For many people, the holiday season is the hardest time of year to stick to a healthy diet. For people with health challenges like Candida, food sensitivities or allergies, sugar addiction, adrenal fatigue etc.,who have restricted diets, it is even more challenging.
However, with a little creativity and willingness to be flexible, designing a healthy Thanksgiving dinner menu that will still satisfy the taste buds can be easily achieved.
Just like any diet there is not a one size fits all healthy Thanksgiving dinner menu. It will vary from person to person depending on their needs and what level of health they desire to maintain on this day. What is healthy for one person may not be healthy for another. One person may need to avoid onions, while another may not be able to eat turkey. So we really can’t provide one menu that is a good fit for everyone.
With that being said, there are a few guidelines that can be applied across the board regardless of your situation.
No white sugar
No bleached white flour
No additives and preservatives
Use as many organic ingredients as possible (no hormones and antibiotics)
These are the six most important criteria for a healthy Thanksgiving dinner menu, because they are bad news for all of us. We could also add that we should eat fresh or frozen and try to fill up on protein and veggies instead of carbs. Beyond that we have to personalize the diet for each person.
Permission to Stray
If you’ve been with me a while, you know that I advocate the Paleolithic diet on a day-to-day basis. However, I personally believe that there is nothing wrong with giving yourself permission to stray a bit for just this one day. It’s only one day out of the year, so the world will not come to an end if you eat a few things that aren’t on your typical Paleo menu, like a few grains or an agave sweetened dessert.
However, I’m not saying you should give yourself permission to be self-destructive or eat sugar. There is a fine line. Be reasonable and don’t eat anything that will make you deathly ill or provoke unbearable symptoms. If eating grains puts you in bed for a day with depression or a migraine, then that is not a restriction you want to violate. However, if the symptoms are milder such as aching muscles and itching, then enduring for a day may be worth it. Each person will have to weigh the pros and cons. This does not mean you say it’s okay to eat white refined sugar or to binge.
For example, on a daily basis I don’t eat grains, potatoes or beans. However for my Thanksgiving dinner, in addition to my organic turkey and salad I will allow myself to have pie that is made with unbleached flour and sweetened with chicory root. I may have mashed potatoes and bake a fresh sweet potato. I only eat a sweet potato once or twice a year.
So you see, I allow some flexibility, but I don’t abandon my diet all together. So for this day only I may be eating quite a few more carbohydrates than normal and a few foods that aren’t usually in my allowed list, but the following day I will go immediately back to my normal Paleo diet. However, I never touch sugar, bleached flour, alcohol, caffeine, foods with additives and preservatives or food with hormones and antibiotics etc. even during the holidays.
If you can’t eat turkey because of a sensitivity, then you could have pheasant, duck or chicken. If cheating with a little wheat is out of the question, you can make stuffing with brown rice. For dessert, you can make or buy pie at the health food store that does not have any sugar in it and no bleached flour – use chicory root, agave, maple syrup, xylitol, stevia or other natural sweetener.
Alternatively, you could have desserts made from nothing but fruit and nuts, like date cookies or baked apples with cinnamon, raisins and walnuts. Instead of candied yams or white potato, bake a fresh sweet potato. A fresh sweet potato, baked like a regular potato, smothered in organic butter and sprinkled with a little cinnamon is one of my favorite Thanksgiving delights and tastes as good as pie. There is always an alternative. Don’t go totally without, because if you feel deprived, then you are more likely to abandon your restrictions completely or go on a binge.
Friends and Family
If you’re going to someone else’s house, a healthy Thanksgiving dinner menu may not be in their plan, so you’ll need to make a few more adjustments. You could cook your meal at home and eat before you go to family or friends, then just partake in enjoying the social aspect. Alternatively, you could take your own plate of healthy food with you. If you don’t want to cook and have a health food restaurant in the area like a Whole Foods store making Thanksgiving meals, you could buy one that is prepared. You can also order a dinner from online like Diamond Organics to take with you.
Tips to Prevent Overeating
Drink lots of pure water.
Add a touch of lime or lemon to your water for a little flavor.
Fill up on meat protein and veggies. Protein and fat will keep your blood sugar stable and curb cravings for carbohydrates.
Get away from the table as soon as you finish your meal so you don’t nibble.
Take a walk before your meal.
Eat slowly. If you eat too fast, then your brain doesn’t know that your stomach has had enough until you’ve already overeaten. When you eat at a slower pace, this allows the hormones that regulate our appetite to communicate more efficiently and thus send out the message that you are satiated sooner.
Practice mindfulness as you eat. Being more mindful of your eating experience, makes your food taste richer and more satisfying. It also slows you down in the process. Be one with each bite, savor its texture, aroma and flavor, as if you are making love for the first time.
As hard as you might try, sometimes you may not be able to be as disciplined as you like during the holidays. If you fall of the wagon and eat something you shouldn’t have, or even if you totally blow it and eat everything in sight, don’t beat yourself up. This will only perpetuate the problem. Don’t allow a little weakness lead into weeks of unhealthy eating. Go back to your original diet immediately. Forgive yourself and move on.
Remember that the most important part of Thanksgiving is the time that you spend with loved ones. Do the best you can to create a healthy Thanksgiving dinner menu, but try to maintain balance and don’t put all the focus on food.