It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but for those following a diet, the holidays may stir up stress and anxiety around food. The ketogenic diet is not the most “social” diet, but there are ways to stick to it, even in the most daunting of times, such as holiday celebrations.
If you can’t eat keto, at least aim for low-carb
Your holiday party may not be stocked full of keto-friendly foods, but there is a high probability that you can nibble on some low-carb options. The cheese platter is, more often than not, a pretty safe bet for cheese (of course!), but also for other low-carb foods such as nuts and meats. Just stay clear of candy-coated nuts, dried fruits, and cured meats you suspect may have added sugar!
Another low-carb holiday party go-to is the veggie platter. Lucky for you, this usually gets the least attention by guests, thereby giving you full access to it. Stick to the low-carb vegetables options such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and cucumber. If your event is serving dinner, opt for the meats or any salads (without sugar-loaded dressings), and low-carb vegetables. Things to stay away from are the mashed potatoes, any bread/pastry-like foods, sauces, and, of course, the sweets. Sticking with low-carb as opposed to ditching the diet completely will make transitioning back into ketosis much easier.
Prepare for success and give yourself options
If you are uncomfortable not knowing what food options will be available at your holiday gathering, prepare some food in advance. Better yet, prepare a keto-friendly dish to share with everyone! Take a high-fat dip to pair with that veggie platter and a salad dressing you can pour on any dry salads to avoid sugary dressings. You can also pack some snacks such as high-fat nuts (e.g. macadamia nuts) to graze on throughout the evening. Additionally, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is a great tool for ketogenic living. Fill a small jar with MCT oil to take with you and use on any dish or in beverages. MCTs are highly ketogenic and have even been shown to increase ketone production without carbohydrate restriction.1
The popularity of the ketogenic diet has made it simple to find recipes that anyone can enjoy. Consider making a ketogenic dessert to bring and share so you can “indulge” too, while also preventing you from caving into the temptations of sugar-laden treats.
Stay positive and remember your “why”
It can be difficult to gain the support of those around you when your dietary choices are perceived as something as radical as a ketogenic diet may seem to some. You may even be tempted to ditch the diet for the sake of your peers or those family members who just won’t back down from having you try “just one bite.” Be prepared to explain to others what the ketogenic diet is and why you follow it. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all diet, and it is perfectly fine to have different views from others. Just stay true to yourself, remember your “why,” and stay positive, because there is nothing worse than engaging in a debate over food choices!
Tips for alcohol
Alcohol isn’t generally conducive to living a ketogenic lifestyle, and if you have no problem abstaining from it completely, that is your best option. If having a drink in your hand makes you feel more comfortable in a crowd, take club soda and sliced lemon with you; this will help you feel less segregated. With all this said, celebrations may be times when you can make exceptions (within reason). There are ways to enjoy a drink or two and stick to your goals; you just have to know what to look out for. For wines, opt for the driest you can find, white or red, and avoid sweet wines such as rosé. Most liquors are acceptable on their own or enjoyed with club soda or sugar-free beverages. Beers typically contain more carbohydrates, and they should probably be limited to one. If nutrition labels are available, check to see what the lowest-carbohydrate beer options are. Coolers and ciders are to be avoided due to their high sugar content.
Be kind to yourself and don’t overthink it
If you take into consideration all of the recommendations above, there is no reason to be stressed or anxious about your diet as you enter into the holidays. You are following a ketogenic diet to improve your health, right? Well, being kind to yourself is part of healthy living, and sometimes that means accepting that your diet can’t always be perfect. Also, keep in mind that you can always jump right back into the swing of things; a few days of indulging does not mean you have “failed.” There is more to health than simply what you put in your mouth, so do the best you can, be prepared, but most importantly, don’t get down on yourself if things don’t go as planned. Instead of focusing on your food options, focus on enjoying your time with loved ones over this holiday season.
As we said, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, and your diet shouldn’t change that for you.
- McCarty MF et al. Lauric acid-rich medium-chain triglycerides can substitute for other oils in cooking applications and may have limited pathogenicity. Open Heart. 2016;3(2):e000467.