The weather in the northern hemisphere is getting a little cooler. The leaves on the trees are changing color, and all the stores have been advertising PUMPKIN EVERYTHING for the better part of a month. We all know what that means.
The holidays are coming.
With all the starch and sugar-laden temptations, what's a ketonian to do? Same thing we do every night, Pinky. We keto on.
Here are some tips on how to stay keto during the holidays:
1. Remember the Reason for the Season
This is the most important tip I have for everyone. The reason for the holidays is not food. Yes, we humans tend to celebrate by feasting, but if you've got the feast itself fixed in your mind as the focal point of the festivities you've mentally confused the celebration with its trappings.
Thanksgiving (in the Americas) isn't about turkey and stuffing and pie, it's about being thankful for the blessings we have, and that includes spending time with our loved ones. Christmas and Hanukkah are about God and his gifts to us. If you celebrate a secular winter holiday, it's about family and loving your neighbor. These are the important bits at the holidays. The food is just something we use to aid in celebration, but it is not the point at all. If you think your holiday will be ruined if you don't have a helping of your favorite carby dish, I gently suggest you take some time to reflect on the real meaning of your celebration and whether or not you've let an obsession with food take the place of what's truly important.
2. Alert Your Host Ahead of Time
If you stay quiet about your way of eating, don't be shocked when you show up to find a table full of nothing you can eat. Be sure to give whoever is hosting the festivities a heads up so he or she can adjust the menu (or they won't be unpleasantly surprised if you bring your own keto dishes).
3. Offer to Help
Most holiday celebrations are borderline potluck affairs anyway, so offering to bring some delicious low-carb fare won't be too out of the ordinary. Offer to bring a side or two, the relish tray, and possibly even a keto dessert. The more dishes you contribute to the meal, the more food there will be on the table of which you can be certain.
4. Be Prepared to Stand Up for Yourself
Ideally, everyone is going to be super stoked for your ketogenic success and completely understanding about your new dietary needs. Realistically, that's not likely to happen. You may receive push back (or flat-out pushiness) regarding your food choices and any abstinence from certain holiday favorites. In other words, Aunt May might be mad if you don't have a piece of her famous pie.
This stuff is going to happen and you have to learn how to deal with it or else you're setting yourself up for failure. The sooner you nip any nastiness in the bud by standing up for yourself and your health, the smoother things will run in the future. That doesn't mean jump down someone's throat if they politely offer you a cookie. It does mean that if someone is particularly insistent or even gets pushy or rude with you, you may have to put your foot down. Be aware that if you give in now, it's going to be harder to be firm in the future. After all, if it didn't matter this one time, your friends and relatives are going to logically conclude it won't matter the next time, either... and round and round we go at every holiday from here to eternity. Take charge of your health and well-being and don't let anyone bully you into eating anything you will regret later.
5. Don't Fantasize About or Focus on Food You Don't Need
There about are about thirty gazillion low-carb and keto recipes out there, many of which are friendly re-creations of holiday favorites. You can find a ketofied version of just about anything if you take the time to look. There is zero reason you should be working yourself up over carbage. If you're spending time thinking about all the foods you can't have and it's making you upset, it's time to revisit tip number one.
6. Know What You Can Eat
When it comes to choosing from dishes you didn't prepare, stick with the meats, cheeses, pickles and olives, and any plain vegetables or salads. Avoid all stuffings, casseroles, gravies, sauces, and desserts you (or someone you trust to cook a keto dish on your behalf) did not make. Aside from the obvious stuff like desserts and bread, you would be surprised at what people put in things you might think are friendly. Once at a potluck, I went to reach for the deviled eggs and stopped just long enough to ask the kind lady serving them if she knew what was in them. The first ingredient out of her mouth? Sugar. I passed. Take that lesson and cement it in your mind, and you will be alright.
Bonus Tip: Don't Stress and Enjoy the Day
I am in my second year of keto and have managed to make it through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day, Lent, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and a whole pile of family birthdays and anniversaries (including my own on both counts). [Author's note: As of this re-publication, I'm now on my sixth fully keto holiday season.] Not only did I survive, I thrived. I enjoyed every celebration regardless of whether or not I could have cake or stuffing or pumpkin pie. I did it by following these tips and remembering what was most important. If I can do it, you can, too!
For more useful tips and support, be sure to join our Ketogenic Success Facebook group. If you're looking for tasty, family and kid-tested, ketofied holiday favorites, check out my low-carb recipes on My Ketogenic Kitchen or join our recipe group on Facebook.