Planning Your Low-Carb Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner

Roasted squash
Darren Muir/Stocksy United

Many people seem to think that Christmas and Thanksgiving are "all about the carbs." Or that a holiday is a time to throw caution to the winds and just eat whatever. But it really doesn't have to be that way. You can decide to have a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal with any amount of carbohydrate you choose and actually feel good the next day! These Thanksgiving tips work well for any large holiday meal.

1) Choose current favorites that are lower in carbs.

Turkey is obviously the low-carb star of the Thanksgiving feast. There might be vegetables or relishes which are family favorites and don't have a lot of starch or added sugars. Think back through holidays past and resurrect the least carby side dishes.

2) Consider scaling back some of the traditional side dishes.

Did you know that plain roasted yams with salt, pepper, and butter are really delicious even without a pile of marshmallows on top? Instead of a rich vegetable casserole, how about a simpler vegetable side dish, such as green beans with almonds? Have some sauteed mushrooms and pepper dish, or a salad with a cranberry vinaigrette dressing.

3) Serve low-carb, high-flavor nibbles first.

If you decide to eat more carbohydrates than usual, consider holding off until you get to the table. Use vegetables with dip, cucumber rounds instead of crackers for spreads, and peanuts or other nuts instead of chips.

For an easy holiday favorite, try these Five Minute Sweet and Spicy Pecans.

4) Prepare a low-carb relish tray for the table.

The following are good choices: dill pickle spears or chips, sugar-free gherkins or bread and butter pickles (Mt. Olive is one brand), olives, marinated artichokes, Italian hot peppers (make them sweeter by adding some sugar substitute to the brine), roasted red peppers, radish blossoms, baby carrots, and celery sticks.

5) Make a list of "must haves" for your Thanksgiving table.

Make a list of the foods you simply cannot do without. Now, can you "de-carb" any of them? Here are some lower-carb versions of traditional favorites. All my recipes are gluten-free as well as being low-carb, so they are safe for people who can't eat wheat or gluten. I've noted steps that can be done ahead of time to lighten the workload on Thanksgiving Day.


How to Make Low-Carb Egg Nog - Includes a "cheater" recipe that is super-simple

Alcoholic Beverages on a Low-Carb Diet

Low-Carb Cocktails

More Low Carb Beverages


Creamy and Spicy Pumpkin Soup - Can be made up to three days ahead.

New World Pumpkin Soup - Can be made up to two days ahead.

The Main Course

Jim Dolson's Turkey Rub - Make as far ahead as you want.

Low-Carb Stuffing - Can be made the day before.

Low-Carb Stuffing Bread - Make up to three days ahead of time, or freeze for several months.

How To Make Low-Carb Gravy

Side Dishes

Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce - Takes 10 minutes to make, and can be made up to a week ahead of time, or even can be frozen for at least six months.

Sugar-Free Cranberry Chutney - Make up to three days ahead.

Mashed Cauliflower - Surprisingly good substitute for potatoes.

Even my husband likes it. Can cut up the cauliflower up to two days before.

Mashed Cauliflower Gratin - A gussied-up version of mashed cauliflower, baked with cheese.

Low-Carb Green Bean Casserole with Onion Topping - Can make the topping up to two days ahead.

Easy Spinach Casserole - You can put it together the day before, or just have some onions fried and put it together quickly.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts - Super-easy and good!

Reduced-Carb Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping - The casserole and topping can be made separately the day before, and then put together and baked. If refrigerated, allow more time for baking.

Sugar-Free Cranberry Jello Salad - This low-carb take on a traditional classic can be made up to 2 days in advance.


Low-Carb Pumpkin Pie - Can make the day before. Whipped cream should be made fresh.

Low-Carb Pumpkin Cheesecake - A popular alternative to pumpkin pie. Can be made the day before.

Low-Carb Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Filling - Can be made ahead and frozen.

Low-Carb Spice Cake - Can be made the day before.

More Low-Carb Dessert Recipes

Wondering What to Do with Leftover Turkey?

Try these ideas!

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