The Best Keto-Friendly Thanksgiving Sides

Step away from the stuffing.

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Food Network Kitchen’s Roasted Eggplant with Garlic and Herbs, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet

Renee Comet

If you're following the keto diet during Thanksgiving, you might have to forgo mashed potatoes and stuffing, but keto-friendly Thanksgiving sides can still be satisfying and familiar. Here's a guide and recipe suggestions to help you make a macro-balanced keto spread.

A review of the keto basics

The essential goal of the keto diet is to put your body into ketosis — which is when it uses fat, instead of carbohydrates, for energy. This is accomplished by following a high-fat, moderate-protein and low-carb diet. The daily breakdown, depending on the person, often looks like this: 70% fat, 25% protein, 5% carbohydrates. And 5% carbs translates into about 30 grams per day — for perspective, that's 2 slices of white bread.

What's out?

Let's cut straight to it. There are a lot of classic Thanksgiving dishes that are out. No-go Thanksgiving sides include:

All grains — everything from all-purpose flour to quinoa

Legumes and pulses

Starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes

Baked goods — cakes, cookies, pies, etc.

Sweets — candy, etc.

Fruit — almost all, except fresh or frozen berries

Fruit juice

Beer

Keto Thanksgiving sides pantry

Here's a shopping list to help you up your keto sides game.

Protein — You've got that covered with turkey, but it's also OK to slip some bacon, ham, sausage and/or eggs into your sides.

High-fat dairy — heavy cream, cream cheese, sour cream and certain cheeses like Brie, feta and Gruyere

Unsweetened dairy-free milk like almond, cashew, hemp and soy

Lemon and limes for juice

Vinegar

Vegetables — avocado, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, eggplant, kale, mushroom, peppers, spinach and Swiss chard, to name a few.

Eggs

Fermented foods — These will help keep your gut healthy. Try kimchi, miso, sour pickles and refrigerated sauerkraut — not the heat heat-processed kind.

Nuts — almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts

Seeds — chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower

Fats — butter, ghee and mayonnaise

Oils — avocado, coconut, nut and extra-virgin olive

Olives

Shirataki (low-carb noodles)

Spices, herbs and salt

Keto Thanksgiving side ideas

Avocado: Go retro and serve deviled eggs with a creamy avocado filling. Add some protein and make a shrimp and avocado salad, or toss salad greens with an avocado-packed green goddess dressing.

Bell peppers: Go raw and crunchy with bell pepper keto nachos. For a slight crunch, throw together a colorful bell pepper salad. Make tender roasted peppers stuffed with ground pork and cheese.

Cabbage: Make a simple, buttered sauteed cabbage side dish or braised cabbage finished with a ton of fresh herbs.

Cauliflower: Roast it with a speck of heat and fresh thyme. Rice it and hit it with some fresh lemon juice at the end. Casserole it with bacon and cheese. Roast the whole head with a rub of Parmesan and mustard. Or just go ahead and mash it for faux mashed potatoes.

Celery: Give celery the side-dish spotlight and serve it braised. Or keep it crunchy and make a green bean and celery salad.

Eggplant: Use a touch of walnut oil to make roasted eggplant with garlic and herbs (pictured up top). Break out the wok and throw together stir-fried eggplant at the last minute. Or make eggplant into a dip and serve it with raw veggies (skip the pita).

Hearty greens: Make creamed collard greens or serve them Southern style with bacon or a ham hock. Serve sunny-side-up eggs on a bed of tender Swiss chard. Simple sauteed spinach can be dressed up with a sprinkle of toasted nuts or seeds.

Mushrooms: Make a mushroom ragout and serve it over shirataki noodles (or just eat it by itself). Or serve mushroom caps stuffed with chunks of Brie.

Salad greens: Make a warm spinach salad with feta and caramelized mushrooms and onion. Or make a simple herb salad and let basil, dill, mint and parsley do all the heavy flavor lifting.

Bread substitute: Make a loaf of keto bread or just the bread portion of these keto pizza snacks; brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

A word on water

Staying hydrated is essential for keto dieters — especially on Thanksgiving. Serve a selection of seltzers or unsweetened iced teas (green and chamomile are nice), or set out water pitchers infused with fresh herbs, cucumber or fresh berries.

A special cautionary note

The ketogenic diet is temporary (unless otherwise indicated by your doctor or nutritionist). If you aren't properly monitoring your ketone levels, there is the chance that your body will also use stored body muscle protein for energy, which can lead to a loss in lean muscle mass. Your blood levels can become acidic (aka ketoacidosis), and the lack of grains can have a negative impact on your gut (aka constipation).

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