Thanksgiving, a holiday essentially about eating (a lot) can be really overwhelming for those of us trying to protect our diet and preserve our health. And for those of us on a keto diet, well, the stress about managing the pies, dinner rolls, sweet cranberry sauces, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and flour-based gravies can make us want to sit this year out!
I get it.
It took me a while to get comfortable with eating keto during holidays, especially when others around me weren’t following the same plan. What I’ve come to believe is that there is often more common ground around the Thanksgiving table than we might initially believe.
Luckily, I have already navigated so many of the typical pitfalls of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Therefore, I want to share my secrets, especially if this your first keto Thanksgiving dinner, so you won’t have to miss out on the festivities over confusion or fear around what or how to eat!
Over the last couple years, I’ve done a lot of recipe experimentation and have become clearer about what works for my body. Part of that experience was observing where and when I have room to cycle off a strict keto plan. For example, by following my Fat First, Carbs Last rule that I cover in my Glow15 book, I sometimes choose a small portion of starchy vegetables or a glass of red wine with my evening meal and find that my body is metabolically flexible enough to handle this.
But we are not all metabolically flexible and able to do this for various reasons. For example, if stress is high, as it often is over the holidays, I am not as resilient when it comes to carbs so I know that a keto friendly Thanksgiving is a better option for me. My plan this year is to have a keto meal planned for a big gathering, along with some non-keto yet still healthy sides for my guests. I will tune into my body and see how I feel when deciding to add this small portion of carbs to my meal.
The great thing about keto is that this diet nearly guarantees blood sugar stability once you are steadily in ketosis. I know personally, when my blood sugar is stable, I’m generally not hungry between meals. I’m also not tempted by high-carb and sugar-rich options like I once was which is such a relief this time of year! It’s not just me; many people report feeling grounded around food while in ketosis, which makes those highly palatable foods simply not as appealing much of the time. It has taken some time for me to get here though, along with some experimentation with my diet and mindset. So, if you are just starting out I want you to stay committed and be as compliant as you can even if it seems hard. The payoff of keto is truly lifechanging!
Something else I do to help get me through the often-chaotic holidays is supplementing my diet with berberine. In addition to its autophagy-activating properties, it is excellent for supporting blood sugar and gives my body extra support if I choose to indulge in higher glycemic foods.
My wish for you as a loyal reader whom I feel such gratitude for, is for Thanksgiving to feel easy, joyful and satisfying.
Let’s go over some tips for making your keto thanksgiving dinner the best yet and then get into the keto Thanksgiving recipes that are sure to satisfy you and have your friends saying “Wow! That was keto?”
Keto Thanksgiving Planning
To make your Thanksgiving meal a success, sit down and give it some thought. A little planning is going to make a big impact in reducing any stress and anxiety you have and give you a clear action plan… not to mention some tasty recipes to look forward to. Here are some things to consider:
- Offer to host. As the Thanksgiving host, you’ll be in charge of the main dishes and can make them to your own preferences (ex: mains and sides high in good fats). Everyone will enjoy the turkey, veggie sides like steamed green beans and a big green salad. Ask guests to bring sides like rolls, mashed potatoes or sweeter desserts so you don’t have to contend with those items. This works well for non-keto guests because they can enjoy the keto main dishes (without even knowing they are keto!) and still enjoy their favorites at the meal.
Another reason to host might seem counterintuitive but there’s a method to my madness. If you are hosting, chances are you’ll be more concerned with your guest’s comfort along with preparing the (keto) food that you, in fact, won’t have time to nibble or munch on foods you don’t want to eat. Sometimes we eat out of social anxiety or nervousness and wind up unintentionally self-sabotaging ourselves. Staying busy and focused can be a helpful strategy to avoid unwanted noshing.
If you are going to someone else’s home, offer to bring a few dishes that will complement what they provide and keep you feeling good about your choices. Remember you can likely eat some of the main food, such as the turkey, and then fill your plate with the keto recipes for Thanksgiving that you bring.
If you are the type of person who eats because of nerves or stress rather than solely hunger, you can use this year’s Thanksgiving to have a goal of being more present with your company. This year chew on this: aim to be interested, not interesting. Engage with others, ask them questions, listen intently and allow yourself to be more consumed in conversation than with the food. This is especially helpful at the dinner table. Talking with others is extremely distracting from food, forcing you to eat more slowly. You might enjoy connecting with someone in a way you haven’t before!
- Upgrade your recipes. If there are certain components to the Thanksgiving table that you can’t imagine going without, look for a keto version or make keto swaps. Try using almond flour, coconut flour, monk fruit, and other keto-friendly ingredients to recreate your most nostalgic dishes. There are many recipes available online or keep reading and click on my selections below.
- Think through potential obstacles. Do you know you have a pushy relative or someone who will make a big deal of your food choices that you’ll be sharing the day with? You’ve encountered them before and can likely hear in your mind exactly what they will say. Give this some thought and develop a plan. Often a simple “no thank you” or “I’m stuffed” will help with the food pusher. You could even tell a small white lie and say you have a food allergy because that is taken seriously and will often be the end of the conversation.
Most importantly, know that any comments you receive about your dietary choices and your improved health are not actually about you, but about what is going on with the other person.
Reminding yourself of this projection at the moment can allow you to navigate these judgments without stress or temptation.
- Focus on non-food activities. Here is one of my favorite tricks whether hosting or as the guest: I’ll plan a board game or other non-food activity for after the big meal. Where many will sit around having more food to eat or drink, playing a game can occupy me and take the focus off the food. It is actually so fun now that it has become a family tradition and my kids look forward to it!
Keto Thanksgiving Recipes
Now with a little planning out of the way, let’s get into the keto Thanksgiving recipes! Having a good set of Thanksgiving recipes on hand is a no-brainer when it comes to creating your keto-friendly Thanksgiving. Let’s go through the meal and talk about all of the deliciousness that will be your keto Thanksgiving menu. I’m sure some of these will become your favorite keto holiday recipes!
Keto Appetizer Recipes
I find that having appetizers ready for guests when they arrive (and for myself while I’m cooking!) is a great way to host and to also not become overly hungry, especially if the turkey takes longer than planned. Here are some great appetizer options:
- MCT Zucchini Dip Recipe – This is a twist on hummus that uses zucchini instead of beans for a low-carb, yet a very flavorful option. Serve with raw veggies or keto crackers.
- Macadamia Nut Pate – So easy, yet so decadent, this pate is a real crowd-pleaser. I love having this any time of year to upgrade my day, but it works especially well for Thanksgiving and is a great way to incorporate fresh herbs into the diet.
- Olive Tapenade – Another great dip to have on your holiday appetizer spread. Pair this one with a meat and cheese board, veggies and a variety of veggies for dipping.
- Rosemary Garlic Seed Crackers – These crackers pair so well with the previous appetizer recipes. I guarantee you’ll want to make a double or triple batch!
Keto Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes
What would Thanksgiving be without a big Turkey in the center of the table? The turkey is really the center of the table. My Cranberry Glazed Turkey With Mushrooms recipe is always the star of my table and goes well with so many keto Thanksgiving sides.
Some people also love keto Thanksgiving ham as part of their meal and often hams come with sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup or another sweetener as part of the ingredient list. Luckily the sugar tends to stay as part of the glaze or crust, so you can simply eat the inside of the ham without much worry. Be sure to check labels and compare them as you may be able to find ones with less sugar. Less than 1 or 2 grams of sugar per serving would be ideal.
Keto Thanksgiving Side Recipes
Isn’t Thanksgiving really all about the sides? It seems that every family has its own traditions and unique take on the classic mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing. I assure you that all of these flavors and textures in these keto Thanksgiving sides can be enjoyed in a way that doesn’t spike your blood sugar or leave you ready for a post-Thanksgiving nap.
Here are my favorite recipes and tips when it comes to filling out the table with keto Thanksgiving side dishes:
- Endive Boats with Pear and Garlic Thyme Vinaigrette – These make a perfect side or appetizer and bring the flavors of the season!
- Keto Bread – Serve Keto Bread sliced on the table with butter.
- Savory Shiitake Muffins with Sunflower Seeds – These shiitake muffins are hearty and taste
- A big green salad with The Ultimate Salad Dressing will be sure to please everyone around the table!
- Swap mashed potatoes in favor of mashed cauliflower or mashed parsnips. Cook the veggies until tender, then blend or mash with butter, cream, and salt.
- Keto Thanksgiving stuffing or keto Thanksgiving dressing – use my Keto Bread above in place of the breadcrumbs in your favorite recipe or opt for a recipe that uses ground pork along with the celery, onions, herbs, and spices classic in the stuffing.
- Keto Thanksgiving gravy – opt to skip the flour as a thickener and instead use heavy cream or cream cheese mixed with the drippings. Or consider going “au jus” by simply serving the drippings themselves.
Keto Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes
When it comes to keto Thanksgiving desserts, let’s not forget about beverages. Keto Starbucks holiday drinks are a great alternative to the popular regular options that are full of sugar. You can easily create your own holiday-inspired drinks by adding Creamy Vanilla MCT oil, Coco Booster Coffee Creamer or blending MCT Oil into your coffee drinks at home or by using these recipes:
For something that requires a bit more chewing try out these keto Thanksgiving desserts:
- Apple Pie Bars – This keto version of apple pie is super easy to make and has all of the same flavors!
- Easy Lemon Fat Bombs – I love lemon bars and these hit the spot.
- Creamy Keto Ice Cream – This ice cream is perfect to pair with my Apple Pie Bars or a keto pumpkin pie.
I hope that you enjoy these keto Thanksgiving meal ideas as much as I do and that they help you to bring new foods and traditions into your life that build both community and wellness.
If you don’t know where to start, I encourage you to pick just one small goal for Thanksgiving and set the bar low. The most important thing is feeling proud of yourself when you go to bed on Thanksgiving evening. Experiencing the feeling of staying within your integrity will make Friday and the rest of the holiday season so much easier to navigate. Often when we aren’t proud of our actions, we lose confidence in our ability to stick to a plan. This can snowball into habits we are looking to shake. But if we can accomplish even the smallest goal, we begin to rebuild our integrity and slowly but surely make progress.
Remember, if it feels overwhelming to overhaul everything in your life all at once, that’s because it’s impossible to that! It takes time to implement a new lifestyle. So again, pick one reasonable goal to start with. Even a few new recipes on your Thanksgiving table is a great place to start building your confidence with navigating holidays while maintaining your keto lifestyle and health goals.
Have a wonderful, delicious and happy keto Thanksgiving!