideal Protein's maintenance plan includes a "mandatory splurge day” each week. They essentially encourage you to have one day a week where you eat whatever you want. This makes us think they may not work with many long-term maintainers who have Metabolism Type B.  Either that, or they haven't noticed the frequency with which many hopeful maintainers spin out of control after splurge days. At Ideal Northwest, we've see that too many times to think splurge days are a good idea for everyone. 

Our alternative recommendations have come from years of careful experimentation. What we've learned is that some of us can splurge once a week, and some of us cannot.

For those of us who can splurge, we still use judicious limits - such as keeping splurges contained in one meal, or avoiding triggers no matter whether we are splurging or not. Almost all of the successful maintainers who splurge still low-carb leading up to and following it.  But about half of us have found that splurges lead to vicious cravings and an inability to get back on track with our low-carb plan afterward. Inability to splurge occurs most frequently in folks who were severely insulin resistant when they started Phase 1  -- i.e. pre-diabetics, type 2 diabetics and those of us who had body fat percentages above 40.  (A.k.a. Metabolism Type Bs). 

Safety Tips for people who CAN handle Splurge Meals: 

  • Plan them in advance.  Lower your carbs a couple days ahead of time, and plan to simulate Phase 1 for a day or two afterward – depending on how large your splurge is.
  •  Keep the carbs in a cage!  This means eat the carbs in a spike – 1 meal – all at once. Don’t let them seep into the rest of your day/weekend/week. Your body can react and recover from a carb spike without chronically raising your insulin levels (like in Phase 3 with breakfast), but frequent carb consumption (daily or multiple times a day) appears to send people back toward insulin resistance.
  •  Alcohol should be counted as one of your carbs.  Period.
  • Choose carefully. Don’t go hog wild. Pick 2 or 3 of the carbs you’d like to add and don’t eat “throw away” carbs. If the bread before dinner isn’t your fav, skip it and have a few bites of your favorite dessert.
  • Work on your scarcity mentality.  You will be able to have anything you want in small amounts for the rest of your life if you’re careful not to overindulge now. There will be another splurge meal where you can have that “other” thing you decided not to have this time. Try and make your choices reasonable and not go crazy. Keep your goals in mind and remember where you came from.
  •  Never eat carbs by themselves.  Pair carbs with a good chunk of protein to mitigate the impact on your blood sugar. The “Insulin Resistance Diet” calls this “linking and balancing proteins,” and it seems to be a very successful strategy. 

Alternatives for people who CAN’T handle Splurge Meals:

If you can’t handle splurge meals without them turning into free-for-alls, then you have a decision to make.  Most of the maintainers in this category resort to SUBSTITUTES.  Substitutes are pleasurable foods, treats, meals or snacks that simulate the foods they miss the most, but which don’t actually contain carbs.  The foods people miss is different for each person, so our suggestions are general and based on the most popular choices we've found. To find more ideas specific to yourself, utilize low-carb cookbooks or online searches using key words for ingredients you miss.  *If you would like custom meals and recipes based on your preferences, our coaches can provide those through a Maintenance Menu workshop, or 1:1 Maintenance Coaching. 



It can be overwhelming when you first realize how vast the options are for low-carb treats and substitutes.  Here are a few tricks to getting started on the right foot: 

  • Invest some time, energy and resources to identify a handful of good options.  Start small and build your recipe repertoire over time. 
  • Choose recipe sites and cookbooks that provide nutritional data for their recipes. It's not good enough to just be labeled "low-carb." You need to now how many grams of carb you're getting per serving.
  • If a recipe doesn't provide a breakdown of data, you'll need to calculate it yourself. Just add up the NET carbs in all of the ingredients you add, then divide that by the number of servings. This recipe calculator can help. 


After being in deep ketosis for months on Phase 1, then cementing in our metabolic changes with Phase 3, our bodies will have become more receptive to insulin. This means we burn carbs more readily and are no longer in chronic fat-storage mode.  To new maintainers, this phenomenon makes it appear as if they've gained a miraculous ability to splurge on foods which used to cause weight gain but stay within 1-2 lbs of their goal weight. The problem is that if it's abused, this new metabolic sensitivity will disappear.   

Overeating carbs will quickly send our bodies back into insulin-resistance (a.k.a. chronic fast storage mode) -- the very state which caused us to be overweight to begin with. This backsliding process takes about 2 months (give or take).  By the time the scale starts climbing, we're already back in fat storage mode and it will take another deep and prolonged period of low-carbing (i.e. Phase 1) to reverse it again. 

Trust us – we've seen this too many times!  A large percentage of hopeful maintainers make the mistake of thinking this “grace period” means they can eat carbs with impunity.  It’s not true.  Don’t burn your grace period by mistaking it for a free pass.  Don't fall prey to the insidious hope that *you* will be the one person who will get away with it.   Trust your new understanding of the biology of carbs and insulin – and utilize that knowledge to keep yourself honest.   

Know that if you get off track and begin eating carbs more frequently than a once a week "splurge,"  you WILL need to do a reset.  Some people can do this on their own by designing a temporary, very low-carb menu with regular food. Some maintainers come in and buy a few weeks of Phase 1 food and do a reset by themselves. Others need the formality of redoing Phase 1 with a coach for awhile… It depends on how far off track you’ve gotten whether or not you might be stuck in an addictive pattern with a couple of tricky foods. 

Experience has shown us that restarting is HARDER for our returning clients than it was doing Phase 1 the first time.  Don’t be cavalier and think that you always have a quick fix in your back pocket as soon as you feel like taking care of that pesky 5 lbs you regained (oops, now it's 10 lbs... now it's 15...)  Some maintainers never make it back from these kinds of sideways slides.  Use your knowledge of the science of insulin resistance to preserve the loss you worked so hard for. If you get into trouble (cravings, weight gain, bingeing), schedule a MAINTENANCE visit with your coach for help sooner rather than later.  You may also want to join us for some of our supplementary maintenance programs for ongoing support. 

Maintenance Accountability

Take advantage of the offer for FREE Maintenance Check-in appointments.  It will help you stay on track and recognize sooner when you need to make corrections. Once you've phased off, we encourage you to come monthly, then every two months, then quarterly.  OR, just schedule yourself when needed. We do find that regular Check-in appointments help avoid long periods of denial about weight gain. It can help you interrupt any backsliding and avoid big gains.  Your coach can set up reoccurring appointments, OR you can self-schedule single appointments on our website. 

Maintenance Coaching is available for those who would like a deeper level of accountability and support. Contact your coach to find out more.