There are so many reasons to reflect on the things for which we are thankful this year. We're here, we're well, and we have another opportunity to connect with loved ones and create precious memories once more—a priceless gift.
Sampling familiar and beloved family dishes may feel more tempting than ever, especially if you've spent the holiday distanced for the past couple of years. We get it, few things are more nostalgic than the wafting smell of your favorite childhood holiday dishes.
But the dietary changes you've made to eliminate sugar and carbs are something you can honor on turkey day while dining on the delicious fare you know and love—with a few clever keto-friendly swaps, of course!
Making tasty and nutritious keto-friendly dishes to share with loved ones this holiday is ideal, as well, because, in addition to expanding your dining spread, you'll ensure a few safe options that you know you can dig into without reservation.
Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid
The large landscape of dishes to enjoy while keeping it keto for Thanksgiving makes holidays return to feeling light and joyous rather than restrictive or anxiety-inducing—at least not at the hands of what's on the menu. However, we can't speak for the mixed company akin to the season.
Once you take some time to reimagine recipes and sort out substitutes creatively, you'll likely be pleasantly surprised by the vast range of selections at your disposal.
Making mindful food selections is key to enjoying the day while keeping your macronutrient goals front and center. So here are some foods to feast upon and others we'd advise passing on this Thanksgiving:
- Tread lightly with appetizers and stick to charcuterie, deviled eggs, nuts, cheese or premium cold cuts to prime your palate.
Turkey: Aside from its savory and succulent nature that makes any holiday plate complete, this meat is abundant in B vitamins, selenium and packed with muscle-building protein.
Plus, brands like Field Roast (celebration roast) and Gardein offer plant-based whole roast or cutlet options for those seeking a vegetarian or vegan option. Or you could experiment with making a lupin-based seitan to recreate a plant-based turkey option all your own.
Tofu: Pinterest and YouTube are brimming with creative cooks sharing ways to turn tofu of varying firmness into everything from meat to fish and even custard-like desserts or puddings. Plus, this versatile plant-based food is low in carbs and another perfect option in consideration of your vegetarian guests.
Also, tofu is such a versatile ingredient that you could make any of a wide array of sweet or savory selections sure to evoke feelings of gratitude and joy. Here are a few options to consider this season:
- - Tofu Mac & Cheese
- - No-bake Keto Cheesecake
- - Glazed Holiday Tofu Roast
- - Herb Tofu Steaks
- - Silken Tofu Flan
- Ham: Slow-roasting a succulent ham is a fantastic option for those seeking to curb carbs on Thanksgiving. Plus, the leftovers make for fabulous sandwiches, salads, and even soups and stews for weeks.
Salads are ideal conveyors of low-carb veggies, fats, and proteins, but it’s essential to keep a close eye on add-ins to avoid higher-glycemic items like croutons or sugary dressings. Add a drizzling of cold-pressed oil instead of questionable other options, or make a quick and easy selection to share and enjoy.
Plus, salads can stand center stage as the main courses instead of the sides with the addition of the right combination of ingredients. Here are some fantastic salads to toss together to deliver maximum flavor and satiety:
- Keto Autumn Salad with Blackberries and Pecans: This perfect gathering of greens, meaty pecans and ripe blueberries make for the perfect addition to any festive spread.
- Keto Leftover Turkey Salad: Make an extra turkey ahead and create this creamy salad, or whip up a batch using the holiday leftovers; it’s a delicious and decadent delight.
Cauli-tato Faux Salad: Cauliflower is such a versatile cruciferous vegetable that provides nutrients as well as fiber and the perfect texture needed to recreate many high-starch dishes like potato salad or mashed potatoes.
Bake some tasty florets to serve as the star of a potato salad remix to rival the original.
Low-carb Veggies: Let’s be honest, vegetables are delicious. Roasted, steamed, sautéed, or battered and fried, they’re a yummy and dynamic addition to any meal. Stick to low-glycemic options like roasted broccoli and asparagus, or stir-fried mixed peppers to minimize carbs while loading up on filling fiber and flavor.
There are many veggies to enjoy freely at Thanksgiving. Here are our top keto selections:
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Sautéed Cabbage
- Creamy Cauliflower Mash
- Roasted Eggplant with Garlic and Herbs
- Keto Green Bean Casserole
- Sheet Pan Oven Roasted Vegetables
- Creamed Collard Greens
- Oven Roasted Asparagus
- Green Beans Almondine
- Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Thanksgiving Foods to Convert
Gravy: Although ubiquitous to Thanksgiving and seemingly innocent, beware of pouring gravy freely over your holiday bird because many use flour to thicken them—causing you to consume more carbs than you realize.
Plus, there are several store-bought gravy options available for those who seek convenience or want to look like a top-shelf chef to their loved ones when they can barely boil water.
Here are a few low-carb gravies and sauce options to consider incorporating into this year’s dishes to add a taste of tradition with a twist:
- Primal Kitchen (no dairy) Mushroom Gravy
- Kevin’s Natural Foods Simmering Sauces
Plus, you can use ingredients like xanthan gum in place of flour or cornstarch to thicken up your mama’s time-tested recipe without the extra carbs.
- Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants, but store-bought cranberry sauces are loaded with simple sugars that will compromise ketosis and likely spike cravings to consume more carbs and sugars with reckless abandon.
However, if your holiday simply won’t be the same without it, opt for a homemade sauce created with fresh berries and your sugar alternative of choice to ensure you keep carbs in check—and monitor your serving size to avoid overeating.
Stuffing: Your turkey is an excellent source of protein on your Thanksgiving plate, but there’s often the coupling of dense and starchy stuffing present and that holiday staple is laden with fast-digesting carbs that are best to avoid.
Create an alternative to the classic dressing using premium meats, onions, peppers, and your favorite keto-friendly bread to create the perfectly textured stuffing to help celebrate the season.
Rolls: Soft and sweet dinner rolls topped with creamy butter pair perfectly with many popular Thanksgiving dishes, but they’re often loaded with sugar and refined flours—a no-no on keto.
Instead, try a dinner roll recipe using almond or coconut flour. Consider store-bought options like those made by UnbelievaBuns. Or experiment with some of the mixes available like those made by Scotty’s Everyday or NuTrail, both sold on Amazon, for an unbelievably tasty keto alternative.
Desserts: The pies, cookies, and cakes often in arm’s reach on Thanksgiving offer ample opportunity to cheat. And we all know that traditional desserts generally contain more sugar and carbs than one could ever tolerate on a keto diet.
But no worries: the plethora of sugar alternatives, grain-free floors, and other ingredients available make recreating your favorite confections a breeze. Try using the following in place of sugar and all-purpose flour to keep your sweets keto-friendly and sugar-free this holiday season:
- Erythritol (e.g., Swerve, So Nourished, Anthony’s, etc.)
- Stevia (e.g., SweetLeaf, 365 Whole Foods brand, etc.)
- Xylitol (e.g., Health Garden, NOW Foods, etc.)
- Allulose (e.g., Wholesome, Madhava (Simpla), Rx Sugar, etc.)
- Monk fruit (e.g., Lakanto, NOW Foods, etc.)
Give our simple and delicious Keto Almond Cake a whirl this year and make sure that you can satisfy your sweet tooth to cap the day’s decadent dining without the added carbs and sugars.
Or cleanse the palette with a citrus and spongy Holiday Orange Cake that’s perfect for the entire holiday season.
Plus, there are many sugar alternatives to enjoy on a low-carb diet to remake virtually any confection imaginable. Browse our dedicated post for our favorite brands, pics, and recipes to give these sweeteners a whirl.
- Almond flour: Select super-fine varieties made from blanch almonds to create a texture closest to wheat flour. Brands we love include Bob’s Red Mill, Whole Foods 365, and Anthony’s.
- Coconut flour: In addition to baking, coconut flour is also great for absorbing moisture before frying foods or for thickening soups and sauces. Plus, popular brands like Bob’s Red Mill are widely available in most areas.
- Lupin flour: The lupin bean is one of the few beans low enough in carbs to work well for those on a keto diet, and it opens up many options when cooking as it is available as flour, flaked cereal, meat-replacement crumbles, and even semolina granules!
- King Arthur Keto Wheat Flour: The use of a highly fibrous form of wheat makes this low-carb creation possible, and it operates 1:1 in place of all-purpose flour in most recipes. This flour does contain gluten, so it may not be suitable for everyone.
Baking is a breeze with the many sweetener and flour options available today. Check out our comprehensive guide to keto baking alternatives and conversions to unlock the perfect substitutions to create your favorite pies, cookies, and cakes.
Consider whipping up the following dips to pair with some savory keto friendly crackers or crisp low-carb veggies.
- Keto Spinach Artichoke Dip
- French Onion Dip
- Keto Cranberry and Cream Cheese Dip
- Keto Baked Brie with Cranberry Sauce
- Buffalo Chicken Dip
- Keto Cauliflower Hummus Dip
Plus, having a word with the host ahead, along with a few other measures, can ensure a smoother experience. Here are some additional tips to help curb carbs on turkey day:
- Eat a small keto meal before dinner, so you’re not ravenous when the food arrives and likely to overeat or make questionable food choices. Here are a few fast and light options to consider:
- Avocado Keto Chocolate Pudding: Get to the best part of dinner—dessert— first and enjoy a sweet and decadent avocado chocolate pudding for a nutrient-rich indulgence sure to satisfy a sweet tooth and satiate ravenous hunger.
- Kickin’ Keto Chicken Salad: Enjoy this delightful salad packed with satiating protein, so you’re in better control of your appetite at dinner.
- Cheesy Spinach Keto Puffs: These mini cheese poppers are savory, cheesy, and simple to make ahead and share.
- Creamy Keto Pumpkin Soup: Slowly sipping on a comforting cup of pumpkin soup is perfect before a large meal. Plus, leftovers are an excellent option to remix throughout the week.
- Creamy and Keto Broccoli Soup: Broccoli and cheese feel like a cheat meal but they are perfectly compliant with the keto lifestyle and so delicious that the combo easily combats carb cravings with every savory sip.
- Sip throughout the evening: Enjoy a seltzer water with lemon or lime for a fizzy spritzer, or savor a glass of dry white wine—it’s lower in carbs, just monitor your portions—and you’ll feel slightly fuller and will be less likely to eat mindlessly.
- Get in an extra workout to bank some calories. Thanksgiving is only one day a year, and any long-term dietary plan must accommodate living real life. Plan ahead for a calculated caloric surplus by getting in an extra run or pilates session before the festivities so you can enjoy your favorites to your heart’s content.
- Approach the day with intention and visualize yourself successfully navigating your food options and avoiding arguments with triggering relatives*.
*You may find the latter to be the true exercise in strength.
- Enjoy your food mindfully and stay in the moment. Take your time and savor your food, every morsel, and every bite. Feel the gratitude for the hands that prepared the meal and enjoy the mingling more than idly munching.
- Cut yourself some slack: You only eat mama’s lasagna, or your cousin’s peach cobbler and sweet potato pie on occassion. Exercise restraint if you indulge, and return to your stricter dietary program at your next meal.
Enjoy the day, and don’t overthink your diet too much on Thanksgiving. However, if you overdo it and find your excess creeping into the days and weeks that follow, you may want to get yourself back on track with the use of a structured plan.
Take our 30-second questionnaire to gain instant access to a personalized meal plan geared toward achieving weight-loss success with ease, to recover quickly after indulging without missing a beat.
Also, remember that you can always course correct if you eat or drink more than planned. One day is unlikely to completely derail your commitment to living a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic lifestyle. So keep the ‘cheat’ in perspective, in its proper place.
Plan for temptation, bring a few dishes to dine on freely, and be sure to sop up all the communal soul food flowing freely from the stories and laughter shared throughout the day.
The keto diet is flexible and built for real life. Approach this year’s festivities with a fresh perspective while maintaining a heart for tradition, and you get to reap the best of both worlds.
Besides, the amazingly masterful keto recipes and ingredients available now allow us to enjoy an insanely delicious holiday without compromising an ounce of flavor or our precious efforts along the journey to fat-adaptation—and that’s something for which we can all feel grateful.
- Wellbeing during the holidays. (2020). Veterinary Record, 187(11), 460–460. https://doi.org/10.1136/vr.m4637
- Fahey, M. C., Klesges, R. C., Kocak, M., Wang, J., Talcott, G. W., & Krukowski, R. A. (2019). Do the holidays impact weight and self-weighing behaviour among adults engaged in a behavioural weight loss intervention? Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, 13(4), 395–397. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orcp.2019.05.001
- Marszał-Wiśniewska, M., & Jarczewska-Gerc, E. (2018). Self-control in the weight loss process. Weight Loss. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.76127
- Schoeller, D. A. (2014). The effect of holiday weight gain on body weight. Physiology & Behavior, 134, 66–69. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.03.018