How to Stay Paleo this Holiday Season

Christmas 2015 is heavily upon us! You’re probably already in the thick of work Christmas parties, one last meal with friends before the big day, and starting to plan your Christmas dinner. You may have read this post and thought “I actually could’ve done with this post two weeks ago;” but don’t worry. While I acknowledge that this post could’ve been published two weeks ago, let it be a used as a guide on how to possibly continue your festive celebrations, and also reassure you that the extra alcohol and non-paleo foods you may have had these past few weeks are actually okay; being Paleo Perfect shouldn’t be a huge priority right now, (or ever really because that’s too much unnecessary pressure and standards by which to live). This is when, of all times, you should truly exercise the 80-20 rule Mark Sisson advises. Below, I’ve highlighted what I think are the five main concerns us paleo peeps might have around this time of year, as per the series I posted this past week on my Instagram account (follow me?).

 1. Alcohol: 

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What you could (should?) do in the next coming weeks, at social gatherings and at home, to stay paleo:

1. Totes Tea Total – no alcohol whatsoever because, to begin with, it’s not very beneficial to one’s overall health. Alcohol significantly slows your metabolism (by 300%!), the very one you may be trying to mend as a result of previously excessive carb-consumption and sugar. It can also lead to excess estrogen levels in the body, which over the long term, causes belly fat and man boobs (true fact).

Alcohol also lowers your inhibitions, meaning you’re more likely to declare ‘F-paleo, I want [all the horrible food]!” Staying sober this holiday season guarantees you’ll avoid both the aftermath of too much alcohol, but also of too much bad food.

2. Alcohol in moderation: drink at your social events, but not to get drunk. It’s your choice whether or not you drink this holiday season, but try and have 2-3 alcoholic beverages per gathering, not 12-13. And if you have many social events, consider being a designated driver for some of them.

If you’re going to drink, avoid the grain-based drinks (like beer and whisky), and the sugary ones, including sugary drink mixes like pop and juice, because it’s pretty contradictory to avoid eating grains and sugar, but then happily drinking them. Go for alcohol made with food, like wine, vodka, gin or rum. And try paleo mixers, like fresh-squeezed juice from citrus fruit, honey, sparkling water or kombucha.

I intend on having some Christmas cocktails this month; what I don’t intend on doing, however, is getting blazing drunk at every opportunity because I’m not a big drinker to begin with, so why start now? I will enjoy my favourite, prosecco, and maybe even some mulled wine, but that’s it.

2. Paleo-fy your Christmas: 

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Stuffing has breadcrumbs, all desserts contain sugar and wheat flour, and cranberry sauce is chemicals and sugar – despite these Christmas essentials being not paleo, you can easily make your own paleo version. While I’m not an advocate for a paleo diet that contains lots of ‘paleo-fied’ treats, I do feel Christmas and birthdays are the exception.

I’ve got a delicious and easy stuffing recipe, Nom Nom Paleo makes a fantastic Paleo Cran-Chery sauce (made it – it’s great!), and this week, I’ll be posting a recipe to my blog for Paleo Sticky Toffee Pudding. I’ll also be posting a big Paleo recipe round-up you can use as a resource for finding recipes to have yourself a Paleo Christmas.

One thing to bear in mind about paleo-fied foods, Christmas or not: unless they’re for meat or vegetable dishes, other paleo-fied foods aren’t nutritional powerhouses. Pancakes, bread, muffins, waffles, cookies, cake, gummy candies, tortillas, etc. are still just empty carbs, and like your previous Neotlithic diet, should be consumed sparingly. Remember: just because it’s paleo doesn’t mean it’s healthy and you can eat as much as you want!

3. Make your own, bring your own: 

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The holidays are packed with all sorts of get-togethers and parties, some of which are at people’s houses. Rather than thinking “What am I going to do if there’s no paleo food?” or “I hope there’s at least something I can eat,” why not offer to make your own paleo appetizers, canapés or (and?) treats to take along. This could be for all to enjoy, or just yourself, especially if you’re following Autoimmune Protocol paleo. Chicken wings, mini-fritatas, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto then roasted, and veggies n’ dip are some of my favourites.

You could also try this pictured cucumber canapé, the recipe couldn’t be simpler: sliced cucumbers and place in a container to let dry; this allows the toppings to adhere to them better. In a food processor, puree avocado, garlic, salt and pepper. At the party, top the cucumber slices with the avocado, then finish each one off with a basil leaf and half a plum tomato.

If you feel that bringing your own food to someone else’s party seems rude, bear in mind you just never know what will be offered, and you can make the (valid) excuse that you have dietary needs, and you brought your own food just to be safe; you can even fib and say you have severe food allergies. Yeah, it might make things awkward where people might think it’s weird, you’re weird and why can’t you just relax about it, but bear in mind, you don’t have to justify your actions and choices to anyone. I find that if people become agitated about my food choices, it’s because they either really don’t get it but don’t know how to diplomatically voice it, or because they feel it’s somehow an attack on their food choices. Don’t let the haters (or non-understanders…. Doesn’t roll off the tongue as well…) ruin your evening.

Whenever my family hosts dinners, I always offer to make a dessert because I find this is the one course where it’s quite difficult to be sugar-free and gluten-free (unless it’s summer and berries and whipped cream are involved). They always welcome it, and enjoy it as well. At times, my mother-in-law and I will plan and make a family dinner together, which allows everyone to enjoy delicious, real food, and Pat and I to stay paleo.

Another possible option, should you wish, is to host your own holiday gathering. You get to decide the menu (which, if it was me, would be 100% paleo). There are so many paleo dishes that you don’t realise are paleo, you could easily make a paleo meal for your reluctant family without them knowing. Roast dinner anyone? Chicken wings appetizers? And if primal, a cheese board of local, non-pasteurised cheeses with a side of apples, pears and/or grapes? And the best part is you don’t have to tell them it’s different!

4. Take a time out and enjoy some non-paleo food:

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Yep, I’m encouraging you to ‘cheat.’ Why? Because, as they say in Love Actually,”… if you can’t at Christmas, when can you eh?” Whether it’s a most sinful dessert, a traditional family dish, or those cheeky appetizers at your work Christmas party, why not exercise the 80-20 rule? You can, you’re allowed to, you don’t need anyone’s permission (not even your own). Just don’t go over board to the point of really feeling awful the next day, or of abandoning paleo altogether.

Also, if you’re paleo for health reasons, especially Autoimmune Protocol paleo, please exercise caution – if going off of paleo will result in a flare-up of some kind, be careful.

 5. Just get right back into it:

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After the (moderate amounts) of alcohol, after eating some (a lot?) of non-paleo food, after indulging on some not-so-healthy paleo-fied dishes, and after not being ‘paleo perfect’ (because even the experts aren’t!), just get right back into your routine paleo daily regimen. Don’t berate yourself. You probably enjoyed all of it, and why wouldn’t you? Whether it’s the next meal or the next day, don’t dwell, just keep going. Move on, and whatever you do, don’t use indulging in a non-paleo food or dish as an excuse to abandon paleo altogether until January….. or whenever.

What strategies will you use to stay paleo, but #notstrictpaleo this holiday season?

What’s your stance on paleo + alcohol?

 What’s your favourite paleo-fied Christmas food?

What’s your favourite paleo party food?

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3 thoughts on “How to Stay Paleo this Holiday Season

  1. I always appreciate posts like this! It will officially be my first holiday season going Paleo (will have a write-up on how it went hopefully if life stops getting in the way of my blogging 😀 ) so I love hearing the perspective of others.
    Right now I am avoiding alcohol until New Years because I am the type of person who after one or two drinks will say EFF IT when it comes to only sticking to things that make me feel good. I still have to work on the mentality of not completely beating myself up when I stray away from the paleo template and put all of the cookies to the face. I just gotta move on! I find that if I drink a lot of water after a meal I feel like I might have overdone it with the indulging makes me feel so much better.

    • I agree about just moving on: it’s not like from that moment on you’re going to go back to SAD and cookies all the time. And it’s also not a bad thing to want (and eat) cookies or other non-paleo treats, especially at this time of year. The staff room at my school is a veritable daily bakery right now: there’s ALWAYS some cake, danishes, cookies, mince pies, etc. And I’ve had some, but not tons, every day this week. But every other food I eat is paleo.

      I look forward to you paleo post 🙂

  2. Pingback: {EAT} Paleo Sticky Toffee Pudding | Eat Primal, Run Hard

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