The holidays aren’t exactly the time for starting a new diet, which is why most people save health and fitness goals until the new year — after the endless h'ordeuvres and Christmas cookies are a thing of the past.
But what if you’re already on the straight and narrow, say, with your keto diet, and want to keep it that way? Well, then, preparation is key, says Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy.
“Holiday-ing on keto is even more of a chore than normal,” he says. “You've got to explain the diet to friends and family, there is the constant specter of alcohol, and you can't meal prep like you're accustomed to.”
Here, Keatley shares how to navigate the average holiday dinner table so you can stay on track with your keto diet, plus a few keto holiday recipes to try this season.
VIDEO: 4 Keto Apps to Maintain a Low-Carb Diet
Appetizers: Hello, Bacon
When it comes to apps, you can always lean on keto staples. Reach for shrimp cocktail (minus the cocktail sauce), cheeses like brie, gouda, cheddar and swiss, and even a side of fresh berries.
Try this bacon-wrapped carrots recipe from Hey, Grill, Hey and substitute maple-flavored monkfruit syrup for the pure maple syrup, or just skip it altogether and season with black pepper, like Keatley does.
Carrots have only about 4 grams of carbohydrates each, Keatley says, but they'll ensure you won't go hungry while waiting for the main course. “These wrapped carrots are a substantial app but also provide a little nutrient diversity,” he says.
Another bacon appetizer worth trying? These bacon and brussels sprouts kabobs from Linneyville. They’re beyond easy to make and delicious for any party (no matter your diet).
RELATED: 10 Must-Have Items On Your Keto Grocery List
The Main Dish: Pick Your Protein
When it comes to sitting down for the main event, Keatley says this is where you’ll have a chance to capitalize on keto’s main event: protein.
“Turkey, ham — you're fine either way,” Keatley says. “Just avoid any glazes that may be high in sugar.”
If you’re looking for a keto dinner recipe, then it really doesn’t get more simple (or keto) than this 3-pound sirloin tip roast rubbed in a myriad of spices, including cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano, and paprika.
RELATED: Considering the Keto Diet? Here's Everything You Need to Know
Side Dish: Keto Stuffing and Gravy
This is one area where Keatley offers his apologies: Mashed potatoes, buttery rolls, and cranberry sauce are all off-limits.
One alternative? Keto stuffing. One caveat — it will take a bit of extra work. But all good things do, right?
“If a holiday is not a holiday without stuffing, have no fear you can go keto for this family favorite,” Keatley says, which first requires making (or, let’s be honest, buying) a keto-friendly bread.
Most keto bread recipes include a mix of almond flour, eggs, butter, and a leavening agent (like baking soda or powder), Keatley says. This highly-rated “Best Keto Bread” recipe from AllRecipes.com is a solid jumping-off point. One reviewer called it “phenomenal,” noting that it was not mushy or dry like other bread recipes she had tried.
Once you make your bread, Keatley says you can combine it with butter and sausage, as well as a little bit of celery, garlic, parsley, sage, and thyme “to give you the taste of the classic.”
RELATED: Keto Side Effects to Know About Before Trying This Year’s Buzziest Diet
And if you thought gravy was off the menu, think again: Keatley says all you have to do is combine the turkey pan drippings with butter and xanthan gum (as a replacement for flour). All you need is butter, turkey drippings, chicken broth, and cold butter to whip up something amazing. (If you need a bit of extra help, check out this low carb keto gravy recipe from Wholesome Yum.)
Dessert: Cookies (Yes, Cookies)
Believe it or not, there are a lot of keto dessert recipes that will help keep your sweet tooth in check throughout the holidays.
Visit Pinterest, for instance, and you’ll find “The Great Keto Christmas Cookies Roundup,” which includes cinnamon butter and chewy chocolate chip cookies, but it’s the Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies that take the cake (cookie?) as a top choice for keto recipe for dessert. Butter, low-carb sweetener, cream cheese, eggs, and grain-free flours come together to make these delightful little treats.
And, honestly, when it comes to dessert, Keatley says this place where you might want to cash in on your daily carb allowance: “Go nuts, it's a holiday!” He added: “It's OK to not be 100 percent, go out of ketosis, and get back on track after the main day."
In other words, you can enjoy the holidays (and the foods that come with them) and stick with your keto diet, too. And that’s something to celebrate.