Going low carb has its advantages; it might aid weight loss, stabilize blood sugar levels, and even enhance mental clarity.
But when the holidays roll around, particularly Thanksgiving, staying committed to this dietary path becomes a bit of a tightrope walk. You want to partake in the festive spread, but at the same time don’t want to compromise on taste or satisfaction that often comes with a low-carb lifestyle at holiday times.
Considering this, having trusty low-carb recipes becomes a game-changer. These are usually closely matched in satisfaction with traditional favorites, just tweaked to reduce the carbohydrate content. And if done right, not even carb-lovers can tell the difference.
Here’s a collection of four low-carb Thanksgiving sides that are sure to delight everyone at your table, including those who aren’t watching their carbs.
What To Eat At Thanksgiving On Keto?
There is a variety of keto-friendly Thanksgiving foods, closely following the low-carb principle, including turkey, ham, lamb, and pork.
Some traditional side dishes, such as green bean casserole and mashed potatoes can be made keto-friendly by using alternative ingredients – like almond or coconut flour instead of all-purpose flour – and replacing high-carb vegetables with their lower carb counterparts.
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Below is a list of traditional Thanksgiving foods, and their potential low-carb alternatives:
Mashed Potatoes: Swap the regular potatoes for Cauliflower Mash, made creamy with the addition of butter and cream cheese.
Sweet Potato Casserole: Replace sweet potatoes with Butternut Squash, lending a similar sweetness with a fraction of the carbs.
Stuffing: Use Almond Flour Bread for the base, which can be crisped up and combined with traditional stuffing ingredients.
Gravy: Use Xanthan Gum instead of flour or cornstarch to thicken your gravy, maintaining all the flavor without the carbs.
Cranberry Sauce: Make your own with fresh cranberries, sweetened with a keto-friendly sweetener like erythritol.
Green Bean Casserole: Use heavy cream and grated cheese to create a creamy sauce instead of the traditional cream of mushroom soup.
Dinner Rolls: Make your own using Almond Flour or Coconut Flour.
Pumpkin Pie: Use Almond Flour for the crust, and sweeten the filling with a keto-friendly sweetener.
Apple Pie: Use a low-carb crust and replace apples with lower-carb chayote squash, which has a similar texture.
Pecan Pie: Use a keto-friendly sweetener and Almond Flour crust to maintain the same great taste while keeping it low carb.
Our guide on a Keto Gravy Recipe for Thanksgiving explores the process of making a thick and flavorful gravy without the use of flour.
4 Simple Low Carb Thanksgiving Sides
Sides are a crucial component of a Thanksgiving meal, often being the most customizable and diverse dishes on the table. Here are four simple low carb sides that will enhance your holiday spread:
Keto-Friendly Cranberry Sauce (2)
Cranberry sauce is a Thanksgiving staple, however the store-bought versions are often loaded with sugar and carbs. This keto-friendly version uses erythritol as a sweetener and chia seeds as a thickening agent. The result is a delicious, tangy sauce that pairs perfectly with turkey or ham.
- 1 lb. cranberries (frozen is fine)
- ¼ cup water
- Zest of one orange, grated
- ¼ cup xylitol (more if you like sweeter cranberry sauce)
- In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, water, and orange zest over medium heat.
- Stir occasionally until the cranberries start to burst and release their juices.
- Add in the xylitol and continue to cook until the sauce thickens.
- Remove from heat and let cool before serving.
- Use it as a topping for your turkey, or mix it into some plain yogurt for a tasty and healthy snack.
Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese (5)
Who says you can’t enjoy mac and cheese on a low carb diet? This cauliflower version is just as creamy and comforting as the original . Plus, cauliflower is packed with nutrients like vitamin C, K, and B6. This recipe makes 6 servings with 6 g net carbs per serving.
- 1 1/2 cups steamed pumpkin (hot)
- 1/3 cup cashews; soaked and strained
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. mustard powder
- 2 cups shirataki macaroni
- 3 Tbsp. grass-fed ghee, melted
- 1/4 cup coconut cream
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup organic bacon, diced and cooked (optional)
- 1 cup organic cheese, grated, if you tolerate dairy (optional)
- Start by steaming the pumpkin until it is soft and hot. While your pumpkin is steaming, soak the cashews in warm water and leave them to absorb the water.
- Once the pumpkin is ready, blend it together with the soaked and strained cashews, garlic powder, mustard powder, melted ghee, coconut cream, and apple cider vinegar until smooth. This is your gluten-free mac and cheese sauce.
- Prepare the shirataki macaroni according to the instructions on the package. Once cooked, strain the macaroni and set it aside.
- If you choose to include bacon, cook it in a pan until it’s crispy. Remove it from heat and drain excess oil on a paper towel.
- In a large pot, combine the cooked shirataki macaroni and your creamy pumpkin sauce, stirring well to ensure every piece of macaroni is coated in the sauce.
- If you’re using cheese, sprinkle this in and stir until it’s fully melted into the sauce. For added flavor, stir in the cooked bacon pieces.
- Once everything is well combined and heated through, remove the pot from the heat. Taste and add salt if necessary.
- Serve your gluten-free mac and cheese hot, with a garnish of extra cheese or a sprinkle of fresh herbs if desired.
Cauliflower au Gratin (3)
Next on our list of vegetarian low carb thanksgiving sides is another delicious cauliflower dish that will satisfy your craving for cheesy comfort food. This low carb version swaps out the traditional potatoes for nutrient-rich cauliflower and uses a blend of cheeses for a creamy and flavorful topping. This recipe serves 8, with 5 g net carbs per serving.
- 6 tablespoons butter, cubed
- 4 ounces cooked ham, chopped
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
- 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 1-1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
- 2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly grease a baking dish.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped ham and cook until lightly browned.
- Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute, then remove the ham and garlic from the skillet and set aside.
- In the same skillet, melt another 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the cauliflower florets and cook until they become slightly tender and golden, stirring occasionally.
- While the cauliflower is cooking, in a separate saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour until smooth.
- Gradually whisk in the heavy cream, then add the salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the shredded Swiss cheese until melted.
- Combine the cauliflower, ham, garlic, and cheese sauce in the prepared baking dish, ensuring the cauliflower is evenly coated with the sauce.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden and bubbly.
- Before serving, sprinkle the cauliflower au gratin with minced fresh parsley.
Asparagus with Cranberries and Pine Nuts (1)
This colorful and flavorful dish is a great addition to any Thanksgiving feast. Asparagus is low in carbs and packed with nutrients like folate, vitamin K, and antioxidants. The cranberries add a pop of sweetness while the pine nuts bring some healthy fats and texture. This recipe makes 4 servings with 11 g net carbs per serving.
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- 1 pinch salt
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C), preparing a baking sheet with a layer of parchment paper for the asparagus.
- Lay your asparagus on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil, ensuring it’s evenly coated, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
- Roast the asparagus in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.
- While the asparagus is roasting, lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent burning.
- Remove the asparagus from the oven and immediately sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and dried cranberries while still warm.
- Serve your asparagus with cranberries and pine nuts as a vibrant and delicious side dish.
How Do You Stay Low Carb At Thanksgiving?
You stay low carb at Thanksgiving by making smart choices and being mindful of your portions.
- Focus on filling your plate with protein-rich dishes, like turkey or tofu, and low carb vegetables.
- Avoid starchy side dishes like mashed potatoes and casseroles, and instead opt for low-carb options like the cauliflower “mac” and cheese or cauliflower au gratin we’ve shared above.
- Bring Your Own Dish: If you’re attending a meal, bring a low-carb dish you know you can enjoy.
- Portion Control: Even low-carb foods can add up, so be mindful of your portion sizes.
- Skip the Bread Basket: Avoid the temptation by steering clear of bread, rolls, and other baked goods.
- Choose Low-Carb Desserts: Opt for desserts made with nut flours or sweeteners like stevia or erythritol.
- Use Herbs and Spices: Enhance the flavor of your food with herbs and spices instead of sugary or high-carb sauces and dressings.
- Avoid Sugary Drinks: Stick with water, unsweetened iced tea, or a glass of low-carb wine.
- Don’t Deprive Yourself: Enjoy the holiday and allow yourself to indulge in a small portion of your favorite traditional dishes. Just be mindful of your overall carb intake and balance it out throughout the day.
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Can I Cheat On Keto for Thanksgiving?
Yes, you can cheat on keto for Thanksgiving, but you should do it strategically. A cheat day might temporarily knock you out of ketosis, but it doesn’t mean you’ll derail your progress entirely.
To ensure your cheat day doesn’t derail your progress entirely, here are some tips:
Plan Ahead: If you decide to cheat, do so knowingly. Plan what you’ll eat and stick to it to avoid overindulgence.
Keep It to One Meal: Try to keep your cheat to one meal, rather than the entire day.
Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to help your body process the extra carbs and sugar.
Get Active: Incorporate some physical activity into your day to help burn off the extra carbs.
Go Back to Keto the Next Day: Resume your keto diet the next day. You may feel some temporary side effects, but they should pass in a day or two.
Monitor Your Portions: Even on a cheat day, it’s crucial to manage your portion sizes. Enjoy your favorite non-keto foods in moderation.
Enjoy Yourself: The most important part of Thanksgiving is to relax and enjoy your time with family and friends. One cheat day is not going to ruin your diet as long as you get back on track right away.
Should I Cheat On My Diet On Thanksgiving?
Whether you should cheat on your diet is your choice, which may depend on how you go about it, and whether you’re capable of getting back on track the next day.
If you have a plan in place and can stick to it, then indulging in some of your favorite traditional dishes may be worth it. However, if you know that one cheat day will lead to an entire weekend or week of overeating, then it might be best to stick with your diet.
Also, your dieting goals should come to mind when considering cheating on Thanksgiving. For example, if your goal is weight loss, one day of indulging in high-carb foods might not cause significant setbacks.
However, if you have a health condition that requires strict carb control, it’s best to stick with your diet and find more appropriate alternatives for Thanksgiving dishes.
In the end, it’s about finding balance and making choices that align with your goals and lifestyle.
Our blog about Healthy Thanksgiving Tips offers more insights and tips for a healthy holiday season.
How Do I Get Back Into Ketosis After Thanksgiving?
Getting back into ketosis after Thanksgiving is as simple as just going back to low carb eating.
Ketosis is a metabolic state that your body enters when you restrict carbs and rely on fat for energy. There’s no special “cleanse” or detox needed to get back into ketosis. Just stick with your regular keto diet and be mindful of your carb intake.
After a day of high-carb eating, you should expect some temporary side effects like bloating, water retention, and cravings for sweets. These should pass within a day or two as long as you stay on track with your low carb eating.
To speed up the process of getting back into ketosis, you can try:
- Intermittent fasting: Fasting for 12-24 hours can help deplete your glycogen stores and get back into ketosis faster (6).
- Exercising: Physical activity can help burn off stored glycogen and get your body back into a state of ketosis (7).
- Consuming healthy fats: Adding in extra sources of healthy fats, like avocado or olive oil, can help increase your fat intake and support ketosis (4).
Avoid going to extremes in hopes of quickly getting back into ketosis, like drastically reducing your calorie intake or over-exercising. Instead, focus on following your regular keto diet and being patient as your body returns to its state of burning fat for fuel.
Remember that one day of indulging should not derail all of your progress and it’s important to have a healthy mindset around food.
Our Highest Protein Meat guide can also give you post-Thanksgiving meal ideas to get back on track with your keto lifestyle.
Yes, traditional stuffing is full of carbs and is not keto-friendly. It usually contains bread, rice, or potatoes, which are all high in carbs. However, you can make a low-carb version by using cauliflower or almond flour bread in place of wheat bread and keeping the portion size small. A traditional Thanksgiving meal can contain up to 200 grams of carbs or more, depending on the dishes served and portion sizes. This is well over the daily carb limit for most people following a keto diet. However, by making some smart swaps and controlling your portions, you can still enjoy a delicious low-carb Thanksgiving dinner without going overboard on carbs. To achieve 50 grams of carbohydrates a day, you might include foods like a medium-sized apple (about 25g), a half cup of cooked quinoa (around 20g), and a cup of spinach (about 1g). Whether 100 grams of carbs a day is too much or enough depends on your individual dietary goals, activity level, and metabolic health. For a very low-carb diet this is generally on the higher side, whereas it’s on the lower side for a standard diet. No, turkey is not high in carbohydrates. It’s primarily a source of protein and contains virtually no carbs. Unless it’s glazed or marinated in high-carb sauces, turkey is a suitable protein option for those following a low-carb diet 40 grams of carbs could be achieved with a medium banana (about 27g), half a cup of cooked lentils (about 20g), or a medium-sized baked sweet potato (about 23g). Adjust portion sizes of these or similar foods to meet the 40 grams target
Is Stuffing Full of Carbs?
How Many Carbs Are in Thanksgiving Dinner?
What Equals 50 Carbs a Day?
Is 100 Carbs a Day Enough or Too Much?
Is Turkey High in Carbs?
How Much Is 40 Carbs a Day?
Yes, traditional stuffing is full of carbs and is not keto-friendly. It usually contains bread, rice, or potatoes, which are all high in carbs. However, you can make a low-carb version by using cauliflower or almond flour bread in place of wheat bread and keeping the portion size small.
A traditional Thanksgiving meal can contain up to 200 grams of carbs or more, depending on the dishes served and portion sizes. This is well over the daily carb limit for most people following a keto diet. However, by making some smart swaps and controlling your portions, you can still enjoy a delicious low-carb Thanksgiving dinner without going overboard on carbs.
To achieve 50 grams of carbohydrates a day, you might include foods like a medium-sized apple (about 25g), a half cup of cooked quinoa (around 20g), and a cup of spinach (about 1g).
Whether 100 grams of carbs a day is too much or enough depends on your individual dietary goals, activity level, and metabolic health. For a very low-carb diet this is generally on the higher side, whereas it’s on the lower side for a standard diet.
No, turkey is not high in carbohydrates. It’s primarily a source of protein and contains virtually no carbs. Unless it’s glazed or marinated in high-carb sauces, turkey is a suitable protein option for those following a low-carb diet
40 grams of carbs could be achieved with a medium banana (about 27g), half a cup of cooked lentils (about 20g), or a medium-sized baked sweet potato (about 23g). Adjust portion sizes of these or similar foods to meet the 40 grams target
The Bottom Line
Overall, staying low carb at Thanksgiving may require some planning and portion control, but with these tips and recipes, you can still enjoy a delicious and satisfying holiday meal without compromising your keto lifestyle.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Asparagus with Cranberries and Pine Nuts (2018,allrecipes.com)
- BULLETPROOF CRANBERRY SAUCE (2020,bulletproof.com)
- Cauliflower au Gratin (2023,tasteofhome.com)
- Emphasizing unsaturated fats on a ketogenic diet (2019,harvard.edu)
- GLUTEN-FREE AND KETO-FRIENDLY MAC AND CHEESE (2021,bulletproof.com)
- Health impact of a combination of intermittent fasting and ketogenic diet (2023,news-medical.net)
- Ketogenic diets, physical activity and body composition: a review (2022,nih.gov)