Keto through the Holidays

Holiday celebrations pose a challenge when you've switched to a keto lifestyle, and everyone handles them differently. Some people announce their new way of eating to family and friends, while many decide to quietly stay the course and avoid confrontations at the table. Still others choose to enjoy a day of higher carbs and set an intention to get back on track soon after. All of these approaches can work perfectly well, but it's important to be proactive - choose a strategy before the gathering, and do your best to abide by it.

We wrote this post to address some of the most common questions that come up when we talk about navigating the holiday season. Keep these guidelines in mind, and you won't have to abandon your keto way of eating, or miss out on holiday fun. 

Social Situations

Should I stay keto or take a break?

While some might choose to forgo keto protocols over the holidays, many individuals would prefer to stick to their structure and enjoy some keto-friendly alternatives to traditional holiday foods. This is a choice, and it is your choice. Don’t let others decide for you, but do make a game plan ahead of time.

Keep in mind that taking a break, or “having a cheat” over the holidays can stall your progress; there are keto re-creations of nearly every holiday dish you can imagine, so if you’d rather not break your streak, you can stay keto and still enjoy the festivities.

And if you decide not to stick with keto for a holiday, it’s okay! Enjoy those foods and memories, notice how you feel, and have a plan in place for re-starting keto, so it’s easier to come right back.

How do I explain keto to my family?

You don’t have to go into the biochemistry of ketosis, but if the question comes up, let your loved ones know this is a lifestyle change for your health. ("Doctor's orders!") Share your latest non-scale victory (NSV), or mention a go-to recipe that’s become a new favorite. Seeing your success can help others understand your dedication and accept that holidays don’t override the commitment to your health.

If it helps your loved ones to know how keto works, you can share this explainer video from the Senza Keto Guide channel on YouTube, Why are you hungry?:

How to host a low-carb/high-carb crowd?

Hosting a low-carb holiday meal for a high-carb crowd may seem daunting, but it can be done! Your guests may be pleasantly surprised to find that a sweet tooth can be satisfied without the drowsiness that often follows a holiday dinner. We suggest preparing re-created keto versions of the familiar holiday classics. For example: roast turkey, cauliflower mashed “faux-tatoes,” grain-free rolls, roasted Brussels sprouts, and a low-carb pumpkin pie. This approach helps everyone stay in their comfort zone, and sometimes the recipe changes are subtle enough that diehard carboholics won't even notice! 

What can I eat at a holiday potluck?

Focus on protein: The turkey may be brined or glazed in something a bit sugary, but meat is generally a safe bet. You can always offer to host or bring a dish to share if you are worried there won’t be enough low-carb options. Think about the foods that you expect will cause the biggest temptation, and bring keto-friendly versions, so you don’t miss out on the fun. 

Many keto pros also follow a strategy of eat-before-you-go. Have a light meal at home, and then graze at the event, sampling only the foods that work for you.

Is it really possible to stay keto and still enjoy holiday meals?

Absolutely! There are so many keto versions of classic holiday dishes that can carry you through the season without messing with your nutrition protocols. See the list below for some ideas. 

Recipe Mods & Swaps

Continuing with keto through the holidays may be easier than ever this year, if you’re not traveling and celebrating with extended family; however, traditional foods can hold fond memories. For the sake of nostalgia, we’ve assembled a list of alternatives to many of the sweet and starchy classics. And always remember, for more ideas, you can search by keyword in the Recipe Box at the top of your Senza Feed.

Potato substitutes: Lower carb starches include cauliflower, turnips, radishes, spaghetti squash, and our all-time favorite kabocha, which is a Japanese variety of pumpkin, similar to acorn squash. You can serve these veggies roasted, mashed, creamed, scalloped, sautéed, au gratin, or as a simple puree. 

    Grain-free stuffing: The secret to low-carb stuffing is replacing the bread with an alternative that can be made of almond flour, coconut flour, cauliflower, or an unflavored whey protein isolate, as in the recipe for Soul Bread Stuffing below.

    How to thicken gravy: Carbs in gravy come from the flour that's typically added to thicken the stock. Your workaround in this case can be almond flour, xanthan gum, arrowroot powder, or simply be ok with a thinner than usual gravy.

    Festive drinks for low-carb guests: Many traditional holiday drinks can be ketofied with a few tweaks. Egg nog, hot buttered rum, martinis, and mulled wine all have a place in the festivities. 

    Classic low-carb desserts:

    After the event

    How do I get back on track after the holidays?

    Have a game plan in place, before you take a break. Don’t sweat it if you mess up over the holidays, but have a plan for resuming, no matter what happened at Thanksgiving dinner. Using your journal to plan out and log meals ahead of time for the week following your holiday gathering can be a good way to help you stay on track. 

    Whatever you decide, we hope you enjoy the holidays this year, and wish you all the best this season! 


    With love, 

    Your Senza Keto Coaching Team


    Content provided by Senza is not medical advice. It is intended for informational and educational purposes only.