Holiday Guide: 15 tips for a low-carb Christmas
By The Low Carb Clinic, 16 December 2019 - 1131 words (6 minutes)
The festive season has begun – and food tends to be at the centre of most holiday activities.
So, here are our top 15 tips to keep you low-carb, healthy (and happy) all the way through - no matter what flavour of trifle you like.
First things first: please don’t hide away. A low-carb lifestyle must never socially isolate you. If you start skipping social events because you’re worried about the food, you’re going to end up feeling miserable and left out. Step out, be brave, and remember that every single time you face the world as low-carb, you give the new, healthy, energetic person inside of you another opportunity to thrive.
Tip #1: Know your “why” & take it with you wherever you go.
Your ‘why’ is the real reason you’ve gone low-carb, to begin with – beyond weight-loss. When you are questioned by friends or family because you’re saying “no thank you” to different foods, you can give them your why. Things like, “now that I avoid sugar, I don’t get pain in my joints” or “since eating low carb, I sleep so much better… and I don’t get as much anxiety as I used to.” No one can argue with you achieving a better quality of life.
Tip #2: Focus on what you will eat, not what you won’t
The problem with Christmas food, to be fair, isn’t the traditional food – roast lamb, BBQ’d prawns, baked sprouts or carved turkey. The problem is the extras: the sides, the snacks, the toppings, the glazes and the breading piled on top of meats, fish, eggs, and veggies. Fill up first on the simplest-looking cuts of meat, cheese, salads, and veggies – and there’s no need to restrict yourself on these foods – enjoy your meals.
Tip #3: if a craving hits, have something bitter
The taste of something bitter block out sugar cravings. Try green or dandelion tea, black coffee, green veggies or lemon peel. Other things that can curb a craving is putting a little salt under your tongue or having a spoonful of apple cider vinegar.
Tip #4: Give the gift of low-carb
Show the world the incredible foods you are eating by bringing them along as gifts for the host – you could make a batch of macadamia butter, scooped into colourful jars, oven-roasted nutty granolas, wholegrain mustard, or seeded crispbreads. Or, how about plants, herbs, and spices? Summer is great for rosemary and lavender bundles, pineapple sage, lemon thyme or peppermint. You can dry spices to make your own dukkah, or order some empty tea bags online and fill them with herbs. Low-carb home-made gifts will make everybody curious – and so much less likely to pass judgment on you, passing up on dessert.
Tip #5: Replace the words “can’t eat” with “don’t eat”
Your language is very powerful – to yourself, and to others. There’s a big difference between “I can’t eat bread” and “I don’t eat bread”. 'Can’t tells people that you are restricted by an outside force – and so people will respond by saying things like “of course you can! Live a little!”. But 'don’t tells people that you have made a choice – that you’re empowered. People will probably respond by saying “oh, I wish I had your self-control !”.
Tip #6: Pack your bag with napkins, chilled water, and low-carb rescue snacks
Napkins are great - handheld foods can be accepted politely and then hidden into pockets without causing a scene. A sip of cold mineral water – bubbly and fresh – can often be enough to get you past a moment of craving. And popping a few low-carb rescue snacks in your bag – like nuts, seeds, or jerky – can help put your mind at ease (rather than worrying about being hungry).
Tip #7: Decide before, not during
There’s no need to ignore absolutely everything in life that isn’t perfect low-carb. Food is not just food: food is also culture, giving, sharing, family, and joy… and it’s not helpful to forget that, especially at Christmas. There are going to be some really special moments over the Christmas period that maybe aren’t worth passing up on – perhaps your grandmother’s 7-hour-boiled, traditional-plum-pudding, which she serves with a kiss on your cheek. The key is to decide what is special enough before the event… right now, before Christmas hits (rather than being overwhelmed by decisions and temptations once you arrive at an event).
For example, sharing a small glass of port with your uncle, to listen to the story of how he met your aunty for the 40th year in a row… that might be a “must-do” on your list. Relish in these moments... but ignore the constant attack of candy canes, cheap wine, and supermarket pavlova. They bring nothing positive to your life.
Tip #8: you are not a charity bin – you are not obligated to eat free food
And would you really call most of what is on offer ‘food’, anyway?
Tip #9: Choose alcohol with “less is more” in mind
Low-carb alcohol includes spirits, as well as dry red, white and sparkling wines. Perhaps treat yourself to a higher quality alcohol – like a herb-infused gin served on ice or a glass of French champagne. Skip the bottomless cocktails – as beautiful as they are, they’re generally finished with sugar syrups and cordials. If you’re feeling the pressure to drink and a simple “no thank-you” isn’t doing the trick, ask the bartender for a soda water with ice and fresh lime. It looks enough like a mixer drink that it might get those pesky colleagues off your back.
Tip #10: Don’t turn one indulgent meal into an indulgent week… or month
In reality, not much harm will be done by just a couple of higher-carb Christmas meals surrounded by family, friends and loved ones. What does do a lot of harm is the ‘aftermath’ – when you ‘write-off’ the entire festive season because you went to just one event where things didn’t go according to plan. Between events, go back to your normal routine. Prioritise some intermittent fasting and keep ignoring snack foods. One meal shouldn’t define the next month (or six) of your life.
Tip #11: Offer to bring a dish along
Make it something hearty that will satisfy you, in case there aren’t any other options. Some suggestions are bacon-wrapped mozzarella sticks, almond-meal crusted quiche, lamb kebabs with a yogurt sauce, pâté & olive board, or creamy cauliflower mash.
Tip #12: Beware of breaded, dipped, glazed, fried & saucey
Orange ginger ribs. Sweet chili prawns. Honey glazed chicken wings. Crispy & sticky soy drumsticks. Double crunch maple pork. Sorry, but they’re all just desserts disguised as food – meat, fish or cheese coated in sugar, flour, and vegetable oils. The same goes for most sauces and condiments... trust your palate: if it tastes sweet, leave it on your plate.
Tip #13: Offer to be the designated driver
For those events where you know it’ll mostly be trays of party pies and alcohol… staying sober will keep any cravings at bay (and no one will try to convince you out of being their chauffeur).
Tip #14: Get creative with your Christmas sweet tooth
There are endless low-carb and keto desserts online which can be so much fun at Christmas time. Why don’t you try to make a low carb gingerbread house, and take it along to your end-of-year do at work? Or bake the pieces and build it with your nieces and nephews on Christmas eve? Even better, turn your baking adventures into gifts. You could do your own cookie mixes in jars, hand-made gummy lollies, or cocoa-butter chocolate. There are recipes online for low-carb shortbread, pies, and cakes – your options are limitless.
Tip #15: breath deeply, be kind, and stay mindful
Mindfulness means focusing in on what’s going on, inside you, and around you. When a craving hits, take a few deep breaths and pause. Remember that all cravings will, and do, pass – every single time. The holidays are not a time to be hard on yourself – but keep your goals foremost in your mind, and share your journey with others…. Who knows who you might convince to make low-carb their New Year's Resolution.
Have a happy low-carb Christmas!