Keto Holiday Survival Guide: Tips, Menu, & Recipe Ideas [E04]

Keto Holidays
Trying to figure out how to navigate the holidays on keto? We got you! Join us for Episode 4 of the Ketogasm podcast as we discuss a less stressful eating approach to the holiday season. Complete with menu ideas & keto holiday recipes!

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Welcome to the Ketogasm podcast. I’m your host, nutrition educator Tasha Metcalf. Here to help women like you take charge of your keto eating habits without the self sabotage. Each week, learn simple but effective tips that you can put into practice to transform your body health and well-being. We’re talking all things keto, nutrition, habit change, mindset, self-care, and the behind the scenes of what this all looks like in real life. Let’s dive in.

Welcome to Episode 4 of The Ketogasm Podcast, Easy keto with Tasha. That’s me! Today we’re going to talk all about keto and the holidays. [Suspenseful music] But in all seriousness, the holidays don’t have to be a scary or stressful time for those doing keto. But I do want to talk about this because it definitely can feel like that to some people. You’re going along great, you’ve got a routine down, and you really feel in charge of your eating habits. But then there are get togethers with family, traveling, office parties, celebrations with friends, and there’s always food and drinks that don’t align with your way of eating. And we want to be a part of the celebration. We want to experience the same things everyone else does. Or sometimes maybe we start to feel bad and we don’t want to inconvenience people by requesting something special. Now most people who are on any diet, this all goes straight out the window this time of year like clockwork. “I’ll start again after the holidays…” Famous last words! And it’s the same thing every single year. Whether it’s the barrage of comfort food seeping in from all sides, emotional eating from being stressed out this time a year, or just wanting to participate in the traditional festivities. Sometimes it can really feel like the holidays are just slowly pulling out a thread until all your efforts and intentions to eat in a way that aligns with your goals has completely unravelled. And I see this happen every single year.

It’s been really eye opening for me as a writer. I can see the traffic to my website peter out right around the holidays. It’s like a complete ghost town. Nobody visits my website over the holidays! And like clockwork January comes around and business as usual, back to normal. “New year, new me! Oh my god I can’t believe I have to start all over again!” So I want to ask you, what are your plans for the holidays? Are you planning to power through and stick with keto thick or thin? Are you going to take a break? Or do you give yourself flexibility for special occasions? What do you think is the right thing to do? I’d argue that there is no right way to navigate the holiday season, but instead you need to focus on figuring out what works for you. But if you know me, then you might predict that I’m going to err on the flexible side of things if you struggle with the holidays. This time of year doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You don’t have to quit and start again in the new year. And you don’t have to be overly rigid and deprive yourself either… desperately pining for the holiday experience and making yourself miserable in the process. Michael Pollan is one of my favorite authors, and he wrote in his book Food Rules that “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.” And I whole heartedly agree with this! Is every single day from October 31st to January 1st a special occasion? Of course not. But are there going to be occasions that pop up over the next few months that qualify as a special occasion? For sure. You just need to be honest with yourself and maybe give yourself permission not to be so overly rigid when those times do come. I’m not suggesting you go actively looking for special occasions or excuses to eat in a way that doesn’t align with your long term goals, but you intuitively know these are special occasions where do you see them. Are they the holiday cookies that keep showing up in the break room at work? Probably not. Is it the beautiful family gathering with your grandma’s famous home cooked dish? That’s more like it! But I want you to think about the upcoming weeks and know that you don’t have to choose all or nothing during this time of year… or ever really. Of course this is going to look different for everybody. Maybe it means you stick with types of foods you normally enjoy on keto, but decide not to pull out your food tracking app and kitchen scale at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Maybe you keep it super simple all year and decide to try one of the fancy ketofied baking recipes. Or maybe it just means taking a brief intermission for a meal and getting back to your usual groove.

Make yourself a plate and don’t bring the leftovers home. You know yourself best, and as always this is ultimately up to you. But I just have to bring this up because it’s that time of year again where it becomes really clear that most people doing keto are playing the dieting game. They’re either dieting or they aren’t. They’re either really super strict and obsessive about what they can and can’t eat–or it’s no holds barred, anything goes. And it’s not just an observation I’ve made. It’s backed by hard data. Year after year of analytics from the number of people visiting my site, other low carb sites, and even just searching the web for keto related things. So instead of not working towards your goals or eating in a way that doesn’t really align with what makes you feel at your best for several months out of the year. What if you just kept doing your thing? But instead of beating yourself up over pumpkin pie or mashed potatoes you just went on with your life. What if instead of turning that one day of eating outside of your intended dietary pattern into several months of eating massive amounts of special occasion food, where you’re squeezing in as much of your “off limit” foods as you can before you “start keto” again… what if you’ve just built in a little flexibility where there was no starting and stopping?

What if you were just eating? Pretty wild thought right? I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people out there who will disagree with this. And of course the keto gurus who love to tell you how terrible you are if you eat foods that don’t fit within their black and white rules. But guess what? I don’t care and you shouldn’t either. Do what’s best for you and don’t mind the keto police. They don’t even have real badges.

Now for those of you who are like, “Um… nope! Keto is my jam. I feel like a million bucks and no special occasion food is worth feeling like garbage.” Awesome! I totally get it and I want you to do what’s best for you. Can you just continue to do keto during the holidays? For sure. You don’t actually need a mindset shift, maybe you just need some recipe ideas. Now one of the coolest things about keto becoming so popular is that there’s no shortage of recipes. Seriously any type of high carb dish that you can dream up, there is almost guaranteed to be a keto version of it floating around on the web somewhere. Just Google it, head to Pinterest, Facebook groups, they’re all over the place. So if you’re hosting, you could technically pull off a 100 percent keto event if you really wanted to do that. Now if you’re not the host, I’d encourage you to bring along a keto compatible dish (or two or three) of your own. If you don’t feel comfortable making special requests.

And this isn’t something that you have to even make a big deal about. You don’t need to announce that it’s “keto” to everyone. Especially if you’re not comfortable talking about your eating habits with other people. But maybe you have friends and family that are also doing keto. It really wouldn’t surprise me if you had a family member that would be super stoked that you came fully prepared with delicious keto dishes. My sister has always been super thoughtful about this around the holidays and she always comes through with amazing keto appetizers and side dishes. She’s seriously the best sister in the world and it makes me so happy. But maybe you could be the thoughtful person that brings something. If you know someone’s been trying to watch their carbs or struggling to survive the holidays without feeling guilty about their food choices, imagine how great they would feel if you showed up with food that they could actually eat. Now I’m not going to bore you by listing off a bunch of food dishes, but I am going to hook you up with a curated list of keto friendly holiday recipes in the show notes that ketogasm dot com. So be sure to check those out if you need a little inspiration in the kitchen.

If you’re just getting started with keto, want to keep it keto during the holidays, but still trying to figure out what foods actually support ketosis, I do have a few tips for you.

High protein foods like any meat or egg based dishes are typically low in carbs and highly satiating. So not only will they support ketosis they’ll also help to fill you up quite a bit. Perhaps leaving a little bit less room for the higher carb side dishes. Sweet and starchy dishes made with sugary, starchy fruits and veggies, breads, etc. Those are all higher in carbs than would generally support ketosis, OK? So instead, opt for non-starchy veggie side dishes like the green beans and salads. Sugary desserts would also fall into the high carb category to limit for keto.

There is a really good chance you have keto compatible foods present at your holiday meals already. So if you don’t plan to bring anything special, you usually can’t go wrong with protein and veggies. That’s actually true every day, not just the holidays. Protein and veggies are keto done simple.

And for those of you who are listening to this and just feel like things aren’t working out maybe things aren’t going as planned or you’re not feeling good about how you’ve been eating over the holidays. This is just a friendly reminder: It’s not what you eat between Christmas and New Year’s, It’s what you eat between New Year’s and Christmas. Just take it one day at a time. There is no better time than the present to start. But if you’re waiting until the holiday pressure is off your plate, get started with carb restriction and take it one thing at a time.

Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of The Ketogasm Podcast. You are awesome. I really hope the show has added value to your keto journey. Making big changes to your eating habits can be a little tricky. But if you’re taking the time to listen and learn about keto, you’re well on your way. You got this. Be sure to visit ketogasm dot com for the show notes with full transcripts, references, and resources to help you out. Including a totally free course called Hello Keto. It’s helped over seventy five thousand people start keto with confidence. I’ll see you in the next episode. Bye!

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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 trends over last year’s holiday season. New Year, New Me! 🧐

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

Stuffing

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.

Mashed Potatoes

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.

In fact, we have delicious broccoli mash recipe and mashed roasted cauliflower here on the site!

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

Vegetable Sides

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! 
Roasted Okra
Keto Collard Greens
Stuffed Celery
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.

Other desserts to consider include:
Keto Pumpkin Pie 
Sugar-Free Pecan Pie
Keto Shortbread Cookies
Peppermint Cream Ginger Cookies
Low Carb Ginger Snaps

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! 

Further Resources

The Easiest Way to Start Keto [E01]
Keto Mistakes That Everyone Makes [E02]
Keto Benefits Beyond Weight Loss [E03]

Timestamp

Intro
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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