Last-Minute Low-Carb Thanksgiving Tips
Originally published November 20, 2009, updated November 21, 2022.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Thanksgiving is upon us; it seems incumbent upon me to say something, and quickly. So here are a few ideas for making it through the holiday without gaining several pounds.
- First, decide whether you’re going to have an Indulgence Day for Thanksgiving, or if you’re going to do your best to decarb your feast. Most of you will probably go for the Indulgence, and I don’t blame you. Since this year it will be just me and That Nice Boy I Married, I’ll be decarbing the dinner. It’ll still be more carbs than we’d normally get, but it won’t carry anything like the carb load of the traditional Thanksgiving meal.
- If you’re planning an Indulgence, give a little thought to which of the carb foods served at your family’s Thanksgiving dinner really matter to you, and which are merely incidental. For instance, I love stuffing, but really don’t care about candied sweet potatoes. So while I have been known to have stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner, even the full-carb kind, why would I bother having even a bite of candied sweet potatoes? Or try Dixie Carb Counters Oven Stuffin’ Mix for Low Carb Thanksgiving dinner.
- Speaking of sweet potatoes, if you’re fond of them, please be aware that there’s no law requiring you to bathe them in Karo syrup or stud them with mini-marshmallows. That Nice Boy I Married is fond of sweet potatoes; I’ll be serving him a simple baked sweet potato with butter; he likes that better than the sugary kind. They’re also good sliced and layered in a casserole with a little orange juice and grated zest, Splenda, and butter, then baked till tender.
- FYI, Splenda makes a brilliant pumpkin pie filling. Haven’t tried the new erythritol/stevia blends this way yet, but don’t know why they wouldn’t work fine. For a New England touch, add a little sugar-free pancake syrup. I’m working on a pie crust recipe using CarbQuik in place of flour, though for years I’ve made a super low carb pie crust from crushed pecans, yum!
- Splenda also makes a great whole-berry cranberry sauce. Just follow the recipe on the bag of fresh cranberries, substituting Splenda granular for the sugar. You can add a sprinkle of guar gum or xanthan gum to thicken it up, if you like, but I generally don’t bother. If you’re fond of cranberry sauce, throw a few bags of fresh cranberries in your freezer; they’re one of the few fruits that is still strictly seasonal, but they keep very well frozen. Sadly, I have no sugar-free substitute for jellied cranberry sauce. Perhaps I should work on this?
- I’ll be serving Faux-Po – a half-head of cauliflower and six ounces of potato (a piece about the size of a tennis ball) steamed and pureed together – instead of mashed potatoes. Try low carb potato substitutes from Amazon.com.
- Believe it or not, I never even heard of that green bean casserole made with mushroom soup and canned onion rings until I was in my thirties! My mom always served Green Beans Almandine – steamed green beans tossed with almonds toasted in butter. Love ’em. Have ’em every Thanksgiving. And they’re a whole lot lower carb than the casserole!
- Consider adding an extra low carb side dish or two. How about a salad?
- Guar gum or xanthan gum make fine thickeners for giblet gravy. I’ve also been trying glucomannan – another finely milled, flavorless soluble fiber. It’s great. For more flavorful gravy, save the water you cook your vegetables in and use it in place of plain water. Saves the water soluble vitamins, too.
- Get it through your head that your Low Carb Thanksgiving Indulgence lasts for one meal and one meal only! Continue to chow down on carby leftovers all weekend and you’ll be heading into December already a few pounds up. Not good. Have leftover turkey and leftover green beans, not leftover potatoes and pie!
- If you’re eating at someone else’s house, you’ll have little control over the menu, but you’ve still got total control over what goes in your mouth. Politely refuse any carbs you don’t absolutely want. Ignore people who try to pressure you to eat anything that’s not a favorite with phrases like “But it’s traditional!” or “It’s a holiday, live a little!” They don’t have to live with your waistline or your health problems. Repeat after me: “No, thank you.” Refuse to elaborate, it just encourages them to argue with you.
- Personally, I’m not a football fan. (Never really was, but after 23 years as a professional massage therapist – including working with some pro footballers – I just can’t watch all those 300 pound guys run sideways into each other’s knees. Ouch.) If the weather’s nice, I’ll be following Thanksgiving dinner with a walk, which will serve the dual purpose of working off a little of the surplus food and getting me away from the leftovers until I’m actually hungry. Consider a movie or shopping if the weather’s bad.
- If you’re hosting, send carby leftovers home with your guests. If your hosts want to send leftover pie home with you, ask for a little leftover turkey instead!
And have a wonderful day and a Low Carb Thanksgiving!
© 2009 by Dana Carpender. Used by kind permission of the thankful author. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.