The terms "keto diet" and "holiday season" don't exactly go hand-in-hand. When winter comes around, and the weather gets cold, there's nothing better than stuffing your face with chili, mashed potatoes, and sugar cookies. Ugh, and chocolate truffles, am I right?
But if you're on the ketogenic diet, the holiday season is tough – because you can't have any of these. In fact, you can't have most of what the holidays are famous for: bread, sugar, pastries, and all things waist-widening.
Typically, a keto diet means limiting your carb intake to about 10% of your diet, or about 20-40 grams. Any more than this and your body may stop going through ketosis, or the process that burns unwanted fat. While you replace the carbs with a high-fat, moderate-protein diet, you're still cutting out a major food group that comprises many holiday favorites.
So, what's a hungry humanoid to do in these trying times?
We're hoping that we have the answer. (Or, at the least, a few helpful tips to stay on a keto diet during the holidays).
1. Focus on Friends and Family
Our first tip actually has nothing to do with the food itself.
This year, more than ever, relationships with friends and family are especially poignant. But did you know that they can help keep you grounded – not just mentally but also in your diet?
Humans often eat when they're stressed, bored, and lonely. These feelings also encourage poor eating habits, such as stuffing your face with bread and sugar.
If you're worried about your eating habits getting the best of you, it's essential to reach out to those you love. Not only can they help encourage you, but the mere act of spending time with others will reduce your appetite and keep you distracted.
Of course, this year, that's easier said than done. If you can't see loved ones in person, there are ways to circumvent your lonely bubble. Set up video chats, Skype gripe sessions, or cooking dates. Dual stream your favorite movie while on the phone with your best friend. Whatever you do, it's important to remember: you are not alone this year.
2. Watch Those Hidden Carbs
Dieting can be exhausting – and trying to stay on the keto diet during the holidays is no exception. But if you really want to meet your goals, you need to be more vigilant, not less. That means making sure you know exactly what goes into your food before you dig in.
For instance, did you know that the gravy you put on your turkey and breakfast biscuits uses flour as a thickening agent?
Or that many healthy holiday favorites such as sweet potatoes, acorn squash, and tomatoes have more carbs in a serving that you can have in a whole day?
If you haven't yet invested in a food-tracking app or book to get you through the holiday season, now may be the time to start. There's nothing worse on a keto diet than to think you've been compliant…when in fact, you're packing on the pounds.
3. Just Say "No" to Dressing
Ah, sauces. Cranberry sauce, bread sauce, applesauce…we could go on, but we won't. The point is: most holiday sauces and salad dressings have several grams of carbohydrates in a single serving. While a dollop here and there won't hurt, if you're trying to stick under 30 carbs a day, it's a bad idea to smother your salad in ranch and croutons.
4. Choose the Carbs that Make You Happy
One of the most important aspects of dieting during the holidays is making sure that you can still enjoy your favorite foods. Even if you have to moderate your intake, that doesn't mean that an occasional sliver of pie or chocolate truffle is out of the question.
While you're probably used to spending your net carbs on your favorite dishes, this is even more important around the holidays. There are so many delicious seasonal dishes out there – and if you're like me, you want to try them all.
Feel free to do so!
…So long as you make sure that you parcel out your favorites throughout the holiday season, rather than scarfing them all down in a day. (And, perhaps just as critically, that you don't spend your carbs on foods that don't fill you with joy.)
5. Savor the Naughty with the Nice
If you're like most dieters, you'll occasionally give yourself a "cheat day" to splurge on your favorite foods. While it's important not to overdo it – or do it too often – once in a while is okay.
Of course, this factor is true year-round. But, staying on a keto diet is even more challenging during the holidays because everyone else is splurging from October to January. So, our advice to you is: plan out your cheat days in advance and stick to them.
For instance, if you celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family every year, allow yourself one cheat day for both holiday dinners. Or, if you partake in Hanukkah traditions, set aside one or two cheat days throughout the main festivities. Then, make a decision to stick strictly to your diet for the rest of the month.
6. If You're Worried About Dinner, Bring Your Own
One of the most frustrating things about staying keto during the holidays is the fancy dinners. Everyone gathers around a table to partake in fellowship and delicious food – except you, who have to suffer through a grumbling tummy because there's not a ketogenic dish in sight.
If you're familiar with this experience (or dread it happening to you), the solution is simple.
Bring your own dish.
Even if your family isn't known for throwing a potluck party, a little extra food is always welcome. Plus, by bringing one, or even two, keto-friendly dishes to every holiday dinner, you can make sure there's always something for you to eat.