Do’s and Don'ts for Navigating the Holiday Season if You’re Keto
The holiday season welcomes comforting classics like lasagna, stuffed turkey with gravy, bread pudding, green bean casserole, sugar-laden cranberry sauce, pumpkin and pecan pie, maple glazed brussels sprouts, eggnog and gingerbread—among other delights.
However, despite how tasty these recipes might be, they are also incredibly calorie dense, and they also contain a lot of added sugars, carbohydrates, saturated fats and sodium. People can eat thousands of calories during Thanksgiving dinner! And that’s only the beginning of the holiday season, as December’s social calendar is jam-packed with holiday parties, dinner and drink dates, travel plans and more.
There are holiday gatherings with friends, family and co-workers, fluctuations in work and subsequent stress and often some form of travel, where you might be heading home to see family, taking family in to stay with you or jetting off to a destination for some rest and relaxation. Yet, throughout the whole month, these tempting non-keto treats and recipes are everywhere!
Still, you want to enjoy yourself during the holidays! So, a little wiggle room is totally okay and encouraged. However, you can stick to ketosis throughout the season by following a few simple rules and avoiding any diet disasters. Here are a couple to take note of, which will make the holidays just as festive and delicious but without the dietary stress.
Do: Bring Your Own Keto Makeover to the Gathering
If you’re going to a friend’s holiday party or celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah with family, don’t expect them to have keto food prepared—and don’t make a big deal about it either to guilt them. Instead, bring your own tasty keto approved (and healthier, slimmed down dish in general) so you have something to eat at the table.
Plus, bring enough of it—be generous with your crew, as they may want to eat some of it too! Think: keto green bean casserole or keto pecan pie. And a plain salad that is keto-friendly will be an easy fit too!
Don’t: Go All Out
If you’re giving yourself a “cheat day” for a holiday gathering, then let yourself indulge but don’t go too crazy, as it’ll make getting back into ketosis much harder. Plus, you might take back hundreds or thousands of calories in one sitting, which isn’t healthy and can also lead to weight gain. Plus, if you remind yourself of how amazing all these dishes really are, then it might be harder to stay on track for the rest of the season.
Instead, limit yourself to one or two indulgences during this cheat day—pick either the eggnog or mulled wine or the slice of either pecan or pumpkin pie, rather than having both a non-keto cocktail and a non-keto dessert.
Do: Bring Snacks in Your Bag
If you’re not going to a home where there’s a sit-down meal, make sure you bring keto approved snacks in your purse so you can snack throughout the holiday party. Often you’ll go to an event where it’s a mingling and networking format or where the food is served either buffet-style or as rounds of passed hors d'oeuvres with a bar.
For these times, keep protein bars, nuts or trail mix, granola, edamame, roasted chickpeas or kale chips inside your bag so you can make a quick bathroom break and grab something to eat off to the side. (No one has to know!)
Don’t: Let People Pressure You to Give Keto Up
When around friends and family for the holidays, there are many voices that have opinions and tend to speak up—loudly and often. And many members might not understand why you’re keto and might give you a hard time about it. Yet, don’t listen to the chatter and outside noise and stick to your own willpower and keto diet meal plan. Their opinions do not matter!
Grandma or Aunt Betty might guilt you into tasting her famous bread pudding or casserole. Your cousins might not get why you’re restricting yourself during the holidays, or they may feel envious. They might try and get you to fall out of keto out of their own jealousy, especially if they’ve been trying to get healthier or slim down themselves and haven’t found much luck.
Do: Drink But Keep it to a Minimum
Don’t forget booze—it’s hard to say no sometimes when dining out, but drinking in moderation will definitely help you avoid any weight gain during the season as well as stay in ketosis as best as possible.
That means, alternate each boozy cocktail for a glass of water to help you slow down. Or, carry a clutch to a holiday gathering, so you only have one hand free for either a plate of snacks or a single beverage. You can easily get soda water with a lemon or lime, and no one will know the difference! Or, grab some water, as if you’re taking a booze break for a moment before heading back to the bar.
And pick the right kind of alcoholic beverages for the keto diet too. A tip? If you are drinking alcohol, go with straight liquor, like vodka with water, a diet sprite or soda water. Or go with a liquor straight up without mixers, like a scotch or tequila on the rocks.
Don’t: Drink Sugary Holiday Beverages
If you see drinks that have tons of different liquors in them, step away. The more kinds of booze, the more boozy it is, and the more sugar and carbs there are hiding within that glass. Plus, they are often sweet, containing syrups and flavored liquors, both of which are red flags for a keto diet.
Any classics, like plain or spiked eggnog, peppermint mocha or hot chocolate with Bailey’s, mulled wine, ciders, or a hot toddy, among others, are going to be off-limits, since these all contain high amounts of sugar and will kick you right out of ketosis, as well as add excess calories too. The same goes for frozen drinks, like frozen margaritas or a pina colada. Make your own keto-friendly recipes of these holiday staples if you like, or just keep it simple with the better-for-you options listed above.