Thanksgiving is behind us, but we still have Christmas and New Year ahead, and being mindful and reasonable about the food you’re eating only sounds easy – but often isn’t.
What are the best strategies to stay on track during the holiday season and not undermine your success? And, perhaps more importantly, why should you do it?
Read on to learn more about our keto tips for the holiday season!
Should You Stay Keto During The Holidays?
It depends on your goals, motivation, and priorities. What do you really want to achieve?
Before we begin discussing how to stay keto during the holiday season, we first need to look into the reasons why it would be a good idea to do it: a big part of how successful you are with something is your motivation to do it, and for that, you need to know WHY you’re doing it.
If you have started a keto diet only recently, your body is still adapting to burning fat for energy instead of glucose. This is a relatively lengthy process that takes anywhere from a couple of weeks to 1-2 months, so cheating during that time will temporarily halt your progress and make it more difficult for your body to adapt to the changes in your diet.
On top of that, cheating might leave you tired, bloated and generally not in a great condition.
If you have been doing keto for a long while now, that means that you’re already fat adapted, so cheating will probably have less of a negative effect. If it’s limited to a meal or two, you’ll be able to go back to it without that much hassle.
The problem with that strategy is that unless you have a solid plan and stick to it, you might find yourself tempted to postpone going back to keto.
A cheat meal might become a cheat day, then a cheat week, then a cheat month… You get the point. Additionally, it might still make you feel less than optimal for a few days.
Regardless of where you stand in terms of adaptation, cheating will make you retain water and might provoke carb cravings.
However, you don’t need to demonize food either – if you decide to indulge in something, do it because you decide so, not because you don’t want to say “no” or because you feel overwhelmed with temptation.
Have a plan, take responsibility (no need to feel guilty or to punish yourself later) and stick to what you have initially decided. If that is to have a big Christmas meal with your family without restricting yourself – so be it. After that, just move on and go back to keto.
Related: 6 Tips To Get Into Ketosis Quickly
#1. Make Smart Choices – Even If You Indulge
Making the right choices about food is an excellent way to make sure that you’re holding yourself accountable, while at the same time feeling satisfied with the food that you’re eating.
For example, make a point to always eat enough protein and vegetables, and to indulge in protein-rich foods first and foremost, you’re much less likely to eat excessive amounts of the typical holiday treats and desserts if you’re already full and have opted for the right types of nutrition prior to that.
To achieve a better level of understanding of how food affects you, it could be a good idea to continue tracking – although, let’s face it, not everyone will want to track their Christmas dinner.
Like this, you’d still have a good idea about where you stand in terms of nutrition, and about the effect that the specific foods (and quantities) have on your body. If you decide to pause tracking for a day or two, just go back to it straight after.
Don’t track with the intention to “punish” yourself later with fasting or excessive exercise to compensate – that’s definitely not a positive mindset and will do you more harm than good in the long run.
If you’re tracking, you’re likely to make better overall decisions. If you see the numbers, you’re probably going to have only one serving of something, instead of a second or third one. And if you prefer not to track for a while – just decide on when you’re going back to it and stick to the plan.
#2. Don’t Stress Too Much About It – Make It About Positive Choices Instead Of About Limitations
The more you fear certain foods and stress about having them or not, the more tempting they become. This, as a result, will make you more prone to overeating, if you do indulge in non-keto foods.
Instead of telling yourself “I can’t have that food” or “I shouldn’t have this food”, tell yourself rather “I choose not to have this food because I feel better without it”.
#3. Remember That The Holidays Are About Much More Than Food
You don’t have to overeat to have a good time – in fact, overeating will often make you have less of a good time. The holidays should be mostly about being with your family and having a great time together.
Make it special without concentrating exclusively on food. Make a point of proving yourself that you can as well have a reasonable amount of food, a drink or two, and just enjoy the time you spend with your closest ones.
#4. Go For Maintenance Calories For A Few Days
If you’re currently in a weight loss phase and have stayed at a deficit for a while, going for maintenance calories will help your metabolism and hormones readjust back to normal levels, which will make weight loss easier after that. And most importantly, at maintenance you will be less hungry and less prone to overeating.
#5. Fit A Larger Dinner Into Your Macros By Eating A Smaller Lunch
If you’d like to have a big dinner, then you could always have a small lunch and skip breakfast – like this, it’s much easier to fit it in your macros.
You could even readjust your calories for the week – for example, if you know that on Christmas day you’ll be eating more, just lower your calories slightly for the rest of the week.
#6. If You’re The Host – Make A Keto Meal (And Add A Few Non-keto Side Dishes If Needed)
If you are hosting a lunch or a dinner, make it easy for yourself and just make it keto. If you don’t feel comfortable with explaining your dietary choices to others, you don’t need to tell them it’s keto – most people won’t know.
As usual, just make high-quality protein the main ingredient, add low-carb vegetables, and use fat for cooking. If you’d like to add some non-keto options for your guests, make the main course keto and add a few non-keto side dishes.
#7. Avoid Trigger Foods
You probably already know what your trigger foods are, so it will likely be much easier to just avoid them altogether, instead of trying to fit in a bite or two of something in your macros and then not being able to control yourself. Cravings don’t diminish if you have a little bit of something – they grow stronger.
#8. Plan Ahead Of Time And Stick To Your Plan
The best way to stay on track during the holidays is to have a solid plan. This can range from planning and cooking a few holiday meals, to deciding what foods to eat and what to avoid if you’re visiting family or friends, to deciding how many drinks to have, and even to planning a cheat meal, if that’s what you’d rather do.
Even if you decide not to stay keto for the holidays – or just have one or two non-keto meals – decide when you’re going back to it, and stick to that decision.
Don’t rely on your motivation – motivation is often not a good driving force and it won’t get you far in your health and fitness pursuits if you rely solely on it. Instead, plan ahead and when the time comes, act on your decision.
Don’t make it vague, though – don’t go with “I’ll go back to keto next month”. Instead, be very precise – “I’ll enjoy a Christmas meal with my family and my next meal after that will be keto”.
Protip: Do you know any of your friends who are following keto? If so, invite them over. They might be able to help you plan a keto-friendly party. That would make your life easier.
#9. Bring Your Own Low-Carb Food to Parties
If you’re invited to a party, propose to either participate in the food making process, or to bring a few keto-friendly treats. Most hosts will really appreciate it if you offer them some help.
If you’re invited to someone else’s dinner, you might not be able to prepare a dish for yourself and just bring it over. Depending on how close you are with the host, you might either decide to tell them about your dietary preferences, or just avoid certain foods.
#10. Remember That You Don’t Need To Explain Your Dietary Choices To Anyone
If you don’t feel comfortable discussing your diet with your friends and relatives, there’s no need to do it. If someone asks you why you’re avoiding certain foods, you can just give them a vague answer, such as “Oh, I feel better if I eat less of (that specific food)” or “I’m really enjoying (another food), so I prefer to indulge in it instead”.
Keep in mind that if you have recently lost a lot of weight, some of the comments you receive might not come across as encouraging, even if they’re not made with bad intentions.
People will need time to get used to your new look, and some might be secretly jealous of your success. You don’t need to justify yourself – sometimes the easiest way to deal with such situations is to just ignore others’ negativity.
#11. Limit Alcohol To A Glass Or Two, And Stick To Keto-friendly Drinks
Too much alcohol has two possible side effects – it could kick you out of ketosis and it could also have you make some bad food choices. This doesn’t mean that it’s completely off-limits – just decide on a reasonable amount and stick to it.
If it’s going to be your first time drinking on keto, keep in mind that some people report getting drunk much easier than before. So you’ll likely need less alcohol anyway.
#12. If You Don’t Manage To Stay On Track Despite Your Intentions, Don’t Despair – Just Move On And Get Back To Keto
It’s not the food that you eat between Christmas and New Year that will make a difference – it’s the food you eat between New Year and next Christmas.
As long as you’re consistent in the long run and don’t overeat on every occasion, one or two festive meals won’t make a big difference. Just don’t let the one or two cheat meals transform into one or two cheat weeks, or months.
Staying keto during the holidays is a matter of priorities – it’s certainly possible, although it might require more willpower than usual, especially if you’re surrounded by lots of non-keto treats and favourite dishes.
It will be much easier for you to stay on track if you have a solid plan in place – for example, if you decide to have a non-keto meal or two, just go back to your keto plan right after that.
If you decide not to track your food for a few days, make a point to restart tracking as soon as possible afterwards (decide on a specific date, don’t just tell yourself “I’ll continue next week / month”).
Make smart choices to make it easier for yourself to stick to the plan – eat your protein and veggies first, and then anything else. If you cheat, don’t fret – just move on and go back to keto after that.
And remember, the holidays are mostly about sharing and connecting with others, and not about food. Prove to yourself that you can be reasonable, enjoy food in moderation, and have a good time with your family and friends.
Happy holidays and keto on!