The holidays can be rough when you’re trying to stay strong and in ketosis. From the creamy mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie of Thanksgiving to the latke parties of Hanukkah to the cookies and eggnog of Christmas to the endless seasonal parties teeming with carbs and cocktails, temptation is everywhere. Indeed, the holidays celebrated in classic form are synonymous with ketosis-killing comfort foods. But that doesn’t mean you have to kiss keto goodbye until next year. With a little knowledge and preparation, you can feast your way through the season and stay on track.
From what to make when you’re hosting to what to eat when you’re out and about, here’s how to continue living your best keto life through the holidays.
How to Stay Keto at the Office Party
There’s no reason to RSVP “No” to your work party because you’re intimidated by the non-keto offerings. Ketonians deserve to enjoy the fun too! Prepare for a delicious time by heeding the following tips:
- Eat ahead of time. If you fill up on keto foods before the party, it will be easier to stay away from the mouthwatering buffet. If you go hungry, you set yourself up for a challenge you can otherwise avoid.
- Confide in a friend. Whether it’s your office bestie or the random guy from accounting who is rumored to be new to keto, latch on to some human support to help you through the temptations. If you’re able to invite a plus-one to the bash, take advantage of that lifeline too!
- Be mindful of your alcohol intake. Make sure you watch what and how much alcohol you drink, if you decide to drink at all; many cocktails are high-carb. Your best bet is clear liquors, which have a fairly low carb count when paired with soda water and a lemon or lime twist. Dry wines are also safe territory (sweet ones are not). Beer, which is very carb-heavy, is off limits. Regardless, make sure to factor your drinks into your macros. Abstinence is also a great choice, especially since drinking to tipsiness can lower your resolve.
- Stay busy. Whether you’re letting loose on the dance floor or schmoozing about the latest office gossip, staying engaged and focused on activities other than eating will provide healthy distractions.
- Bring a treat for yourself. If scanning endless piles of cookies or chocolate bark is likely to spoil your fun or ruin your willpower, pack a treat for yourself. A small bag of tasty brittle, a keto cupcake, or a chocolate peanut butter fat bomb will go a long way in helping you cope.
Maintaining Ketosis as a Dinner Guest
Although there are likely to be limitations on what you can eat when you go to someone else’s house for dinner, outlined below are ways to ensure you can pull up a chair and join in on the fun and food when you’re a guest at someone’s dinner table.
- Confer with the host. If your host knows you’re keto, he or she is likely going to talk to you about the menu beforehand anyway. But if not, it’s a good idea to let the host know of your status, politely ask what the menu is, and discover what, if anything, you can eat. Often, roasted meats and salads are on the menu, both of which should be fine, provided there are no sugary glazes or croutons. Once you know where you stand, you can make additional decisions about how to manage your meal, including…
- Offer to do some cooking. For hearty holiday meals, carb-heavy foods typically reign supreme. But you can offer to bring a dish or two, satisfy your own dining needs, and show your friends how to crush the keto veggie game all at once! Hot sides like Maple Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Keto Green Bean Casserole, or Keto Creamy Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms will leave their bellies full and their minds blown!
- If all else fails, fend for yourself. If you know the menu won’t work for you and you can’t ante up on the potluck, make it easy for the host and yourself: eat in advance or B.Y.O. food. At a minimum, you should always have a snack stashed in your handbag, pocket, or glove box, in case of emergencies. Lucky for you, being keto means it’s hard to reach hunger desperation, so if you have the will and a few snacks nearby, you’ll have a way to get through it all.
How to Keep it Keto When Hosting
Believe it or not, it’s just as easy to host a keto feast as it is to host any other type of feast. The amount of work is the same and the results will be equally delicious and varied, if you have the right recipes. Plus, hosting leaves you in control of the party, so you can satisfy yourself and your guests. Follow these tips for the perfect holiday fête:
- Hosting a full-blown holiday meal. You can make the whole meal keto, and totally satisfy or keep the key dishes keto and embellish with the carbage your family and friends are sure to expect. Following are killer keto dishes that are sure to satisfy:
– Keto Maple-Mustard Glazed Ham
– Keto Turkey Gravy
– Keto Stuffing
– Keto Green Bean Casserole
– Keto Maple-Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts
– Keto Pumpkin Spice Mousse Tart
– Keto Pecan Pie
– Keto Flourless Chocolate Cake
- Hosting happy hour. Who doesn’t love happy hour? A holiday HH is a great way to set boundaries – on both the time and the food offerings. Many keto happy hour nibbles don’t even require cooking – shrimp cocktail, spiced nuts, and caprese skewers (grape tomatoes and mini mozzarella balls), cheese platters, and Pesto Deviled Eggs are fun for everyone.
Dining Out Keto
Company holiday parties, out-of-town guests, cocktail gatherings, and friends or family get-togethers are just some of the reasons you may find yourself at a restaurant or bar during the holiday season. Luckily, there’s almost always a way to eat keto, if you know what to do:
- Select a keto-friendly restaurant, if possible. Hopefully, you already know of some great restaurants offering keto options, or can easily find some with a Google search. But if not, a few great choices include:
– Steakhouses (get steak and a salad without croutons, and even creamed spinach, provided flour is not added to the recipe)
– Mexican (get a keto-friendly soup or a combination plate with meat, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and shredded lettuce)
– Anywhere that cooks from scratch (they’ll be able to whip up some meat or fish, plus vegetables easily. Add butter, and you’re golden)
– Any breakfast spot (eggs, bacon, Hollandaise sauce for eggs Benedict, ham, and many omelets are perfect for eating keto)
- If you aren’t familiar with the restaurant and don’t get to choose, review the menu before you go. Most restaurants post their menus online, so you can investigate and plan what to eat. But, you can also call the restaurant at an off-time (i.e. not in the middle of the breakfast, lunch, or dinner rush), and ask for advice on what’s safe for you.
Want more tips for eating out? We have an entire article designated to dining keto in restaurants. Check it out here.
How to Stay Keto While Traveling
One of the hardest times to stay keto is while on the road or in the air. But that doesn’t have to be the case. The secret to successful keto travel is advance planning, starting with the following tips:
- Pack keto snacks. A common inspiration for cheating while traveling is desperation. When traveling, you never know when your flight will be delayed, or you’ll have to drive a long distance without a stop offering proper provisions. Pack satisfying keto snacks (and treats!) to ensure you never have to step outside of your keto comfort zone.
- Buy more keto rations when you arrive. The best way to ensure you don’t find yourself in a dining bind is to make sure you always have something to eat or stashed close by. If you depleted your food stash en route to your destination, stock up again as soon as you’re able. At a minimum, you’ll need food for the trip home.
- Brush up on the easiest keto items to find in restaurants. You can even eat keto at fast food restaurants, if you know what to do. For the full scoop, review our restaurant dining guide.
- If you’re staying with friends or family, let them know you’re keto before you arrive. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than having to turn down a delicious meal made just for you because it’s loaded with carbs. Avoid the awkwardness by letting your hosts know you’re keto. If they’re game to cook keto, you can share recipes with them. If not, let them know you’ll shop for yourself upon arrival.
How to Avoid Giving Up Keto Altogether for the Holidays
Don’t let the holidays kick you out of ketosis for good! If you cheat, it’s truly not the end of the world. Besides, the new year is around the corner, just in case you need to hit reset.
- Tap into your support system. If you need help staying away from the dessert spread, ask for help. After all, that’s what family and friends are for. If you don’t have friends and family to turn to, rely on social media; a quick search of keto groups on Facebook provides access to communities to join that are for women-only, appeal to “lazy” keto dieters (who aren’t obsessed with carb-counting), have coed appeal, and more. There’s literally a group for everyone—even stoner-friendly keto groups for those who live in weed-legal states and need support for staying on track when the munchies kick in!
- Self-support in snack form. Set yourself up for success; keep keto snacks on hand at all times. Single nut butter packets, sugar-free jerky, lower-carb nuts, and cheese sticks will help you stay satiated so you don’t fall victim to the self-saboteur. Or, stash a few fat bombs (at work and at home) for a quick fix.
- Review those progress pics. Take a look at how far you’ve come. Dig deep into your camera roll on your phone and work on a collage of images that displays the progress you’ve made. Remind yourself that the reason you’ve done so well all these months (or days, weeks, or even years) is because you’ve conquered willpower and kicked toxic foods to the curb.
- Make time for self-care. Although holiday meals can be tough to get through eating-wise, uniting the family can also add stress to your life. For those who tend to binge during stressful situations, set aside time for self-care. Take a yoga class, book a float therapy session, get a massage, hit the gym, or go on a solo scenic hike. The time you dedicate to yourself will help you shift your focus away from mindless and emotional eating.
- If you stumble, get back on track quickly with a 24-hour fast. One of the quickest ways to get back on the keto wagon is to jump into a 24-hour fast. Experts like Drew Manning discuss how this works to your benefit. If you indulged just a bit too much at a holiday party, commit to a fast, where your body will quickly burn up all the carbs in your system, and then turn back to its ketone stores. And, as you know, science on keto is your friend. Employ your trusted testing methods to monitor when you get back into ketosis. When you do, measure that accomplishment as a huge success, and continue on from there. Don’t look at a cheat day during the holidays as being back at square one. Luckily, if you were in ketosis for long enough before you slipped, your body will be accustomed to finding its way right back to its keto state.
- Try your hand at intermittent fasting. If the thought of a 24-hour (or longer) fast is excruciating, give intermittent fasting, or IF, a shot. Intermittent fasting can be achieved in different hour ratios, based on your goals and how long you can fast. The most popular IF breakdown is 16:8. This means that you typically fast for 16 hours and then utilize an 8-hour eating window. Experts like Dr. Eric Berg recommend a 16-hour fasting period, at a minimum, for optimum results to curb hunger, lose weight, and even tighten loose skin. After an early dinner, cut yourself off for the night, and hold out until the late morning hours. If you’re a caffeine fiend, fret not; black coffee is allowed—as are electrolytes and water, though rules vary depending on which expert you research. Ultimately, IF can help you set some limits, so you never find yourself stuck at the bottom of the holiday cookie jar.
Now you’re set for success this holiday season. Keep up the amazing work, enjoy, and do your best. The most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself, because you deserve it!