I truly have so much to be thankful for. During this time of year, I know a lot of people reflect on their fortune, their family, and plans for the year to come. And, yes– I have done all of that as well. But I’ve already written a lot on this blog about these things… my family, my support system, my ability to stay positive and motivated when it has seemed like the world is crashing down. While these are all important, and while I know I do have so much to be grateful for– I don’t want to write about those things today.
Instead I want to talk about Thanksgiving food. I’ve written briefly before about eating a ketogenic diet, and this was the first big holiday I’ve had to navigate since making this change. And– it was much easier than I expected! Some of that was for sure due to my very accommodating family who made small substitutions in some of the recipes so that I’d be able to enjoy them. But we had plenty of non-keto options for everyone else– which did not make me feel left out because I honestly probably over-ate on all the “safe” foods that were available. By the time dinner was over I was stuffed!
I know– if you are reading this, and trying to stick on a “diet” over the holidays, it can be difficult. I’ve had conversations with people– especially around Halloween and Thanksgiving– who felt unable to stay away from eating something that they had previously been trying to avoid. Think Candy, desserts, etc. In the past I also struggled with this– I’d think, “I can just have *one* bite….,” but then after one.., “*two* would be OK…,” and keep going until, “Well, I’ve already shot my diet for today. I’m gonna keep eating this delicious forbidden food now, and start my diet again tomorrow…”
But, since starting to eat a ketogenic diet in June, I’ve had close to zero desire to eat anything that deviates from this plan. I started this diet on the basis of evidence that it may be able to slow the growth of brain tumors, and therefore potentially prolong my life. These are extremely motivating to me… way more than when I was changing my diet to lose weight. Weight loss — for me– was always very slow going. It took FOREVER to see the scale move from diet changes alone, and so I didn’t get any quick positive reinforcement of seeing myself get closer to a goal. Because the progress was so slow, it was easy to tell myself that the changes to my eating habits didn’t make any difference, so why bother? When weight loss was my goal, it was also much easier for me to say, “well– I can do this at anytime.. I don’t need to start now… I can start tomorrow or next week.” There was no urgency other than my desire to someday (long term) be able to fit into a smaller pair of pants.
And now– I’m grateful that I couldn’t give 2 bleeps about what size pants I wear. Since I have been diligent on this diet I have, over time, lost weight, so that may be easier for me to say than in earlier stages of my life, but I hardly weigh myself at all these days. It just doesn’t matter to me. Instead, my motivation is to prevail and LIVE. I know the keto diet isn’t a cure, or 100% going to help me, but it certainly gives me some control and if it helps even a little bit it will be worth it. So far I haven’t felt too limited or had difficulty– but if that changes, I’ll stop. For now, it is working for me, and allowing me to at least imagine starving my brain tumors with each pad of butter I shove in my mouth.
Back to Thanksgiving food– There are many Keto bloggers and Pinterest recipes that give a wide array of appropriate and delicious options. I used them as inspiration and created a menu with my family that hit all the high points:
Turkey— Yum. My aunt made a delicious keto friendly roasted turkey for us. The rub did call for sugar but she substituted xylitol and no one could tell the difference
Brisket— Also Yum. My husband made a keto friendly Brisket that was brined for 2 days and in the sous vide for 24 hours. This recipe also called for brown sugar and maple syrup, but he used monk fruit sweetener and Lakanto Maple Syrup, and again– no one could tell it was keto, and it was amazing.
Veggies — I have been on an air-frying kick and made both broccoli and green beans in the air fryer– both so good. I put a generous amount of olive oil over them, salt and pepper, and garlic powder. The green beans are done (depending on how crispy you want them) after 7-10 min at 400 degrees. The broccoli takes a bit longer (about 16 min), so the only downside to this combination was not being able to make them together.
Soup: I don’t have this recipe, but my aunt made an Ah-MAZING asparagus soup that was high fat low carb. As it turns out, things that are high fat taste insanely good. This soup reheats beautifully, too, and was the first of the left-overs to be devoured.
Bread Alternative: I made these cheddar drop biscuits for myself, and they hit the spot. I’d say one of the few things I miss is being able to eat bread with butter– but these were very easy and tasty, and I was able to eat with eggs the following mornings– WIN!
Crustless Quiche: OK, I know this isn’t a traditional Thanksgiving meal item, but was so easy to do and definitely Keto friendly. I made a leek and Gruyere cheese and egg bake. I sautéed 2 finely chopped leeks in olive oil, salt and pepper for about 10 minutes, till soft and maybe slightly brown. Whisked 6 eggs with some heavy cream, and added to a casserole dish. I then added probably 2 cups of shredded Gruyere and baked till set. It took about 35 minutes at 350 to be done. I made this the day before because I prefer this type of thing served cold…. so it was an easy addition for the next night’s dinner that I didn’t have to worry about on Thanksgiving!
The non-keto foods we had on our table were stuffing (I could have done a keto version, but decided against it since there was already so much food), and sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. I saw substitute recipes for this, as well, but this is a hit with the kids and family– wanted to keep the tradition going even if I wasn’t going to be eating it. Also cranberry sauce– but I was able to have a keto version of this too (see below).
And, of course– desserts!
I made this cranberry keto cheesecake — I made a bit extra of the cranberry and used it as keto cranberry sauce with my turkey! 🙌. My cousin made a delicious keto frozen pumpkin mouse, and my aunt made keto brownies. Additionally, I made a non-keto gingerbread pumpkin cake, which I am told was the least-favored of all the dessert options 😂 (I did not try it, of course).
Overall, this holiday was a huge success, including from a keto perspective. I loved being able to indulge while staying away from foods that I know could be harmful to my health. I felt satisfied and happy– which was really the goal, and how I hope to feel most of the time 🙂 Sadly, most of the leftovers are now gone… so it’s time to find new recipes to try!