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Special Diets

Naughty-or-Nice Keto Ingredients for Holiday Meals

Nutrition Myth Buster and keto follower Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, reveals which fats are good for you this holiday season and which deserve a lump of coal.

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Staying on the keto diet full time can be demanding, especially around the holidays. Let’s be realistic. I know you’re probably not going to give up your favorite holiday pie or cookies. But there are a few tricks to use over the next few months.

The keto diet encourages followers to cut their carb intake and include more fats in their diet. Cutting down on carbs has once again been shown to be heart healthy. A 12-month human clinical study involving 577 healthy participants found that a high-carb diet was much more likely to increase an otherwise healthy person’s heart disease risk factors than a high-fat diet. Fat didn’t move the needle one way or the other. Considering heart attack rates go up in the winter, this is a good time to stay the course and limit the sugar-laden and bready seasonal treats.

When it comes to boosting fat intake, however, there’s a naughty way and a nice way. Some fats, are healthier than others. Most of the participants in this study consumed Malaysian palm oil, which is 50% saturated fat (and 40% monounsaturated fat, the same kind found in olive oil!).

Be discriminating about which fats you eat because unhealthy choices will affect your health in other ways. Stay away from corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and soybean oil. These seed oils are filled with omega-6s, and are very pro-inflammatory. Excess amounts of so-called “vegetable oils” are a primary source of inflammation in the American diet. Inflammation is a significant factor in just about every degenerative disease known to man.

What else you need to know about keto

The keto diet is currently America’s favorite. It is extremely low in carbs. Here’s why: Your body only has two fuels it can use: fats and carbs (which break down into sugar/glucose). Being a sugar burner doesn’t help with weight loss. Many people have plenty of fat on their bodies waiting to be burned for fuel, but their bodies won’t use it because it prefers to use sugar.

The keto diet forces your body to use fat as its predominant fuel. This is known as nutritional ketosis. There’s a caveat however: Your body can enter ketosis regardless of the quality of fat you eat. It doesn’t care if you’re eating corn oil that’s been refried 25 times or the highest quality Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil. Either one will raise your ketones. But one’s junk food and one’s a health food.

If you’re only looking at getting into ketosis, you can do it with crummy foods. As long as you cut the carbs and eat enough fat, you’ll get into ketosis. But so what? You still won’t be healthy. It would be like losing weight on coffee and other stimulants! It’ll work, but who wants that? I advocate what’s called clean keto. It’s much healthier to get into ketosis by eating really good foods such as grass-fed beef, fresh fruits and vegetables you prepare in your kitchen, and using better-for-you cooking oils like ghee and Malaysian palm.

See also: 5 Ways to Succeed on the Keto Diet

How to “do” keto during the holidays

Here are several suggestions for following keto this holiday season:

  • Be kind to your heart. Restrict goodies to just a few days during the holiday season.

  • Reduce consumption of the inflammatory oils. Replace them with healthier fats, such as olive, coconut and palm oil. Bonus: All Malaysian palm oil is non-GMO, while more than 90% of corn, soybean and canola grown is genetically modified. Palm oil also offers a unique, heart-healthy 50-50 blend of saturated and unsaturated fat. It also has health benefits for the brain and liver.

  • Minimize the hidden sugars in your holiday meals. Prepare dishes from scratch instead of from a package. Surprising sources of hidden sugars include canned soup, salad dressings and pasta sauces. While you’re at it, put the brakes on eating refined grains such as white flour and white rice.

  • Do keto by day: Follow a ketogenic diet as much as possible during the day. Then enjoy your special meals with family and friends at night.

  • Consider keto cycling/flirting with keto: A lot of keto advocates are into this. They follow a ketogenic diet for three to four weeks, a few times a year. It can be very therapeutic. Think of keto cycling as hitting the reset button on your metabolism. It helps jumpstart your weight loss. And here’s a way to adapt this idea: Try following a keto diet for the 10 days before a big holiday meal. Or it doesn’t have to be 10 days. It can be five days. Then you’ll be able to enjoy your holiday meals pretty much guilt-free.

By using one of these tactics, you’ll start training your metabolism to become more flexible and get your toes wet on the keto diet without completely giving up your favorite holiday foods.

Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, also known as “The Nutrition Myth Buster,”™ is a nationally known board-certified nutritionist and expert on diet and weight loss. He has appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show,” Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS as an expert on nutrition has contributed to articles in the New York Times, Forbes, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair Online, Men’s Health, Prevention, and dozens of other print and online publications.

Dr. Jonny is the bestselling author of 15 books including The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Living Low Carb (now in its fourth edition), Smart Fat (with Steven Masley, MD), The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer, and his latest, The Great Cholesterol Myth: Revised and Updated Edition (co-written with cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD).

Follow him on Instagram or Facebook.