Ideas for Cutting Calories and Carbs from Traditional Thanksgiving Dishes
Last updated: March 2022
Gobble Gobble! Bring on the Turkey!
The first Thanksgiving dates back to 1661, however, it wasn’t until 1863 that president Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday, celebrated yearly in November.
Historians believe the first Thanksgiving meal consisted of roasted duck, lobster, clams, mussels, chestnuts, walnuts, peas, squash and carrots. Our modern day Thanksgiving looks quite different and is also much higher in carbohydrates than the first Thanksgiving. Today’s traditional dishes include roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie.
For many of us, Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season, which often means the start of gluttony that can last for a month if not longer!
Diabetes-friendly Thanksgiving recipes and tips for cutting carbs
Of course all of this extra food can result in unwanted weight gain. Eating more than you typically do, along with weight gain, can make managing your blood sugar levels a real challenge if you have diabetes.
According to the calorie council, the average calorie intake on Thanksgiving is 4,500 calories. Wow! That’s a whole lot of turkey and stuffing. If approximately 50 percent of those Thanksgiving calories come from carbohydrates, that adds up to 563 grams of carbohydrate.
This article will review tips on cutting some of those extra calories and will recommend low carb ideas and swaps for some of the more traditional Thanksgiving dishes.
Diabetes-friendly Thanksgiving side dishes
Turkey: The good news: Turkey is carb free. To cut out some extra calories, remove the skin and choose the white meat instead of the dark meat.
- 4 oz white meat, no skin: 153 calories
- 4 oz dark meat, with skin: 206 calories
Cranberry Sauce: instead of using canned cranberry sauce, make it from scratch. Use a sugar substitute, such as Splenda, instead of sugar and cut the carb amount by 75 percent.
- 1 tsp sugar: 4 g carb
- 1 tsp Splenda: < 1 g carb
Sweet Potato casserole: replace sweet potatoes with butternut squash and cut the carb amount by over 40 percent
- ½ cup butternut squash: 8 g carb
- ½ cup sweet potatoes: 14 g carb
Mashed Potatoes: Try mashed cauliflower in place of white potatoes and cut the carb amount over 70 percent
- ½ cup mashed cauliflower: 5 g carb
- ½ cup mashed potatoes: 18 g carb
Bread Stuffing: Use low carb bread or bulk up on the veggies and cut back on regular bread by half. Using low carb bread instead of regular bread can decrease the carb amount over 30 percent.
Pumpkin Pie: Try using almond flour (1/4 cup: 6 g carb) in place of all-purpose flour (1/4 cup: 24 g carb). If you’re not making pumpkin pie from scratch, no worries, skip the crust and cut the carb amount over 30 percent.
- 1/8 slice pumpkin pie: ~46 g carb
- 1/8 slice pumpkin pie (minus the crust): ~30 g carb
Popular side dishes that are low in carbs:
- Roasted brussels sprouts: ½ cup: 6 g carb
- Green beans casserole: ½ cup: 6 g carb
- Roasted cherry tomatoes: ¾ cup: 6 g carb
Diabetes-friendly appetizer ideas
- Roasted almonds: 22 almonds: 6 g carb
- Shrimp cocktail: 1 shrimp with cocktail sauce: 2 g carb
- Olives: 1 large olive: 0.3 g carb
- Parmesan crisps: 5 crisps: 1 g carb
- Mozzarella and cherry tomato skewers: 1 oz cheese with 4 cherry tomatoes: 4 g carb
- Veggies and ranch dip: ½ cup: 5 g carb
- Start with a large salad with vinegar & oil (**vinegar slows down digestion, which may aid in slowing down the rate at which carbs get absorbed)
- Eat from a smaller plate
- Drink plenty of water
- Have a plan. Allow yourself to indulge in at least one Thanksgiving favorite
- Pace yourself. Take time to enjoy the company of family and friends.
Looking for some inspiration? Check out some creative and delicious low carb substitutes.
**Carb amounts listed above are an average. Carb amounts may vary depending on which brand is used or if you make a recipe from scratch.**
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