Welcome back to Easy Keto with Tasha, the Ketogasm podcast! Today, we’re discussing how to navigate AND survive the holiday season while following a keto eating pattern.
Holidays can be an area of major stress for some people, especially if you are trying to maintain a ketogenic lifestyle. With today’s episode, you’ll realize that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STRESS!
Keto During the Holidays?
It never fails. You’ve finally got the hang of eating keto, and then the holidays show up. And it happens every year! With the barrage of comfort food, emotional eating from stress, and wanting to participate in traditional festivities, it can feel like the holidays slowly chip away at the progress you’ve made until there’s nothing left. At first glance, keto and holidays just do not mix.
This is something I experienced when I began my keto journey, and that I now witness year after year as a writer. Keto bloggers (myself included!) watch traffic slow to a crawl during the holidays. Once January comes around, it's business as usual. It's "New Year, New Me" and feeling like you have to start from scratch.
Don’t let yourself get caught up in thinking that it’s impossible to maintain keto and enjoy the holidays. It absolutely can be done! Before you do anything else, stop and ask yourself what your plans are for the holidays. Do you want to stick with a strict keto through thick and thin? Or would you prefer to give yourself some flexibility? There is no wrong answer; you get to determine what is best for you.
Keto Flexibility During Holidays
Holidays can be stressful enough on their own. There’s no reason to add extra stress by trying to maintain a rigid diet! Keto does not have to be all or nothing during the holidays. You don’t have to quit and start again in the new year. You definitely don’t have to make yourself miserable in desiring a holiday experience that you “can’t have”. It just isn’t true!
As Michael Pollan (one of my favorite authors!) wrote in Food Rules:
“There's nothing wrong with special occasion foods, as long as every day is not a special occasion. Special occasion foods offer some of the greatest pleasures of life, so we shouldn't deprive ourselves of them. But the sense of occasion needs to be restored.”
This couldn’t be truer! There’s not a special occasion every single day from October 31 to January 1, but special occasions will pop up during this time. It’s important, be honest with yourself and give yourself permission to be flexible!
Now, this doesn’t mean go crazy and start making excuses to eat in a way that doesn’t match your long term goals. What this means is to give yourself the opportunity to evaluate the upcoming holiday season and realize things do not have to be rigid. They don’t have to be black or white. They do NOT have to be all or nothing!
So how do manage flexibility during a keto holiday? The actual flexibility looks different for everyone. Maybe you choose to avoid taking leftovers home. Or maybe you skip the food tracking app and kitchen scale during dinner. Maybe you take a keto intermission for one meal before jumping back into your usual routine. It might be as simple as not immediately saying no if something catches your eye. Whatever it is, it’s up to you.
Strictly-Keto Holiday Tips
You might be someone who has no interest in slowing your keto roll for the holidays. If so, way to go! You know what is best for you, and there is no reason you HAVE to add in flexibility.
You might just be looking for keto recipes. Luckily, with booming popularity, there is no shortage of keto recipes on the internet. With a little research, you could pull off an entirely keto holiday event!
If you want to avoid making special keto requests, you could always bring a keto-friendly dish (or two) of your own. Who knows, you might be able to help someone else who’s also watching their carb intake. If you aren’t comfortable discussing your eating habits with others, you don’t even have to tell people that it’s keto!
New to Keto: What to Eat at Holiday Gatherings
There’s a possibility that this is your first holiday season following a keto diet pattern. You may choose to forego keto, or you may decide that you want to keep it keto during the holidays. If you’re leaning towards the latter, here are some helpful tips:
High-protein foods: These would be foods like meat and egg-based dishes. Not only are they generally low carb, but they are also highly satiating. They also tend to support ketosis.
Sweet and starchy foods: These are the dishes made with bread and sugary, starchy fruits and vegetables. The foods do not usually support ketosis. However, there are non-starchy vegetable dishes, such as salads or green beans, that are supportive of ketosis.
If you don’t plan on bringing anything keto-specific to your holiday celebrations, you’re not out of luck. In fact, there’s a good chance there are keto-compatible dishes present. You can’t go wrong with protein and (non-starchy) vegetables!
Getting Back on Keto After the Holidays
This holiday season might have left you bummed. That’s okay! Whether your dietary plans didn’t go as expected, you’re just not happy with how you were eating, or you made the decision to not worry about food at all over the holidays, none of these things are final.
It’s not what you eat between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s what you eat between New Year’s and Christmas.
Just as you made the decision to start keto in the first place, you can make the decision to get back on keto after the holidays. Especially since there is no time better than the present to start! Start back up with taper-based carb restriction, and before you know it, your holiday eating will be a thing of the past.
Keto Holiday Menu
If you’re searching for a keto holiday menu, the following guide will help you navigate the popular dishes found at celebrations and provide keto holiday recipes to bring along to gatherings.
Keto Holiday Recipes
Turkey, ham, and prime rib are popular main dishes at holiday events and likely to be an easy low carb option for those who eat meat. If you’re preparing these meals at home, consider forgoing the classic glazes to reduce the sugar content.
If you find your meats are coated with a thick, sugary glaze at a gathering you attend, what should you do? Relax. Don’t panic! You can still eat it without unraveling your progress on keto. This is where a flexible mindset and a less rigid approach to dieting becomes helpful. If it really bothers you, cut the portion with the glaze off. Don’t overcomplicate this!
Veggie platters are another naturally keto-friendly option that you can look for and bring. Along with the finger foods that often make an appearance, including olives and pickled vegetables (like okra, asparagus, and cucumbers).
Deviled eggs and other egg-based dishes are also good low carb choices at these events. If you’re planning to bring your own appetizers, deviled eggs are also a crowd-pleaser. These bacon and cheddar deviled eggs and BLT deviled eggs are always a smashing success at parties!
Keto Holiday Sides
Made from bread, traditional stuffing is high in carbs and not conducive to ketosis. Does that mean you can’t eat stuffing? Of course not. There are plenty of keto stuffing recipe options to choose from!
Keto Spicy Sausage Stuffing - This recipe from Carolyn Ketchum of All Day I Dream About food uses one of her bread recipes as the base to make an “I Can’t Believe That’s Keto!” holiday stuffing. The addition of spicy sausage and cheese is a great twist on traditional stuffing.
Cornbread Stuffing - Karly Campbell of That Low Carb Life uses her keto cornbread recipe for the base of the stuffing, keeping the carbs low and flavor high!
Keto Paleo Stuffing - Maya Krampf of Wholesome Yum has a much easier solution to keto stuffing. Rather than spending time on baking bread for the stuffing, why not just opt for a different ingredient altogether? Like Cauliflower! This recipe offers a truly healthy alternative to the holiday classic.
While potatoes are notoriously high in carbs, they aren’t the only veggie that makes a mean mash. Cauliflower, turnip, broccoli, and jicama are just a few low carb vegetables that come to mind.
Mashed Turnips - Lisa Marcaurele of Low Carb Yum has mastered the mashed turnips with this recipe.
Green Bean Casserole
This infamous holiday dish can be another relatively low carb option as is. But the carb creep can be a factor depending on ingredients used, such as flours, canned soups, and other starchy thickeners. If you DIY a keto side, consider one of these green bean casserole dishes:
Supreme Green Bean Casserole
Instant Pot Green Bean Casserole
You can’t go wrong with a good veggie side. Lucky for you, these are likely to be abundant at your gathering without extra planning. But if you’re looking for inspiration for something to fix, we got you!
Keto Collard Greens
Parmesan Crusted Brussels Sprouts
Keto Potato Salad
Keto Holiday Desserts
Desserts are often difficult to navigate during the holidays on keto, as they are often filled with sugar. However, these holiday sweets can be transformed into keto holiday desserts with just a few tweaks!
For example, our keto apple pie filling tastes just like the real deal with a fraction of the carbs by using chayote squash and low carb sweetener in lieu of traditional ingredients. Use it to make pies, cobblers, muffins, turnovers, or any keto holiday dessert you desire. I used it here in a keto apple cobbler recipe I developed for the Fat For Weight Loss website.
Keto Holiday Meals: There’s More to the Holidays Than Eating
While keto holiday meals are possible, remember to give yourself grace and go easy on yourself if you find food struggles cropping up during the holidays.
Honor special occasions and filter out the rest of the noise. Remember, the holidays aren’t just about eating!
1:06 - Keto During the Holidays
3:22 - Keto Flexibility During Holidays
7:14 - Strictly Keto Holiday Tips
9:32 - New to Keto: What to Eat at Holiday Gatherings
10:40 - Getting Back on Keto After the Holidays
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Hi, I'm Tasha–nutritionist, recipe developer, and multi-published cookbook author.