By Shannon Stonger
Health Impact News
Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy – cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and dinner rolls – these are the traditional foods of Thanksgiving. They are hearty and comforting, filling and tasty, carb and sugar-laden. Thanksgiving might be a feast day in which we give thanks, but for those whose health dictates a low-carb diet, Thanksgiving might seem like nothing but a plate of turkey.
Here’s a little secret, though: the familiar flavors of your Thanksgiving favorites can be had without piling on the carbs. We’ll get to that in a moment but first, a little background.
The Tenets of Low-Carb
Made famous by Dr. Atkins, the low-carb diet has been put through the test over the past couple of decades in the U.S. Indeed, many are finding it helpful for the rampant health struggles brought forth by decades of low-fat dieting, industrialized and rancid vegetable oils, and a Standard American diet.
While many see low-carb as eating nothing but bacon, the reality looks quite a bit different, especially when traditional foods are involved. Plentiful vegetables, pastured meats, traditional fats like coconut oil and grass-fed butter, and those nourishing power houses broth and ferments, can all make up a nutrient-dense low-carb diet.
The low-carb diet is generally devoid of sugars, processed foods, grains, and, in some stages, higher-carb fruits and legumes.
Another take on low-carb is the ketogenic diet. Originally developed at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1930s to cure childhood epilepsy, this diet emphasizes quality fats with moderate amounts of protein and limited carbohydrates. Indeed, many have found it helpful for autism , cancer , and insulin sensitivity . It is, in essence, a high-fat, nutrient-dense diet.
With these parameters it might seem like Thanksgiving favorites are off the menu. While it’s true that passing up the store-bought bread rolls and the pot of mashed potatoes is necessary if you are restricting carbohydrates, there are still many ways to enjoy the favorite flavors of the season.
A Lower-Carb Take on Your Favorites
The wonderful thing about low-carb is that it incorporates plenty of traditional fats which can be paired with many of these naturally-low carb alternatives.
Mashed potatoes can be the vehicle for nutrient-dense gravy made from bone broth and grass-fed butter. But to save on carbs you can try the always popular mashed cauliflower which is simply steamed cauliflower mashed with plenty of grass-fed butter.
One vegetable that is often overlooked as a low-carb alternative is the humble turnip. Inexpensive and dynamic in flavor, the turnip makes a delicious low-carb gratin when layered with butter and cheese or a flavorful mash with garlic and butter.
Most vegetables are fairly low-carb, with leaves and shoots being much more so than roots. Green vegetables like Brussels sprouts roasted with bacon, cabbage sautéed in coconut oil, and collard greens cooked slowly in the southern style are all great additions to your turkey dinner.
Winter squash and sweet potatoes are both ubiquitous at this time of year, but pumpkin is usually lower in carbs and can be roasted fresh and mashed with butter or sliced, tossed with coconut oil, and roasted at 400 degrees until tender.
Nowadays gravy is generally made with a starchy thickener such as flour or cornstarch. But gravy is simply a pan sauce made from the drippings of the meat. Deglazing the roasting pan with bone broth and combining that with the pan drippings and butter makes an amazing sauce when boiled down to a thicker consistency.
If thickened gravy is desired, a small amount of arrowroot starch or organic cornstarch can be used in a slurry with a minimal carb affect. Or, a coconut flour-thickened gravy  will help to decrease the carbs.
This can easily be forgone with all of the other low-carb options on the table. But if bread is desired these gluten-free sandwich rounds  can be made for the dinner or better yet for the leftover turkey sandwiches.
As far as fruits go, cranberries are one of the lowest in naturally-occurring sugars. Unfortunately, most of the cranberry sauce we are accustomed to contains large amounts of added sugars to make the dry, tart flavor of the berry more palatable.
In order to keep it low-carb, cranberries can be incorporated in more savory dishes, alongside the turkey or vegetables. Or, turn them into a tart relish by running them through the food processor with a pinch of cinnamon and serve a very small spoonful to go along with your turkey and rich gravy.
Of course pie and other sweets are generally not low-carb. And while many low-carb dessert recipes are available, they are also generally sweetened with controversial sugar alcohols or other chemically-created sweeteners.
It is possible to create a dessert with very little raw honey , combining it with plenty of coconut oil, butter, or organic cream cheese to create a keto-friendly treat.
The flavors of stuffing are very much low-carb – celery and onion, butter and sage, thyme and bone broth. But, of course, there is the bread.
You can accomplish this same flavor profile by replacing the bread with vegetables. In this recipe, hearty mushrooms and nutritious kale make up the bulk of the dish while those familiar flavors make this a great stuffing alternative.
Mushroom & Kale “Stuffing”
- ½ cup grass-fed butter
- 2 10 oz. containers of mushrooms, sliced
- 3 large bunches of kale, chopped roughly
- 4 large stalks organic celery
- 1 large white onion or 2 small white onions
- 5 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 1 cup homemade bone broth (turkey or chicken)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Melt butter in large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, kale, celery, and onion. Sauté with a pinch of salt, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes or until the kale begins to wilt and the onions are translucent. Add the poultry seasoning and bone broth and season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer pan to preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until all of the vegetables are tender and the broth has mostly cooked away.
- Serve warm as a side dish to turkey or chicken.