Remaining Low Carb Through The Holidays (and Sugarfree Cranberry Sauce)


This will be my first holiday season as a pre-diabetic and a low-carber. Last year at this time, I’d had my baby and the gestational diabetes had seemingly disappeared. Although I was eating very healthfully, I was able to enjoy and indulge in all Thanksgiving and Christmas had to offer. Not so this year. I’d like to throw caution to the wind and eat all of my favourite carb-filled foods, but I can’t ignore the detrimental effects this would have on my system. I am simply not willing to compromise my health for a day of indulgence.

I have given this matter a lot of thought. We haven’t settled on a Christmas menu yet, but I think I’ve got Thanksgiving under control in a way that will allow me to “indulge” in some of my favourite flavours without going off track. It helps that we aren’t having any visitors this year, so my immediate family are the only guinea pigs for my experiments. But I figured it was worth sharing my thoughts on the matter, in the hopes that it might help any other diabetics and low carbers looking for ideas on surviving the holidays.

Fortunately, the main star of Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey, is already low carb, as long as it isn’t drowned in floury gravy. As for the rest of the dishes, here is my plan:

The sugar-free cranberry sauce is already made and in a jar in the fridge. It’s an easy one to make over, since cranberries are naturally low in carbs. You could take almost any cranberry sauce recipe and substitute your favourite sweetener. I will share my basic recipe below and you can jazz it up with whatever spices or low carb flavourings you like.

This year, the stuffing will be made with a loaf of my Rosemary Olive Oil Quick Bread, as I think the texture and consistency will lend itself well to almost any stuffing recipe. I will be sure to share the details if it turns out as well as I think it will. I will partake of the gravy, but it will be thickened with some arrowroot starch instead of flour, in the hopes of keeping carbs to a minimum. I’m not one who drowns anything in gravy as it is, but I do enjoy a little poured over my stuffing. And for veggies, we are eschewing the green beans and yams in favour of the lower carb alternatives of broccoli and cauliflower.

Dessert will be a low-carb pumpkin spice cheesecake. Thankfully, cheesecake also lends itself well to a low-carb makeover, as evidenced by my Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins. I am planning on a full-sized cheesecake with a pecan-based crust, and again, if it turns out well, I will happily share the recipe.

Of course, there are some dishes that simply can’t be made low carb, no matter how much you try. For these, you simply have to choose to have just a little taste, or abstain altogether. My husband’s amazing mashed potatoes will be making an appearance, and I do plan on a bite or two, but I will have so many other things to eat, I don’t believe that this will be a hardship for me.

To remain on track over the holidays, a little forethought goes a long way. With so many wonderful foods to suit any dietary restriction, there is simply no need to feel deprived at the holiday table. Whether you are gluten-free, low carb, dairy-free or vegetarian, planning ahead and using a little ingenuity can help you stay the course without feeling like you are missing out on anything.

For more low-carb holiday meal ideas, check out this article at “100 Delicious Holiday Recipes for the Low Carb Crowd”

Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce

1 12oz bag of fresh cranberries
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated erythritol (more if you like it sweeter)
30 drops stevia extract

In a medium saucepan, bring cranberries, water and erythritol to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have popped.

Remove from heat and stir in stevia. Let cool in pan and then transfer to a glass jar. Store in fridge.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. whatsfordinneracrossstatelines says

    Sounds like you have a great plan with all these recipes. Just curious what is erytritol? Is it like splenda or something.
    Hope you and your family have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Imwaytoobusy says

    Wow, I wouldn't have envisioned sugar-free cranberry sauce to look so good :) Great post and fantastic photos! You stirred up some serious sugar cravings 😉

  3. Carolyn says

    Gina, erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is crystallized and can be used as a sugar substitute. It has carbs, but they don't seem to affect blood sugars (I've tested after eating and they hardly raise me at all). I use it sparingly, since it's expensive, but it's a much better sugar substitute than splenda, since it is naturally occuring in fruits and fermented foods.

  4. mangocheeks says

    I just adore the photograph of the cranberry sauce just oozing over the bowl. I too was going to ask what erythritol was, but have noted explanation above.

    Just off to check out your Pumpkin Cheesecake muffins.

  5. Beth says

    Sounds like you've put a lot of thought into the meal. The cranberries look delicious, and how nice that you'll still be able to enjoy the holiday meal.

  6. Megan says

    Hi Carolyn! Love the recipe and I love how you stay true to your health! You are an inspiration… I am feeling a bit guilty about my own chocolate caramel indulgence this weekend! Beautiful photo of the cranberry sauce. And wooo hoo… I am a stevia fan through and through! Megan

  7. Kimberly Peterson says

    I love LOVE loveeee how you photographed that cranberry sauce.. makes it look so mouthwatering oozing down the sides like that. I never would've thought.. if it was me I'd be so boring and wipe the edges, lol. LOVE IT!!

  8. Pretend Chef says

    Having a plan in place before hand is always a great strategy for surviving the holidays. Since setting out on my weight loss journey a year and a half ago I had a hard time when faced with all of those indulgences. The best tip I learned was whether it was asked of me or not to take a dish that would be a healthier choice just in case. Making it through this season without packing on pounds seems near impossible but with your guilt free menu it would make it more manageable.

  9. Medifast Coupons says

    Thank you so much for the sugar free cranberry sauce recipe, I can't believe how hard it has been to find one.

  10. Foodiva says

    You planned this dinner so carefully to take into consideration your dietary needs, yet they still look as decadent as the 'regular' stuff! I'd want to be a guest at your dinner table because I know the food will taste great and I won't feel guilty for overindulging ;-).

  11. Sommer J says

    Love this post, Carolyn!!! I want to do low carb over the holidays to help my husband maintain a healthy weight for his tests. and I plan to try your treats!! Great of you to stay committed! I love the bread you're using! I like to make my own bread for stuffings, too. Best flavor! Yours is perfect and low carb. This post will definitely be retweeted! You are an inspiration. Can not wait to see everything. As always, gorgeous photos!

  12. Baking Barrister says

    I'm doing a lower carb/good carb/low-GI lower-fat dinner as well (similar reasons to you). It's hard, isn't it?

    I decided on a special salad, 100% whole wheat corn muffins (portion control!), sweet potato "fries" (sliced, baked with seasoning–no oil, no butter allowed); a fresh green & turkey. I will def have to check out your sources for desserts though–that one is stumping me.

  13. Danielle says

    Yum! The cranberry sauce looks so red and delicious. I love the idea of a healthy thanksgiving. Everything looks really good!

  14. Healthy Mamma says

    I loooove cranberry sauces! Thanks for the sugar free recipe idea! If you have time, stop on over at Simply Healthy Family and leave your wonderful recipes on the Healthy Fall Recipe Roundup!

  15. Claudie says

    I'm a great fan of the low-carb, so thank you for posting this recipe! It will definitely help me out with the Thanksgiving preparations…

  16. rosanna says

    Carolyn, like you I'm always trying to make menus and dishes which I can indulge and it's true there's a lot that can be made with that purpose. I normally eat and satisfy myself with the food that's good for me (low-carb, sugar-free…) and then I also indulge with a bite or two of something I've cooked for the others, like a high-carb dish, a cake…
    I have been diabetic for 7 years now and it also started with pregnancy. I had to start with insuline and I never stopped using it after having my baby.
    I'm going to have a look at this link you tell us.

  17. Shirley says

    What a challenge, a low-carb Thanksgiving. But it sounds like you're tackling it amazingly! And won't feel as weighed down after. :)

  18. Marly says

    The cranberry sauce looks delicious – a great improvement over the canned variety. Looks like you've thought through your menu for the day and have a lot of healthy options. We're vegan so we eat tofurkey and do all dairy-free and meat-free food options, and it's all incredibly delicious! I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

  19. Green Girl @ A little bit of everything says

    My mother in law is diabetic, she hats this time of the year since there are just few stuff she can really enjoy. I'm going to pass your recipe to her so she can enjoy her turkey. Thanks for sharing
    amazing photos as usual

  20. Rich says

    Remaining low carb through the holidays? Wow, you are committed! I admire your perseverance! And of course I admire the food, as well!

  21. Carolyn says

    To anonymous – actually, erythritol does not have the same effects on the digestive system as other sugar alcohols are known to do. I always use it in moderation, anyway, combining it with stevia to get the desired sweetness. But I have found no problems in that regard using erythritol and I know a number of other diabetics and low carbers who have not had any problems either.
    So, to qualify your comments, SOME sugar alcohols do have a laxative affect. Others do not.

    • Pearl says

      This is 3 years old, but a comment. Erythritol does have a laxative effect on some people, including me. I use it but make sure it is in smaller quantities. Then I am fine. Everyone is different, and you have to find how different sugar alcohols effect you and what quantities and frequencies work best for you. Maltitol, sorbitol have a stronger effect on me that erythritol.

      • Carolyn says

        Hi Pearl…

        Most people don’t experience any GI issues with erythritol. A few do find it. So yes, I agree, everyone has to test on themselves. The amount of erythritol I use in most recipes doesn’t typically affect people. It’s part of the reason I combine it with stevia.

  22. Melody Fury - says

    What a stunning holiday recipe! Would you like to submit it to my contest to win a cookbook? Just wanting to share the holiday cheer (and exposure to your blog) Would love for you to win :)

  23. farrahmayleigh says

    Are you familiar with Swerve sweetener, they say it replaces sugar cup for cup…if so can you tell me if I use it in this recipe can I omit the stevia drops? Thanks for your help.

    • Carolyn says

      Yes, I am very familiar with Swerve, I use it all the time. Most cranberry sauces put in about 1 cup of sugar per 12 oz package of Swerve so I would say 3/4 to 1 cup Swerve would be good.

  24. says

    I made my low carb cranberry relish/sauce with orange zest (and a little juice but this is optional), diced jicama, chopped walnuts, swerve, a little ez-sweetz, a little cinnamon. SO GOOD!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *