The holidays are famous for sugar- and carb-rich foods like pastries, breads, cocktails, and pumpkin-flavored everything.
If you’re on the high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb keto diet, this time of year can be very stressful. In fact, it can feel like a full-blown ambush led by all your favorite treats and comfort foods; an attack designed to push your willpower to its absolute limits. You might even wonder: Is it even possible to both stick to your keto diet and also enjoy the holidays?
If you can relate to this, I hear you. It’s tempting to throw keto out the window this time of year.
But before you do, hear me out!
As a functional medicine practitioner and the author of the book Ketotarian—the (mostly) plant-based plan to burn fat and crush your cravings—I know for a fact that it is possible to stick to your keto diet, even in the face of holiday parties, pumpkin pie, and family stress.
Here’s how to effortlessly find your way around holiday menus and parties without sabotaging your progress towards healthier living.
1. Eat with intention
When you get to that holiday gathering, B line it to the veggie trays (skip the dip, though), roasted green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans), meats (like turkey, ham, or roast), and green salad (look out for dressing with added sugar, and stick with olive oil and/or vinegar to be safe). These foods are keto-compliant and will make you feel like you can really enjoy the food without sabotaging your progress.
You’ll want to avoid foods like mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, rolls, and traditional desserts. The good news is that the first list of foods is far more nutritious and filling, so you’re likely to end the night on a much more satiated—and less bloated and fatigued!—note.
2. DIY dessert
If you read the tip above and thought to yourself “What’s a holiday party without dessert?!” don’t worry. This is where you have to think ahead and get a little creative by making your own dessert with recipes that are made with keto-friendly ingredients—like stevia, monk fruit, and coconut or almond flour—instead of carb-loaded grain flour and conventional sugar. Not sure where to start? Try my crustless pumpkin pie with coconut whipped cream. Bring enough to share with friends and family.
3. Say no to liquid carbs
For anyone trying to reduce their sugar intake, liquids are the first place to turn. And while nothing quite says the holidays like a peppermint mocha or creme brulee latte, the syrups in these drinks are anything but low-carb. Instead, stick to herbal tea, black or bulletproof coffee, or unsweetened lattes and cappuccinos. Your blood sugar levels with thank you!
4. Don’t arrive hungry
If there’s no time to prep a bunch of fun keto-friendly holiday recipes, it’s time for plan B—which is to eat beforehand. This is especially important if you’re not sure what will be served at the party. Eating before you go will guarantee that you don’t arrive hungry or in the middle of a low blood sugar crisis, making it endlessly easier to make healthy choices.
Not sure what to eat? Try fat bombs, which are chock full of energy-boosting healthy fats like coconut oil or almond butter to balance your blood sugar and keep you satiated. To get started, try my Coconut Almond Butter Fat Bombs recipe, which were specifically designed to fend off cravings.
5. Turn to keto comfort foods
Ready for some good news? Almost every food you look forward to over the holidays can be adapted to be more keto-friendly. Don’t believe me? Try mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes, making grain-free rolls with stuffing with coconut flour, or using arrowroot flour in your gravy instead of white flour. In some instances, you might not even be able to tell the difference. By making smart substitutions where you can, you can enjoy all your favorite dishes without compromising your diet.
By leaning on these five tips, you can protect your progress on the keto diet over the holidays.
And remember, this time of year is really more about gratitude, time with family, and slowing down to reflect on the past year more than it is about food. Taking time to focus on those aspects of the holidays can give you some perspective that will help you make more mindful choices—and not beat yourself up if a pumpkin-flavored-something gets the best of you.
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