Paleo, Keto, or Vegan? Here's How to Handle the Holiday Feasts

If you're on a diet protocol, celebratory meals can mess up your mojo and majorly stress you out. But they don't have to.

The holidays throw a wrench in all our routines and habits, from exercise to our work schedule. But if you're on a diet protocol, one celebratory meal after another can mess up your mojo and majorly stress you out.

Relax! Holiday feasting can be merry and bright for you, no matter how you eat. Think about most you want from the holiday. Sure, family (but not too much family!), some caroling, even if it's just from the Peanuts characters, and pajama time by the fire. Then, take a moment to make sure your food wishes will come true by the light of the Christmas tree. This might mean adjusting your mindset or bringing the dish that will make the day festive for you.

INTERMITTENT FASTING

Here's the deal: you've got this. You know what to do, you just might need to readjust your fasting schedule the week of holiday festivities. How about you skip breakfast or lunch (or both!) the day of the holiday feast, suggests Abigail Roaquin on Mindful Keto. Skip breakfast (or lunch) (or both) on Thanksgiving or Christmas day. Opt out of the second wind. You might not need breakfast (or lunch) the day after the holiday feast. Listen to your body.

VEGAN

Vegans can find plenty to feast on in holiday side dishes. Everything from pomegranate and bulgur wheat salads, braised kale with garlic, and roast vegetables are all fair game. But what else might you want from your Christmas dinner to make it really festive? If it's a protein-packed main course tailor-made for you, make a filling cranberry-and-lentil bake or mushroom wellington. Or if you'd be happier with a vegan dessert than an extra Santa, whip up a vegan Christmas pudding, vegan sweet potato pie, or a show-stopping vegan buche de noel.

PALEO

You can have a Christmas free of grains, dairy, and sugar, but rather than focus on what's being left out, why not start by focusing on what's fair game—and there's a lot: prime rib, roast turkey, spiced apple cider, roasted chestnuts, Champagne, mulled wine...all exceptionally festive, yes? If the idea of missing the big cheese spread bums you out, whip up a buttery cauliflower hummus, but if it's the lack of a cookie tray by the fireplace that makes you sore, hightail it over to Paleo Running Mama for 25 (yes, 25!) paleo cookie recipes. Is it just us, or has Santa never looked better?


KETO

Keto dieters can easily find a plateful of fat- and protein-packed keto-friendly options on the holiday table. Most of the Christmas menu has a keto dieter's name on it, including turkey, ham, Brussels sprouts with bacon, and green bean casserole.

But since it's a party that comes but once a year, allow us to recommend shots and cocktails. No, not Jell-O shots and peppermint martinis but shots and cocktails made with Braggs apple cider.

Roaquin advises taking 2 to 4 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar right before or during the meal, which studies show can reduce your insulin response by up to 34%.

If shots aren't your thing, do like Roaquin and mix an apple cider cocktail. Add 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a mason jar of cold sparkling water rimmed with pink Himalayan salt. It's the virtuous cousin on the margarita.

"I'm one of the weird ones who finds this refreshingly good," she says.

WHOLE 30

"Your Whole30 holiday plate looks a lot like the plate you're used to… we're just swapping out a few ingredients," Melissa Hartwig, CEO and co-founder of Whole30 told Well + Good. Think upgrades all around: an animal welfare certified turkey, a gravy thickened with arrowroot powder, potatoes mashed with ghee and coconut cream, and a cranberry sauce sweetened with orange juice.

"Remember that holidays are about making memories and celebrating traditions with family and friends," she said. "It doesn't matter what's on your plate, as long as you're experiencing the connection and warm feelings the season has to offer."

THE TAKEAWAY

Remember, too, to keep the parties in perspective. Be mindful of what behavioral psychologists call the "What-the-hell-effect." I've had a glass of eggnog, might as well have three; I've opened this box of Trader Joe-Joe's, might as well polish 'em off. An indulgence doesn't have to be your ruin. Take your pleasure and enjoy your treats, without falling down the vortex of self-recrimination by practicing self compassion. That's a worthy gift to yourself any time of year, no matter your eating plan.