In many parts of the world, the last months of the year are a time of celebration, which revolve around family and friends, harvest festivals, religious occasions, cultural events- and food. Always, always- food.
Families pass treasured recipes down through the generations and each year, people recommit to these acts of love and tradition by getting up early and happily laboring in the kitchen. Loved ones wake up to the same smells and anticipation that the cook woke up to when they were little. Whatever our specific origin, tradition- particularly food tradition, is central to our culture and personal feelings of comfort, connection and well being.
One hard truth of the matter however is that the holiday season, particularly in the US, lasts for months. It seems like every week of the season there is another celebration to host or attend. Our coworkers bring their candies and baked goods into the office to share. The mail person delivers caramel apples and tins of popcorn, sent from loved ones who are far away. I do not advocate denying ourselves food tradition. I think deprivation during times of celebration is emotionally and psychologically harmful. I also think that one nutritionally deficient but tradition rich meal occasionally can go a long way to creating feelings of comfort and belonging. But two to three months of solid, nutritionally deficient food celebration is also harmful- emotionally, psychologically and physically. That is a good chunk of time. A body will revert back to metabolic illness in that amount of time. With world wide epidemics of obesity and metabolic disease such as Type 2 Diabetes, I submit that we’ve got to form new food traditions. Further, I believe that the way we form those new traditions in the “right” way will be as individualized and varied as the kinds of side dishes passed around millions of holiday tables.
Holiday meats are pretty easy peasy. Roast a turkey or a prime rib roast. If you brine your turkey, don’t add sugars or syrups. A brine is the proper amount of salt to liquid. Everything else, including sweetening agents are just for flavor and frankly, they don’t add enough flavor benefit to justify using them. So add the spices and cut the sugar! Another impressive main course on a holiday table is an herb crusted pork loin roast. Salt, pepper and copious amounts of chopped rosemary, all suspended in butter and slathered over that roast- yum.
For sides and some desserts, I use a couple of Keto Holiday cookbooks that have fantastic recipes. My favorite is Keto For the Holidays by Carrie Brown. Carrie has figured out stuffing and cranberry sauce and for those of us who love it, even cranberry jelly (like that yum from the can)!
And speaking of desserts, there are so many Keto desserts out there on the inter webs. While you can turn out some really amazing grain free baked goods, my favorites are desserts that are Keto compliant just by switching out the sweetener. It makes it easy. Think crustless cheesecake, creme brûlée, or ice cream. I make pumpkin custard and pecan tarts! You don’t necessarily need a “Keto” recipe to start. Take a look at your own recipes and experiment with ingredient swaps. Don’t be afraid! It’s fun!
Parties and Events
If I’m hosting a party, I typically only offer Keto friendly appetizers and snacks. I make charcuterie and cheese boards. I use small crockpots to make buffalo chicken dip and artichoke dip, both with veggie sticks for dipping. Sometimes I make grain free meatballs and do them Swedish or Italian style, using only Keto ingredients. I make crustless mini cheesecakes and Keto candies. And you know what? Nobody ever even realizes what I’ve done. They don’t miss the carbs. They don’t miss the sugar. Everything appears normal to them!
If I’m attending a holiday potluck, I bring a dish or two that I know I can eat. That way, even if my dishes are the only things I can eat at the party, I can still share in the food celebration and not bring unwanted attention to myself. If I’m attending a catered event, I can usually find some things to eat, but I do tend to eat my main meal of the day prior to attending, so that I’m not so hungry that I’m tempted to pig out.
Some final thoughts.
And at the end of the day, if you choose to eat a “traditional” holiday meal, snacks or dessert, do a couple of things for yourself.
Make a choice to take the food. An informed decision rather than just “giving in” is a tiny mental shift that can make the difference between staying in control of your eating over the long term of the season versus “falling off the wagon”.
Consider fasting for the day before you attend the event. I don’t recommend fasting for folks who haven’t been using this dietary model for a good, long time. If your body is still used to burning glucose for it’s energy, fasting is a struggle not worth going through. So if that’s you, please disregard. But if you’re fat adapted, consider having your holiday meal be your one meal of the day.
Drink plenty of water. I mean plenty! Like, a lot!
And finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. The past two years for me have not been perfect. If I beat myself up every time I made the choice to eat some carb-y food, I wouldn’t be able to sustain the way of eating over the long term. I try to take a realistic view. Sugar exists. Carbs exist. They are EVERYWHERE. Especially this time of year. Just move on. Persist. You’ll be fine.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases that you make through clicking on product links.