How To Eat Low Carb During The Festive Season
If you’re trying to plan a great low-carb Christmas day, you don’t have to suffer with weight gain come January. Your old holiday habits might have you feeling a little bit lost and overwhelmed right about now — especially, if you’ve never travelled or gone through the holidays while on a low-carb diet before.
However, there is absolutely no need to fear.
Christmas dinner will still feel like Christmas, even without the carbs. In fact, done right, there is no reason why your guests will even notice the missing carbs. Just follow our step-by-step process of planning a great low-carb Christmas day and no one will catch on, unless you let them in on the secret! Even going out with friends and eating at someone else’s house should be a breeze if you prepare prior. You’ll be able to enjoy the holiday peacefully and without guilt, along with your family and friends.
Spiral-cut ham, juicy prime roast beef turkey or a pork dish will make a traditional holiday meal. If that’s what you’re used to serving on Christmas Day, you’ll be happy to know they are both very low in carbs, depending on the glaze and spices you choose to use to fancy them up.
While the entree is the easiest place to yank the carbs when no one is looking, some of the appetizers, side dishes, and luscious desserts you might be used to whipping up to impress your family and friends may not be appropriate any more.
If that’s the problem you’re facing, don’t despair.
All it takes to put together a memorable low-carb Christmas dinner is a little pre-thought and creativity.
Whether you’re new to low carb this year or you have white-knuckled your way through the holiday season before, if you follow the 10 simple principles outlined below, your family and friends will have a fun time, even without the carbs.
1. How Many Carbs You Can Afford to Spend on Christmas Dinner?
Obviously, you want to stay in the state of fat burning throughout the holidays, so the best approach to Christmas Dinner is to use yourself as the center of the meal plan, and then spread outward from there.
While the typical method for following a traditional low-carb diet is to spread your carbohydrates out throughout the day, for a special meal, many dieters choose to spend them all at one time.
That may or may not work for you, depending on how easily overeating will trigger cravings, so it’s best to know what you’re going to do ahead of time.
Make a decision! Control food, never let food control you!
If you are losing weight obviously stay closer to protein, vegetables, some cheeses and cold meats. If there is any ‘loaded carbohydrate foods’ you miss, and you’re aware that this may get in the way of weight loss, there are basic rules to keep the fat gaining mode under control:
You choose when a carbohydrate loaded food is worth it. Try to have it very occasional and enjoy the moment eating as little of it as possible at any given time, chew slowly and eat small amounts. Ask yourself, is this worth the carbs? if the answer is Yes then eat as little as possible to enjoy yourself and then stop.
As soon as you finish that ‘worth the extra carbs’ experience then you CLOSE THE WINDOW! THAT’S IT!
My open and close the window rule! I open the window when I decide that it’s worth it, eating as little as possible to still enjoy that moment, then i close the window straight away. I am back to eating real foods, only when hungry (fasting) and i am back to being healthy.
There are two ways to address to carb problem:
- Go with all low-carb foods and aim for not gaining weight over the holidays.
- Stick closely to a particular carbohydrate content for the meal.
Either way, you need to know what you’re doing at the planning stage and not at the dinner table.
When you’re staring at a beautiful table decked with tons of low-carb goodies, that isn’t the time to discover you’ve created a meal that contains too many carbs.
2. Look At What You Have Made in the Past for Christmas
I’ll be honest.
If you’re still in the weight-loss phase of your low-carb diet, potatoes and wheat-flour breads and cakes are definitely off limits, so you’ll probably have to readjust your usual menu quite a bit. Even if you’re on maintenance.
However, the amount of adjusting you have to do depends on what you’re used to eating at Christmas, how many carbs you can afford to spend, and which stage of the diet you’re in.
At maintenance, for example, you’ll have a lot more flexibility than you will if you’re on the achieving phase.
3. Take Advantage of the Senses
The very first response to what you serve (way before anyone sticks anything in their mouth) will start with:
- and touch
But Christmas isn’t just about the food. How your table is laid out will also play a role in how memorable and fun your day is. Set up additional holiday tables that are more attractive for adults and that allow you to display your beautiful, bright food options.
A few tips to keep in mind:
- place-cards, if using them
- placement of the dishes and trays on the table
- shapes and colors of the food
- food textures
- and what the food smells like
All of these elements contribute to the total sensory experience. And so does any music you might have playing in the background.
Most people are addicted to carby foods only because serving them has become a habit. Food manufacturers and advertisers have convinced us that the holidays won’t be special and memorable without certain foods being on the table.
This is not true.
What makes the holidays special and memorable is the sensory experience that you offer your family and guests, so don’t ignore the senses when you’re planning your Christmas dinner or party. Pay attention to the senses as much as possible, and your family and guests will never notice the missing carbs.
4. Keep Things Simple
The older I get, the less of a Christmas banquet I feel inclined to plan. I’m perfectly happy with an out-of-the-ordinary main dish and a couple of sides.
For us, that probably means a sweet potato dish and a vegetable. If I make an appetizer, it’s likely to be:
- Deviled eggs with bacon or jalapeno
- Mushrooms stuffed with sausage
- A cheese ball
- A homemade onion-pepper dip to serve with cheese chips
We can snack on a few nuts, or black olives and dill pickles. A nice raw vegetable tray with homemade Ranch or blue cheese dressing, and some homemade salsa for low-carb chips would also make a nice colorful presentation. So would some meatballs or hot wings.
You can use low-fat cheeses like cottage cheese or ricotta cheese to make dips less greasy, or smashing a beautiful ripe avocado for a guacamole dip.
Here is a recipe for an amazing Cottage Cheese Dip!
5. The Nitty-Gritty of Planning the Main Dish
It could be a turkey, pork dish, fish or chicken anything you choose really,
The truth is, you don’t HAVE to be traditional. There’s nothing wrong with serving:
- low-carb pizza
- spinach meatballs in a rich Alfredo sauce
- curried chicken wings
- hot-and-spicy chicken stir fry
As long as your main dish is colorful, smells delicious, and you love it — that’s all that matters.
6. Use Your Family’s Favourite Vegetables
Two veggies that have been on my mind are:
We love both of them. If you focus on veggies your family loves, eating low carb for Christmas will be more acceptable to them. Their minds will be focused on enjoying their favorite foods, rather than on more carbier options that’s missing.
We eat a lot of broccoli and cauliflower at our house, so you’re not likely to find either one on our Christmas dinner plate, but if you love broccoli and can’t make it through the holiday without it, you can take it up a notch by making a broccoli salad rather than adding cooked broccoli to your holiday meal plans.
I have made one using cold cooked broccoli and it was very good. For mine, I also added some cheese chunks and pecans.
Asparagus is actually my hubby’s favorite vegetable, especially with a rich cheese sauce.
If I were doing asparagus for Christmas:
Cut the asparagus into 3 pieces. Place the strips into a microwave-safe casserole dish. Add a tiny bit of water, then cover it tightly. Nuke it for about 5 minutes. If the asparagus is not as done as you like it, stir the pieces, and then return the dish to the microwave. You can nuke it again for 3 to 5 minutes.
Low-carb cheese sauce is super easy. I just melt 1/4 cup of butter, add 4-ounces of cream cheese and a cup of heavy cream. Stir that all up and heat until it is nice and smooth. I then fold in some real American cheese and let it melt. Bacon bits, mushrooms, and a few green onion slices will make the sauce extra special.
I also do Brussels sprouts in the microwave as well, since it’s quick and easy:
Slice each sprout in half and layer in a small microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle with lemon pepper, seasoning salt, and any other herbs or spices you like. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the bottom of the dish and cover tightly. Cooking time depends on the size of the sprout, but normally, it takes 5 to 10 minutes.
7. Take Advantage of Pinterest for Low-Carb Recipes
Searching Pinterest is so fun.
On Pinterest, fellow low-carbers have pinned low-carb and gluten-free recipes they would like to try, recipes they have tried and loved, and pictures that easily spark the imagination with additional ideas and suggestions for tweaking dishes to be lower in carbs.
When it comes to low-carb desserts, it’s also a great place to try something different.
8. Presentation Matters
How you lay out the food matters. Be artistic and have fun.
If you want your low-carb Christmas efforts to be memorable and fun, the way you present your low-carb food and drinks really matters.
Here a few tips to make any sweet treat festive:
- Add a few mint leaves to your drinks.
- Place cookie cutters in a non-stick skillet and pipe your low-carb pancake batter into them to shape your kids’ pancakes for breakfast.
- Use the traditional Christmas colours of red and green when making your favorite layered jello and cream cheese salad the family has come to expect each year.
- Arrange your raw vegetable, cheese, and salami platter into the shape of a Christmas tree.
Coming up with creative ideas isn’t difficult. Just make good use of Pinterest, Pixabay, or Flickr images for ideas. Heck, you can even use Google images for photos that will spark your creativity and imagination.
The idea is to carry the Christmas theme into the way you present your low-carb dishes and is a great way to connect with your family over food prep.
Think in terms of Christmas colours and shapes.
Edible Christmas trees or arranging the food into the shape of a wreath, star, or snowman can turn even the simplest food ideas into something special.
Instead of rolling your cheese balls in crushed pecans, you could dredge them in unsweetened coconut and stack two balls on top of each other to make a snowman. Use raisins or dried cranberries for the eyes and buttons, and a small piece of carrot for the nose. Surround the snowman with homemade low-carb cheese crackers and pepperoni chips.
Peeled hard-boiled eggs would also make cute miniature snowmen. Simply use sturdy toothpicks to hold one egg on top of the other.
Or how about freezing Christmas trinkets or dark green mint leaves in your ice cubes? You could even write a Christmas greeting across the top of your low-carb cheesecake, and arrange some berries and kiwi slices around.
Regarding the liquids, it is always good to drink plenty of water- especially in the Aussie Christmas sun. But the other items – champagne, dry wine, straight spirits, can be taken in moderate amount or with soda water. However If you are trying to lose weight ordering a sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon is the way to go. It is best to avoid beer as usual, sugary cocktails and ciders, but if you must have one or two beers go for light beer to avoid the sugary effects of this drink- remember beer is ‘liquid bread’!
10. Show Off Low Carb at its Very Best
Low-carb diets don’t have to be boring — ever.
And that includes the holidays.
So take a little initiative and go the extra mile to make your Christmas dinner menu creative as well as appetizing.
If you are mindful of your guests, use your family’s favorite foods, include the kids in the festivities, and carry the Christmas theme throughout the entire meal, you’ll end up with a celebration that you’ll remember for years to come.