Three Ways to Be Keto (When Your Family Is Not)

Deciding how to approach stocking your keto pantry and cooking family meals can make or break your low-carb lifestyle.

Article by Mandy Pagano | 06 Dec, 2020

Article originally published on on 11/17/16. It has been lightly edited for re-publication.

In an ideal world, whenever mom, dad, son, or daughter decided they need to lose weight and get healthy the whole family would immediately jump on board. You'd clean out the cupboards together, spend hours at the grocery store reading labels together, everyone would help out with meal prep, and then they'd all happily eat whatever you put in front of them while groaning in pleasure at every single bite.

The reality is that when we begin keto, oftentimes our families are very hostile to the idea of going along with us. Some family members may insist on continuing to eat their carbage- right in front of you. Others may be more amenable to your efforts at self-improvement but still resistant to changing too many of their own eating habits. No matter how the fam reacts, you're going to have to figure out how to navigate the waters.

There are three main ways of handling food issues, and whichever way you choose should be dependent upon what meshes best for your personality and relationships, as well as how far along you are in your low-carb journey.

Eat It, or Starve

The first method of handling things is probably the most extreme from your relatives' perspective. In a nutshell, you clear out your cabinets of all non-keto foods and only cook low-carb approved meals. The family can choose to eat it or not, but that's all there is. If they want carbage, they can eat it when they're not at home, and not in front of you.

The advantages to taking this approach are many, and if you're new to keto this is probably going to be the best approach to help you avoid temptations and cravings until you're well adapted. This keeps all non-friendly foods out of sight. You won't have to watch other people eat things you can't have.

The bonus is that ketogenic eating is actually really healthy. Think about it. Fresh meats, dairy, and vegetables are all very good for you. For a lot of people who eat on-the-go all the time, having a keto meal at home may be the healthiest they eat all day. Everyone's physical well-being will be improved by eating this way at home. It also makes meals and meal planning very easy. You make what you make and they eat it or don't. Just make sure to add the extra fat to your plate and not to the carb-eaters and then you're done.

The downside is that this approach probably causes the most friction with non-keto relatives. Spouses and children may resent that you've upended their eating habits and banned things from the table that they really enjoyed.

If you find you need to take this approach, you're going to have to be very open and honest with your family about the reasons why you're doing it. Explain to them how having the non-keto foods in the house, or having to watch them eat it while you abstain, makes you feel. This is basically an exercise in standing up for yourself and your health (mental and physical) and while they may not like it initially, there is nothing wrong with expecting your family to support you in this endeavor.

Mix It Up

The second approach is more of a mix. Essentially, you make keto meals and keep mostly low-carb foods around, but you will also make one non-compliant side for the rest of the family and allow them to keep some of their favorite foods in the house (preferably those that aren't too tempting for you).

The advantage to this is that it's a lot more flexible. Your family will be allowed to indulge in their carbage at home on a limited basis, so they won't be deprived and cranky. If your family is not ready to take the keto plunge they can be very resentful when it's forced on them, so allowing some carbs at home will help soften the blow and they will adapt easier to your new lifestyle.

The disadvantage is that you're going to be in the position to have to exercise your willpower on a regular basis. If you serve rice or potatoes for your non-keto relatives alongside the keto meal you made, you will have to stick to the compliant foods only while everyone else around you eats their starch. When you open the cabinet or refrigerator, you will have to bypass the unhealthy foods you've allowed to stay.

This approach is probably best for people who are further along in their journey, have excellent willpower, or have family members with whom they will fight if they go all-in in the pantry. It does get easier over time, but if you're brand new to this way of eating it is much harder when you're suffering through a craving or carb withdrawals.

This is the approach I take at home with my family. I made it easier on myself in the beginning by only allowing non-keto foods into the house if they were things I didn't personally care for, which reduced the temptation level substantially. If I didn't like it to begin with, I wasn't tempted to eat it. The same went for meals. I made what I made and allowed each person to choose one non-compliant thing to add to their plates, and because I didn't care for their carby foods it didn't bother me. Also, since I wasn't militant at home, the whole family was a lot more amenable to making sure we find a place "where mom can eat" whenever we went out. It's a balance, but if you can make it work, it's probably best for everyone's sanity in the long-run.

Double Duty

The last way of handling things is probably the hardest and most demanding on your time and mental toughness. Nutshell: you keep all the carbage in the house and don't eat it yourself, as well as making two meals (one keto for yourself, one carby for the fam).

The advantage to this is that the family will be perfectly happy. No one (except you) has to make the slightest change to their routine, consequently the occasion for strife is greatly reduced.

The disadvantages here are plenty. First, this allows your family to be completely unsupportive and get away with it. They do what they want, and you suffer. Second, the temptation is going to be off the charts. You are going to have to sit and watch everyone enjoy all the old foods while you stick to your keto meal. If you're very well adapted and a lot further along on your keto journey, this may not bother you in the slightest. But if you're just getting on the wagon, this is going to be very hard on you mentally. Lastly, this makes a whole lot of extra work for whoever is preparing the meals, and it may add quite a bit to your food budget.

I do not recommend taking this approach unless you are an absolute keto pro.

Choose Wisely

Ultimately, you're going to have to do what works best for your family. Give it some thought and, most importantly, communicate with them. If you're regularly talking to them, explaining both your physical and mental/emotional needs, it will be easier for them to accept the changes you're making in your home. Over time, they will get used to the new way of doing things and you never know who may decide to jump on the bandwagon with you!

The Ketogenic Success Facebook page is full of success stories where one family member did so well that others soon came on board (as is also the case in my own family). Your decision to improve you may end in your loved ones choosing to improve themselves. Be confident about what you're doing and keto on!

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