How to Plan a Low-Carb Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving table filled with low carb food options.

Whether you're playing host to this year's main event, or helping plan the menu, Thanksgiving is one holiday that largely takes place around the dinner table. If you're following a low-carb lifestyle, knowing what to put on your plate can feel overwhelming at first.

There's also a tendency to go—oh, how should we say this—a tad "overboard" on your favorite seasonal dishes. 

We get it. Staying carb-conscious during the holidays isn't always fun, but it's easier than you think! It just involves a different mindset and a few ingredient alterations.

In this article, we'll share a few classic Thanksgiving Day dishes that you can easily modify to help lower its carb and sugar content. And if you're a guest at the table this year, we'll also share tips on how to make mindful food choices.

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Survival Guide 

Before we dig in, let's first discuss the importance of resetting your holiday mindset. There's always a feeling of disappointment when we think we'll miss out on our favorite traditions. In this case, food traditions. 

“Remember to avoid all-or-nothing thinking when it comes to holiday meals,” says Hailey Crean, RD, CDE, and registered dietitian. When we do this, we tend to ignore alternative solutions and end up feeling denied or guilty afterward. 

To avoid this mindset, Crean recommends remembering the actual reason for the season—it’s a time to spend with loved ones and share what you’re grateful for. Try to create new family traditions outside of the Thanksgiving meal this year.

Why not consider a post-dinner walk with the crew, for example. There's nothing better than fresh air and some physical exercise after a big meal. Plus, with Christmas just around the corner, you can spot festive lights on houses and make it a spectacle event!

Other options for activities might include playing a game of charades or flag football. Think about how you can add more movement to your holiday while still creating memories! 

Low-Carb Thanksgiving Day Recipes

If you're planning out the menu, try these delicious recipes for a low-carb spin on your favorite Thanksgiving dishes.

Low Carb Thanksgiving Sides

Arguably, sides are the superstars of the Thanksgiving meal. Sorry, Tom! Here are a few you'll want to try.

Cranberry Sauce

We bet you didn't think you could enjoy cranberry sauce this year! Good news, you can, but skip the canned version. This recipe from The Keto Cooking Christian uses only five ingredients, including whole berries and fresh lemon juice. You get to choose the type of consistency you're after, too!

Total Carbs: 7 grams per serving

Total Sugar: 2 grams per serving

Green Bean Casserole

We know those crispy fried onions are tempting, but you don't need them. In fact, you can make your own topping for this dish—using less sugar. This recipe from Wholesome Yumcooks almond flour and minced onions in avocado oil to make a tasty crumble you'll love! 

It also features its own recipe for cream of mushroom soup, so you can avoid any added sugars from the canned version.

Total Carbs: 11 grams per serving

Total Sugar: 2.5 grams per serving

Stuffing

Stuffing usually goes into Ol' Tom, but who are we kidding? Most of us eat it as a side, too! This low-carb stuffing dish from Four Score Life features a recipe for making breadcrumbs and contains only 1 gram of sugar per serving! It's also packed with fresh herbs to give it a delightful aroma and taste.

Total Carbs: 4 grams per serving

Total Sugar: 1 gram per serving

Dinner Rolls

Daydreaming of warm, fluffy dinner rolls? Us, too! But with this recipe from Gimme Delicious, you won't need to pass on this side. Substituting traditional flour for almond flour and using cream cheese and mozzarella to form its texture, this cheesy dinner roll recipe is just what you need to stay carb conscious.

Total Carbs: 6 grams per serving

Total Sugar: 1 gram per serving

Low Carb Thanksgiving Desserts

Next on our Thanksgiving survival guide is desserts!

Pumpkin Pie

You probably saw this coming, but why not kick this recipe up a notch—but keep the sugar low. This recipe from That Low Carb Life®features a streusel topping made from chopped pecans, monk fruit brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon, and coconut flour. 

Total Carbs: 9 grams per serving

Total Sugar: 6 grams per serving

Cheesecake

This recipe from Green and Keto has no added sugar and is packed with classic pumpkin pie flavors. It takes a few hours to set, but it's definitely worth the wait! 

Total Carbs: 5 grams per serving

Total Sugar: 2 grams per serving

Low Carb Thanksgiving Dinner

For the main event, try this roasted turkey recipe from Taste of Home. Delight your taste buds with fresh sage, garlic, thyme, and vegetables. It also features a recipe for homemade vegetable gravy that you can pair with it. 

Total Carbs: 4 grams per serving

Total Sugar: 1 gram per serving

Navigating the Thanksgiving Menu

If you're the guest at the table this year, instead of putting anything on your plate that looks and smells good, try to divvy up your protein and carbs.

Think of it this way, half of your plate can contain non-starchy veggies, like green beans or kale. You can then split the other half between a protein, like turkey, and starchy food, like potatoes. 

Take a look at the traditional high-carb food options available at the table, likely stuffing, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls. Decide what you want to eat—but make sure it only takes up a quarter of the plate. 

What If I Want a Low-Carb Thanksgiving?

If you're trying to stay carb-conscious, think about your budget (number of carbs you plan to eat) ahead of time and how you want to use it.

Next, decide how you’ll pack your plate and what swaps you'll need to make:

  • Can you cut down on cranberry sauce and load up on leafy greens?
  • Can you swap a scoop of stuffing for a spoonful of Brussel sprouts or broccoli florets?
  • Could you skip the roll and stuffing entirely for a small slice of dessert?

Speaking of dessert, the same idea of portion control plays into desserts. You can still have your favorite pumpkin or apple pie, as long as you plan for it. “If you’re already full from the meal, consider if a few bites would satisfy you,” Crean says. “Or take a slice of pie home with you to enjoy the next evening.”

 A Final Word on Preparing for a Low-Carb Thanksgiving

Oftentimes, people “save up” for the big meal, ditching breakfast or lunch in preparation for a full plate of Thanksgiving mains and sides. “This only makes hunger signals stronger and sets you up to end the meal overly full,” Crean says. 

Filling your plate when you’re super hungry could make a low-carb Thanksgiving more difficult to achieve. Though this is a special time with the family, try to treat the food, itself, as you would any normal meal.

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