For people who follow lower carbohydrate or grain-free diets in order to support overall health and vitality Thanksgiving is an occasion when it’s worth throwing nutritional caution to the wind. While multiple daily infusions of sugar refined grains and processed seed oils can lead to long-term health derangement when reserved as rare indulgences a little piece of this or that once in a while isn’t likely to derail anyone too much. For others however—individuals with severe gluten intolerance autoimmune conditions or intractable insulin resistance even one day of dietary debauchery can spell disaster.
While some people can splurge with impunity at the holidays others have little to no wiggle room. For the latter piping hot wheat rolls cornbread dressing and sugar-laden desserts just aren’t worth spending days within arm’s distance of a commode or suffering a painful flare-up of an autoimmune disorder. Fortunately thanks to creative food bloggers and websites dedicated to low carb gluten-free and Paleo diets there’s no shortage of holiday recipes to satisfy all palates and no one will miss the wheat or dairy one bit.
The turkey is easy: just be sure to buy one that hasn’t been pre-seasoned or brined with ingredients that are off-limits for someone who’ll be at your table. Your best bet for a bird you can trust is buying one from a local farmer. (Most orders for Thanksgiving turkeys need to be placed several weeks if not months in advance. So if it’s too late to go this route this year plan ahead for next year.)
Most people agree that while the turkey makes an impressive centerpiece for a Thanksgiving spread the meal is all about the side dishes. There are gluten-free and low carb versions of the mainstays but consider stepping beyond the expected and providing your guests with sides that are every bit as delicious and fall-inspired as the old standbys but that might be a surprise at Thanksgiving.
For the low carbers at the table no potatoes? No problem! Cauliflower makes a fantastic alternative such as in these garlic cauliflower mashed “potatoes.” (Substitute a different fat for the butter to make it dairy-free.) Biscuits are a bit harder to replicate but these scrumptious sweet potato drop biscuits are grain-free and have just one cup of sweet potato for an 8-biscuit recipe so the total amount in just one biscuit is small. (For those who can tolerate tapioca four these Paleo dinner rolls more closely resemble the puffy soft-as-a-cloud rolls guests might be expecting.) For stuffing/dressing forget the stale boxed mix from the store. This savory herbaceous sausage stuffing has the bread-like mouthfeel people want with far more flavor than anything that comes off a store shelf.
For vegetables this sweet and savory take on Swiss chard would be an unexpected addition to the holiday spread. Roasted kabocha squash packs less starch than sweet potatoes but is every bit as sweet delicious and eye-catchingly orange. For those who can splurge on more carbohydrates nothing says fall like this warm harvest salad with honey walnut vinaigrette. As for cranberry sauce no high-fructose corn syrup required! It is possible to make a completely unsweetened cranberry sauce but those little gems are fairly tart and it’s not unreasonable to want to take some of the edge off. How about a sauce sweetened with stevia and erythritol or better yet a cranberry-blueberry sauce spiced with cinnamon nutmeg and allspice? Cranberries with those warming spices just screams autumn celebration.
For snacking and chatting with friends and family before dinner is served vegetable crudité could hardly be simpler to prepare. Hummus is great for those who do well with beans but for those who need to avoid legumes cauliflower comes to the rescue again in this cauliflower hummus. Served with vegetables or grain-free crackers no one will miss the pita chips one bit. Roasted rosemary almonds and spiced olives make great accompaniments to pre-dinner drinks as does a white wine & pecan cashew “cream cheese” ball. (And let’s face it: you can’t go wrong with chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates. For those who do dairy goat cheese is another classic stuffing for dates.)
And what would Thanksgiving dinner be without dessert? This might be a time for those who can “get away with” splurging to do so (maybe with Paleo-inspired chocolate pecan pie or chocolate whoopee pies with pumpkin filling) but for those who truly need to keep a tight rein on their diet there are plenty of grain-free and lower carb sweet treats to end the meal with a little dessert love. How about dairy-free pumpkin panna cotta made with bone-and-joint nourishing gelatin? Or a low carb pumpkin bake. (Substitute xylitol or erythritol for the artificial sweetener.)
If ever there’s a time to jump head-first off the diet wagon Thanksgiving Day is it. But for those who choose not to the holiday can be every bit as delicious.