Tips for Serving a Low-Carb Thanksgiving Dinner

We even have a stuffing idea.

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A low-carb Thanksgiving meal takes some planning but is completely doable. It's an inherently carb-loaded meal — think stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie. It can also have carbs hiding in some not-so-obvious places, like gravy thickened with flour or salad dressing with sugar in it. Here's a guide to lowering the carbs in your holiday meal without relying on artificial sweeteners or sacrificing flavor.

First, a PSA: If the reason your Thanksgiving meal needs to be low-carb is to be diabetic-friendly, then it's always best to consult a nutritionist first.

What qualifies as low-carb?

Generally, for a food item to be considered low-carb it should have 15 grams or fewer of carbohydrates per serving (a slice of white bread has about 15 grams). A low-carb meal should have less than 30 grams. That's a tall order for Thanksgiving but not impossible with the right focus: lots of vegetables, and not the starchy ones like potatoes, squash and corn or those higher in natural sugars like carrots and beets. There can be fruit (and even dessert), as long as they're the right kinds — avoid tropical fruits like pineapple and mango, which are higher in natural sugars.

What is the glycemic index (GI)?

It's a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale of 1 to 100 according to how quickly they raise blood sugar after eating. A food with a GI rating of 55 or lower affects the fluctuation of blood sugar less because it is digested more slowly. By contrast, a food with a high GI number (above 55) can spike your blood sugar. So, not all carbs are equal. For a low-carb Thanksgiving it's important to choose foods and dishes that are lower in carbohydrates and have a low GI.

Now we're ready to talk menu. It includes traditional foods you can keep, low-carb swaps for favorites and some new ideas.

The keepers

Turkey: Celebrate — it's low-carb! (Just skip stuffing it.)

Green bean casserole: If you make yours with a can of cream of mushroom soup, then it's relatively low-carb. You can top it with caramelized onions instead of the french-fried kind.

Salad: Skip croutons and salad dressings made with sugar. Add toasted nuts and extra cheese for a satisfying low-carb salad.

Swaps

Mashed potatoes: Unfortunately, starchy potatoes aren't low-carb. Make Mock Mashed Potatoes (pictured) instead, and encourage guests to pile them on. Made with cauliflower (low carb and low GI), yogurt, garlic and butter, these are creamy — just like the real thing.

Sweet potatoes: That beloved marshmallow-brown sugar casserole is carb-loaded. Consider a combo of low-glycemic lentils and sweet potatoes instead. This soup is really more like a stew and — bonus — can be thrown together in a slow cooker, freeing up that oven.

Stuffing: You can still enjoy stuffing; just leave the bread out of it. This sausage-and-herb variation is super low-carb and has all the flavors you want from stuffing.

Cranberry sauce: Fresh cranberries on their own have a low GI, but most people find them too tart — cranberry sauce is usually loaded with sugar to make them more palatable. Try making a fresh fruit relish instead with apples (low GI), a little fresh cranberry, orange zest and a splash of juice, and toasted pecans or walnuts. Chop everything together. You can also add fresh ginger for extra zing.

Gravy: Most gravy is made with flour. Our Keto Gravy swaps out flour for onions, making for additional flavor, without the carbs. Or try serving the meat with dollops of aioli or pesto instead for a new low-carb sauce.

Pie: Skip pies and desserts made with artificial or zero-calorie sweeteners; they're never as good as the real thing. Try serving fresh berries (low GI) with a big spoonful of unsweetened whipped cream, or float them in rich coconut milk and top with toasted almonds or hazelnuts. Then pass around a luxe dark chocolate bar, share and enjoy.

New ideas

Hummus: Chickpeas — the main ingredient in hummus — are low-GI, and hummus is great before and during dinner. Serve it with fresh vegetables instead of pita for dipping.

Pumpkin dip: Get your Thanksgiving pumpkin fix with a savory twist. This spicy dip is a great appetizer or can be spooned on top of turkey and mock mashed potatoes.

Broccoli: Even simply steamed broccoli is a low-carb crowd-pleaser. Try roasting it with Asiago for the big meal.

Hearty greens: These low-carb workhorses can easily dazzle with the right recipe. Try Swiss Chard with Shallots and Almonds, Spiced Citrus Baby Kale, Southern-Style Collard Greens or Garlic-Sesame Spinach.

Cheese and charcuterie board: You don't need grapes to enjoy a nice selection of meat and cheese; just add some olives, cornichons and nuts. Serve as an appetizer, then replenish the platter and pass it around at dinner.

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