Halloween to New Year is a two-month obstacle course of sugar and carbs, thanks to all the parties, family meals, and food traditions surrounding the winter holidays.
If you’ve been on a weight loss journey (or any other type of health journey) using Keto, you may decide to stick with it through the holiday season so that you can keep making progress. That’s a great decision. But it can be really easy to fall off the wagon and lose focus and momentum when temptations surround you.
That’s why we’ve thought through all the typical food pitfalls that dining out over the holidays may bring and assembled our best tips to help you stay Keto through it all (while still enjoying yourself and eating delicious food). Here we go!
General Tips for Success
So, you’re up for the challenge of staying Keto through the holidays? You can definitely do it. Here are a few tips for success:
- Always have a plan. Starting each day with a solid plan of what you’re going to eat and when can be really helpful, especially during the holidays. Although you can’t always know what kind of food will be available at holiday events or parties, it’s still worthwhile planning ahead. You can use Carb Manager to plot out your eating for each day, and Premium members can even log for future days.
- Keep your meals simple. To prevent “carb creep,” keep your meals and snacks on the basic side. Meat and veggies with some healthy fat is a go-to Keto-friendly meal formula that will be available at most restaurants, family get-togethers, and parties. We’ve also included some tips below for choosing food at different kinds of holiday events.
- Look out for sneaky carbs. Even if a food appears to be low in carbs, that may not always be the case. Be mindful of things like sauces, dips, dressings, and condiments — if it tastes sweet, it’s probably sugary. Additionally, gravy (which may be on your Christmas and Thanksgiving table) is typically made with flour, and any casseroles made with cream soup will contain added carbs as well. Finally, although salad is a great Keto-friendly choice, watch out for toppings like dried fruit, croutons, tortilla strips, and vinaigrette dressings (which are often high in sugar).
- Keep your goals in mind. Although there’s nothing wrong with stepping away from Keto during the holiday season, it should be a decision you make for yourself away from the influence of tempting high-carb foods so you can really consider the pros and cons. If you’re struggling to stick to Keto, remember your health goals and the reason you’re on the diet in the first place. The benefits of sticking to Keto likely outweigh the payoff you’d get from giving into a carb craving. On the other hand, the holidays only happen once a year, and a few (or even several) days off Keto aren’t going to have a major impact if you’re consistent otherwise. The decision is yours!
Social Event Survival Guide
Keeping Keto through the holidays will require some serious savvy when it comes to Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year soirees. Here’s a quick guide on maintaining your diet no matter what type of event you’ll be attending.
December is a month of parties: office parties, parties with friends, parties with family, school parties, church parties, and — of course — parties to welcome in the new year.
To stay Keto at all these parties, you’ll need to know what you can say “yes” to. At most of these events, you can expect to find carbs everywhere. And you’ll likely encounter alcoholic drinks at more adult-oriented shindigs.
Spirits without added sugary mixers (like straight vodka, rum, or whiskey, or spirits mixed with diet soda) are carb-free, but they can definitely slow down your weight loss. Many people on Keto also report a lower tolerance to alcohol than during their pre-Keto days, so you may need to drink less than normal.
Here’s a list of low carb snacks you may be able to find at parties:
- Olives and pickles
- Veggie trays with dip, such as guacamole or sour cream
- Cured meats (pepperoni, salami)
- Savory dips, like spinach artichoke dip
If it’s a potluck or a cookie swap, make sure to bring something you can eat. If there is a formal dinner involved, you can probably notify the chef of your dietary needs prior to the event.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, you may attend several family get-togethers with close or extended family (or friends that might as well be family). It can be a real challenge to stay Keto at these events, because they may be full of nostalgic, home-cooked food you ate growing up.
Still, you can let your family know about your eating style. While they may not be willing to overhaul the complete menu, they will likely be happy to make some tweaks to help accommodate you. Informing your family of your dietary needs can also help prevent hurt feelings when you choose not to eat certain sentimental foods.
You can also bring your own Keto-friendly foods, like simple meat and vegetable dishes. Additionally, most holiday meal spreads will still offer plenty of food for you to choose from, like:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Salad (avoid croutons, dried fruit, and sweet dressings)
We also recommend bringing a few carb alternatives, like Keto-friendly rolls or mashed cauliflower, to meals like this so you can feel like you’re getting the full experience. Don’t forget something sweet and sugar-free for dessert! Keto cheesecake is easy and decadent — perfect for a holiday dessert.
Children’s and School Events
From “Muffins with Santa” at your child’s elementary school to taking your kids to light displays or the fair, events for kids can be a challenge when it comes to dodging carbs. While you may not be eating a full meal, it’s likely you may encounter desserts, hot cocoa, candy, and appetizers.
If the event is short, you can simply politely decline food. However, if it’s a longer event (like spending an evening at the fair), you’ll need a plan. Pack Keto-friendly snacks and an insulated mug full of coffee, hot tea or hot chocolate, or seek out Keto fair foods like smoked turkey legs, sausage on a stick, or a bunless burger.
Dining Out Over the Holidays
Whether you’re having parties or family get-togethers at restaurants, or just eating out more over the holidays because you’re busier than usual, you also need a solid plan for dining out.
Where to Eat
Here are some of the best types of restaurants for Keto (that your non-Keto family and friends will appreciate too):
- Barbecue restaurants
- Mexican restaurants
- Seafood restaurants
What to Order
Now for the best part: what to order! Here are our go-to restaurant meals:
- Steak, grilled fish, grilled shellfish, or grilled chicken with a side salad
- Entree salad with no croutons or fruit, with a creamy dressing like ranch or Caesar
- Bunless burger with a side of broccoli or asparagus
- Smoked pulled pork or brisket with no barbecue sauce
- Fajitas with no tortillas
- Omelet with bacon, spinach, mushrooms, and cheese
- Two fried eggs with sausage and coffee
No matter what type of restaurant you go to, at least one of these options (or something really similar) should be available. For the most part, as long as you stick to grilled or sauteed meats and vegetables, you should be good to go!
So whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving, spending an evening at the fair, or attending an office Christmas party, you’ve got the info you need to keep it Keto. Don’t forget that Carb Manager Premium offers all the tools you need for success: advanced tracking features, a huge database of foods, a recipe maker, a meal planner, and tons of holiday recipes.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Carb Manager!