Carbs are the new taboo thanks to the insanely popular and uber-strict keto eating plan. And though the high-fat, low-carb diet allows for plenty of turkey, it’s the beloved sides that have the dieters plotting their strategy against judgmental family members and waistline-threatening treats.
Keto, which has become a favorite diet of A-listers like Halle Berry and Kourtney Kardashian, works by forcing the body into ketosis, a metabolic state in which energy is sourced from fat instead of carbs, its proponents say. But for it to work, followers have to stay away from carbs and sugar — including most fruits and even some vegetables — which means Thanksgiving staples such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sugary desserts are off-limits.
That’s going to be a challenge for keto dieters such as Daniela Gonzalez, a Chicago-based photographer, who started following the eating plan last January, along with her husband.
“I was into mashed potatoes and gravy,” Gonzalez, 36, says of her past carb-filled life. “And cranberry sauce, which is loaded with sugar. I was a big dessert lover.”
But Gonzalez has lost 46 pounds, going from 176 to 130, so she doesn’t plan on indulging in “no-no” foods over the holidays.
“Cheating would defeat my victory,” the 5-foot-2-inch mom of four says.
Appeasing judgmental relatives is a constant struggle for those on the controversial diet — which many doctors and dietitians say isn’t sustainable for the average person and critics call a fad.
“People tell me that I’m going to become anorexic or have high cholesterol,” she says. “I have friends whose families say, ‘Don’t bring that keto stuff here.’ ”
Still, she says the haters are floored when they see her progress in person. “They’re the same people who are asking me on the side, like, “How’d you do it?’ ”
She and other followers of the diet say their strategy to avoid hurt feelings over a rebuffed pecan pie is to just bring their own food — partially so that they can get enough to eat, but mostly to prove that the diet isn’t just butter and bacon, Gonzalez says.
“I’m taking a lot so they can see all the options there are. Especially for my father-in-law. Father-in-laws always have something to say.”
When Gonzalez shows up to her in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving next week, she’ll be armed with a keto stuffing — she uses a recipe in which the bread is replaced with a keto corn bread — a Puerto Rican lechón, a keto cheesecake, keto pumpkin pie and a zucchini noodle shrimp dish.
Meanwhile, her mother-in-law will make more traditional dishes: “It’s kind of like a face-off,” she says with a laugh.
For the most part, the diet’s trademark emphasis on butter may actually win over reluctant family members, says Lisa MarcAurele, 49, a Connecticut-based diet coach with 345,000 Instagram followers.
“My son actually liked the mock mashed potatoes better than the regular ones because it had cream cheese, heavy cream, which is real, high fat, and butter,” MarcAurele says.
Andra Barrow, who’s been on the diet for about a year, says for all the trouble of planning separate dishes, it’ll be worth it when those who stick to the diet see the family photos later.
“Last year, we were the only people we knew who weighed less after the holidays than before,” says Barrow, 47, a stagehand from the Hudson Valley. “We’re looking forward to making it two-for-two.”
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