Easy Switches for a Healthy Thanksgiving

If you’ve got dinner guests following a Paleo, Gluten-Free or Vegan diet—or just anyone concerned with all the calories that come with Thanksgiving dinner—planning a meal that will suit everyone’s needs is no small task. But fear not: A few easy switches can accommodate them and help everyone celebrate and enjoy the holidays! We got ideas for simple swaps from Nutritionists Liz Gilliam in Albuquerque and Toni Eastwood in Redmond.

Traditional trade outs
Thankfully roasted turkey (white meat without the skin) is low in fat and calories. But traditional side dishes can be loaded with hidden fat and sugar. Canned cranberry sauce is full of high fructose corn syrup, Liz says. She suggests making a cranberry side dish with fresh cranberries (like this Cranberry Apple Sauce—it’s super easy, tastes better and is loaded with healthy antioxidants).

Other healthy ideas

  • Bread stuffing comes packed with carbohydrates that can leave us feeling bloated, says Liz. Instead, try a stuffing made with whole grains that are rich in protein (like this Quinoa Stuffing).
  • Homemade gravy can be high in fat, so be sure to skim the fat off before using pan drippings.
  • For dessert, Liz tell us to choose pumpkin pie over pecan; it has about half of the calories and pumpkin is rich in vitamins A and C, and potassium, to boot. Fruit desserts are an elegant and healthy option, too—try these Vanilla Poached Pears that are naturally high in fiber to aid digestion.

Paleo swaps
Paleo dieters enjoy all things that could be hunted or gathered in the caveman era. Roasted poultry or meat and root veggies are ideal, but grains, dairy and refined sugar are a no-no—so traditional foods will need some tweaking. Bread stuffing can easily be Paleo-fied by using only chopped onions, apples and celery. Or try a pork, apple and cranberry recipe like this Best Ever Paleo Thanksgiving Stuffing.

Instead of mashed potatoes whipped with milk or cheese, try blending boiled or steamed cauliflower with a little butter or almond milk in a food processor, then adding roasted garlic or chives. Finally, think nut crusts when you’re looking for a flavorful switch for pies. This Grain-free Pumpkin Pie is Paleo-friendly with an almond and coconut grain-free crust and yummy pumpkin-honey filling.

Vegan swaps
Adding a veggie, grain and bean dish will keep vegans (and non-vegans, too!) happy at holiday meals. Fall produce like squash, apples and pumpkin are especially welcome. Stuffed butternut squash filled with rice, Brussels sprouts, garbanzo beans and flavorful spices is an easy make-ahead dish. Traditional Style Vegan Shepherd’s Pie cooked in individual baking dishes is a full-flavored side or main dish (and can easily be made with regular dairy products for vegetarians). And celebrate the fall harvest with Vegan Pumpkin Pie Blondies, moist brownie-like bars with a spicy twist.

Gluten-free swaps
For those with celiac disease, or gluten sensitivities, think beyond traditional bread stuffing for a side dish and try protein-rich ancient grains or rice, Toni tells us. Baked Rice flavored with shitake mushrooms and saffron pairs beautifully with roasted poultry or meat dishes. Or choose a quinoa-based salad like Quinoa with Currants, Dill and Zucchini. Using nuts instead of flour, this Pecan Nut Crust is a perfect accompaniment to your favorite creamy pumpkin filling.

And don’t forget about digestive support
Regardless of what foods you eat, keeping your digestive tract functioning well is important, especially during the holidays when stress and over-eating is more common. Pharmaca’s Chewable Papaya Enzymes feature natural papaya and pineapple enzymes that help break down food so it’s more easily digested. And vegetarian-friendly Doctor’s Best Digestive Enzymes and Enzymedica’s Digest Gold with ATPro (great for Paleo and gluten-free diets) are a good bet for helping your body digest fats, proteins and carbs.

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