If you're eating keto or low carb simply to lose weight, you may not be as strict as I am about holiday eating. Maybe it's easier for me to stick to keto because as a diabetic, I know traditional holiday food will spike my blood sugar, making me feel almost immediately ill. But the truth is, cheating hurts every keto-eater. You've worked hard to improve your heart health, reduce inflammation in your body, get your body burning fat, and just generally make yourself feel better. When you cheat, you set all that back and allow carb cravings to grab a foot hold. Not worth it. No way, no how.
So how does one navigate food during the holiday season? Here's what works for me.
Surviving Holiday Dinners
I started the keto lifestyle right after Thanksgiving 2017. I was worried about surviving Christmas dinner...but it actually wasn't all that hard. The first thing I did was focus on the traditional star of the show: meat. This was the main part of my Christmas meal. (If your family expects honey ham during the holidays, try serving a small amount of meat, like a turkey breast, as an additional offering. If you aren't cooking Christmas dinner yourself, bring the turkey breast to "help the hostess.")
Sadly, most Thanksgiving and Christmas sides are unhealthy and definitely not keto. If you're the host (and assuming most people present are carbavores), serve a few keto sides that everyone can enjoy. If you're a guest, bring at least one side that's keto. Do remember, however, that even keto holiday sides have carbs; don't make the mistake I made my first keto Christmas: I whipped up 3 keto sides (mashed cauliflower, stuffing, and green beans), but still managed to spike my blood sugar because I simply ate too much of each.
Don't forget to bring a low carb dessert for everyone. Unless you sweeten the dish with Stevia (which many people taste as bitter), nobody will know it's keto. Need ideas? Check out my Keto Holiday Recipes board on Pinterest,
Surviving Holiday Parties
Personally, I find getting through holiday parties more difficult than surviving family dinners. Whereas most families are happy if you contribute food to a big meal, you won't always have the opportunity to bring food to a holiday party. Still, if you're given the opportunity, do bring keto food. There's no need to tell anyone it's keto unless you want to; keto food is so delicious, most people will never suspect they are eating "diet" food. Good choices include deviled eggs, dips with pork rinds, cheese balls, meatballs, veggie trays with keto Ranch dressing, strawberries with whipped cream, and jalapeno poppers.
If you're unable to bring food to a party, seek out keto-friendly offerings, even if it means dissecting your food a bit. For example, you might eat from a cheese or nut tray, or just the meat from a cracker tray. Sometimes you'll need to pick off what's not keto. For example, if there are breaded chicken tenders, peel off the coating. Eat slowly, and always have something uneaten in your hand so people are less likely to offer you unhealthy treats.
Above all, whenever possible, eat before you attend the party; it's so much easier to resist when you aren't hungry! I find it really helps to get in some fatty food before attending any event where I have no control over the food.Fat kills cravings and helps you feel full and satisfied.
I also recommend avoiding alcohol. Yes, some alcohol is low carb, but unless you have the nutritional information right in front of you, you might be surprised how many carbs are in that glass of wine. (Carb counts vary widely between brands!) Besides, alcohol reduces your will-power to stay away from carby "munchies."
Surviving Holiday Gifts
This holiday season, somebody is almost certain to give you a plate of cookies or fudge or some other sweet treat. What to do? My advice is to thank them kindly and sincerely, then move on with the conversation. I'd then dispose of the food or give it away to someone the gift-giver doesn't know. This allows the gift giver to know you appreciate their kindness in thinking of you, while also ensuring you don't hurt their feelings.
You've probably already run into people who insist keto is unhealthy. (Yawn.) But it may prove especially difficult to navigate naysayers during the holidays. Hopefully, keto won't become the topic of conversation; politely declining non-keto food is usually sufficient - no explanations needed. If strangers or acquaintances push further, it's usually helpful to say, "My doctor has me on a weird diet." (I've yet to meet someone who questions this.) Or sometimes: "Unfortunately, those foods make me feel sick."
It can be trickier with people who know you well, since they often feel free to tell you what they really think...and sometimes people who are anti-keto are really strident. Arguing at the dinner table is, I'm sure, not on your holiday wish list, so consider now how you'll handle such situations.
My suggestion is to simply say, "I don't want to spoil everyone's Thanksgiving (or Christmas), so I don't wish to argue with you. But maybe after Thanksgiving, I can give you some information about why I eat this way." (This post may help with that.)
Staying Your Focus
Aside from keeping the reasons you eat keto at the forefront of your mind, the best way to survive the holiday food glut is to remember what the holidays are actually about. Thanksgiving isn't about rolling out the door because you're too full to walk. It's about being thankful for your blessings. Christmas isn't about eating sweets all day. It's about celebrating our Savor's birth. Similarly, Hanukkah is really about faith and family, not food.
Other good things to focus on are spending time with family, and any non-food traditions your family may have. (Don't have any good family traditions? Now's a great time to start some!)
Friends, you've got this. You know keto is good for you and that you'll regret it if you fall off the wagon. You also know you've never regretted not eating a food. (Right??) Keto on!
And coming soon: Keto Christmas Recipes