The holidays are rough on anyone’s diet, but particularly if you have to watch what you’re eating for your serious health condition!  Most of us on AIP, Paleo, or Low FODMAP, etc are doing it because we want to improve our inflammatory conditions.  The weight loss is just an added bonus!  But, sticking to your diet when everyone else is eating mom’s famous, traditional cheese potatoes is a lot harder than one might think!  There are so many temptations around every corner at the holidays from work treats, parties, gifts of food, and holiday dinners, it’s hard not to give in, even “just a little”.  But, as we all know, giving in “just a little” often times leads to A LOT.  So, I’ve compiled a list of my best tips for staying on track throughout the holiday season!

  1. PLAN AHEAD – Never go to a party not knowing what you are going to eat.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just a cocktail party or a full on dinner party – don’t go in without a plan!  Talk to the host if it’s not at your house.  See what they are providing and figure out if there is something that you can eat or not.
  2. BRING YOUR OWN DISH (or more) – Anymore, I just bring my own food most places that we go!  I know that I will enjoy myself more if I have foods I get to enjoy while everyone else is, too.  It makes me feel a lot less deprived and left out.  I always make my own side dishes for myself (and my mom who is also gluten an dairy free) for every holiday dinner!  If I know there will be turkey, then I bring some brussel sprout salad, mashed sweet potatoes, paleo-approved cranberry sauce, paleo breads, and my own paleo pumpkin pie!  I enjoy the day just much as I used to and I don’t have the digestive issues or weight gain afterward, and that’s a beautiful thing!  I make enough to share, and others like it, too!
  3. FIND WAYS TO MAKE YOUR FAVORITE FOODS PALEO APPROVED – This is huge!  Just because you are now gluten, dairy, grain, and sugar free, doesn’t mean you can’t eat the foods you love!  I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, can you?!  That’s why I searched Pinterest years ago to find my favorite healthy dishes to make the holidays more enjoyable.  Now 4 years later, they are my traditions and I still love them, if not more!  You can find recipes for all kinds of things like cauliflower “mashed potatoes”, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie!  Get out there and search for the things you love and put some effort into making them.  You will thank yourself at the dinner table later.  The holidays will feel a lot more enjoyable and a lot less isolating if you have those festive, comfort foods that you love and can eat.
  4. DON’T OVER DO IT ON ALCOHOL – The worst thing you can do to yourself is overdo it on alcohol when you are trying to stick to a diet.  Trust me.  Haha!  Anytime that I have ever come close to completely blowing the diet, it has been because I had a little too much wine.  When you’re on AIP you’re not supposed to drink anyway, but I’ve been Paleo for many years, and while I didn’t drink until I was in remission, I do indulge in a glass of wine, or clear liquor with club soda now and then on special occasions.  That being said, if you drink too much you tend to lose some inhibition and over indulge in things you shouldn’t.  I always crave chocolate for some reason!  But, if you keep it to a minimum that’s not likely to happen.  Keep yourself in check.
  5. MAKE CROCKPOT RECIPES – Crockpot recipes are a great way to easily throw together some of your favorite dishes for a crowd of people.  I’ve made balsamic roast beef, chicken pot pie soup, and spaghetti squash and meatballs all for Christmas Eve or other holiday parties and everyone loved them!  They don’t take a lot of time and you can put them together in the morning or even cook them overnight.  It takes time and stress off your plate and you still have a delicious, nutritious meal to look forward to!
  6. ASK FOR HELP – If you are struggling to get everything done and cook your meals, find a family member or good friend who would help you, or even a company!  I’ve enlisted the help of friends before who love to cook.  My mom also is a huge help.  Find some recipes that you like that aren’t too difficult and see if they’d be willing to help you get through the holiday transition on your new diet.  I’ve also used a local company that specializes in healthy foods and can make things to your dietary needs.  If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, be sure to check out Green Light Meals.  They’ve done an entire Thanksgiving dinner for us before!
  7. FILL UP ON VEGGIES – Make sure that your plate isn’t just all meat.  If you can eat a lot of veggies you’ll feel fuller and more satisfied making you less likely to crave and go after the sweet stuff.  Plus, you’ll get the nutrients your body needs, too!
  8. GET ENOUGH SLEEP – When I get sleep deprived, I’m less focused.  When I lose focus, I tend to let things go.  Sometimes that is my nutrition.  I’ll start eating random things for breakfast because I’m too tired to make what I should and then my whole day is thrown off and I’ve eaten almond bread with almond butter all day long.  Sure, that’s technically Paleo, but it’s not a nutrient dense day of eating.  Make sure you get yourself rest in between all of the chaos.
  9. MAKE FOOD AHEAD AND FREEZE IT – If you know your holidays are going to be busy every single day for a stretch and you know it’s going to be hard to find the time to cook, think ahead and freeze some things!  I’ve done this with meatballs and soup for Christmas Eve, pumpkin and zucchini breads, and even cookies!  They defrost well and no one will ever know the difference!
  10. DON’T GO DOWN A RABBIT HOLE – If you happen to slip up and eat something you shouldn’t, don’t give in to that voice in your head that says, “well, you already messed up, might as well just let yourself go now”.  Eating one sugar-filled cookie is a lot different than eating a dozen!  I’ve made the mistake of buying gluten and dairy free cookies with cane sugar before, thinking I would eat just one and then I ended up eating way more over the course of a week after promising myself I’d get back on track the next day!  Sugar is so addictive even after you’ve cut it out for a long period of time.  I majorly suffered from gastro problems after my Christmas cookie binge for weeks.  It wasn’t worth it!  I would never do that again.  I thought I could handle it, but I definitely could not and it set me back and made me worse.  So, don’t give in to that voice.  Stay strong, believe in yourself, know that you CAN have control over temptations and show them who’s boss!

I hope these tips are helpful to you, whether you are new to AIP and Paleo or are a long-time veteran like myself.  Navigating the holidays can be tricky and stressful, but if you keep your health goals in mind, plan ahead and are prepared, you can get through it and stick to it!  And let me tell you, it feels SO GOOD when you do!  You’ll feel like you have finished a marathon and your body will thank you, too!  We can do pretty amazing things when we really focus and set our minds to it.  If I can be of any help to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out!  I hope you have an awesome holiday season 🙂

*Notice above that I have linked some of my favorite holiday recipes, including this pumpkin pie!


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