Whether you or a loved one follow the diet, here are some tips for navigating the holidays from a Paleo perspective.

By Russ Crandall
Updated June 06, 2017

Christmas is a holiday often associated with foods like decadent cookies, sugary candy canes and rich fudge. Unfortunately, many holiday treasures are not Paleo-friendly, since the diet eschews grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods.

At first blush, the Paleo diet appears overly limited, but with a little legwork it can be anything but. Whether you or a loved one follow the diet, here are some tips for navigating the holidays from a Paleo perspective.

1. Focus on the can, not the can’t.
Sure, it will be difficult to build a gingerbread house while remaining grain-free. But the list of Christmas dishes that are inherently Paleo-friendly is comparatively endless: prime rib, roast turkey, spiced apple cider, roasted chestnuts, Champagne, mulled wine.

2. Be selective with sweeteners.
While sugar is not considered Paleo-friendly, many other sweeteners are. Consider sweetening your eggnog with maple syrup or glazing your holiday ham with honey and orange juice (recipe). With the mindful use of sweeteners, Christmas can be just as sweet as years past.

3. Borrow from traditions.
Traditional English Christmas puddings were a simple affair made with dried fruits and spices with an egg and suet binder. Instead of relying on modern, flour-dependent varieties, investigate a historical recipe. Likewise, consider taking cues from international holiday dishes, like Puerto Rican pernil (roast pork) or a traditional Swedish smorgasbord with meatballs, sausage, pickled herring and sliced beetroot.

4. The holidays are an opportunity to flex the Paleo palate.
Christmas comes but once a year, and it’s probably healthier to have an occasional indulgence (barring food allergies) than to leave the holidays with a lingering sense of regret. The diet will be waiting for you tomorrow.

5. Gift with care.
When gifting for a Paleo-minded friend or family member, think beyond grass-fed steaks or tubs of coconut oil. Instead, consider donating in their honor to a new trend: holistic land management, which uses rotational grazing to reverse the effects of desertification. A gift like this is not only a nice gesture, it can also help promote thoughtful animal husbandry—a tenet of the Paleo lifestyle.

6. It’s not just about the food.
In the end, the holidays are a chance to grow closer to your loved ones. Celebrate the season around a warm fire without a second thought as to what’s in your neighbor’s mug.