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Thanksgiving is definitely the ultimate holiday for those of us who love food. I look forward to the dinner I help my mother prepare every year, and I’m really thankful that I come from a family that values real food made from healthy and natural ingredients. I just came across an article that described the various ways our country’s thanksgiving feast has been tainted by chemicals and processing, and I wish that the food Americans were eating on this special day could be health-promoting rather than health-destroying.
Fortunately, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to send you on a detour from your path to health. In fact, there are hundreds of great recipes that you can break out on this special day, and they are all Paleo-friendly and nutrient dense. Of course, as Chris Kresser pointed out, you can certainly go overboard on healthy food. However, if you’re going to pig out no matter what anyone says about the potential consequences (which likely describes the majority of us), you can at least do so with healthier choices!
Here are my recommendations for the best recipes to make this Thanksgiving:
Also known as Devils On Horseback, these might be the most delicious hors d’oeurves on the face of the earth. I’m not kidding. I’ve had them before at various restaurants and it’s insane how something so simple could be so delicious. My sister and her husband love these little guys, so maybe I’ll make them with her for dinner next week. Could get dangerous.
I’ve been surprised at how well avocado can be a substitute instead of mayonnaise. Of course, a good mayo is actually a decent food, and even a little store-bought mayo won’t kill you. (I promise.) That said, if you’re a Paleo purist, this is a great recipe for deviled eggs that’ll keep guests happy while the turkey is cooking.
This is a great fall salad that would be a lovely way to start off the dinner. If you do dairy, I would recommend adding goat cheese as a special extra topping. Epicurious.com has a lot of great recipes that can be modified to fit your health needs. It just takes a little creativity and knowledge of substitutions. That said, if you’re not quite so strict, you can easily find some great recipes on this site.
If you feel the need to have some bread to nibble on before the meal but can’t bring yourself to eat wheat or other grains, here is a Paleo bread recipe that might help satisfy your craving. I’ve never really experimented with Paleo bread so this is worth test-driving before the big meal on Thursday.
Turkey is a must-have for Thanksgiving, and most turkey recipes are pretty healthy to start out with. I recommend looking for a turkey from a local farm that doesn’t pump their turkeys full of preservatives. Granted, that makes it a bit tricky to cook, but Primal Palate’s recipe uses duck fat to keep that sucker juicy. If you don’t have duck fat, try using butter. It’s especially delicious to stick butter under the skin to help keep the moisture!
If you’re not into Turkey or are having a big dinner that requires more than one meat choice, you can’t go wrong with a baked ham. George has created an awesome, fall-inspired ham recipe that is sure to be a crowd pleaser, especially for guests who are less than thrilled about “turkey” day.
This is a great alternative to the normal gravy that is thickened with flour or cornstarch. Instead, Elana uses pureed onions to thicken. Sounds super easy and way healthier than the standard gravy recipe!
Stuffing is one of those standard Thanksgiving dishes that is hard to replace on a Paleo or primal diet. Fortunately, there are some good options out there, like Primal Palate’s suggestion of pork and veggies. A lot of Paleo versions use apples or sweet potatoes to bulk up the stuffing. Other options include squash, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, carrots, and any other starchy vegetables. Get creative! No need to use bread cubes.
Whole9 has a terrific Thanksgiving menu available on their website. They’ve got some pretty high standards for their food, so you know that they’ll provide the healthiest thanksgiving food possible if that’s what you’re looking for. Here’s a simple cranberry sauce recipe that is much lower in sugar than your standard recipe.
Nom Nom Paleo has an insane amount of recipes, and this may be one of her more simple ones. However, you can’t go wrong with bacon and brussels sprouts. Really, you can’t. I recommend this side dish for all occasions, and Thanksgiving would be a great time to give it a try if you haven’t before.
This would be a great side dish to replace some of your typical grain based choices. I love butternut squash, and making a souffle is a way to take the fanciness up a notch! Otherwise, just cut the squash in half and roast it. It’s a beautiful vegetable that would look nice on the table no matter how you prepare it!
This is a fantastic replacement for mashed potatoes. If you’ve never tried mashed cauliflower before, I highly recommend it. If you love mashed potatoes but are trying to make your Thanksgiving dinner a smidge less fattening, these are a great low-carb option. You’ll never miss the spuds!
Pumpkin pie is one of those recipes that you rarely see outside of Thanksgiving, and yet it’s so darn good I don’t know why more people don’t make it on a regular basis. Mark Sisson has a fantastic version that uses a walnut crust. I would even add some dates to the crust to make it a bit moister. I might try convincing my mom to make this rather than the standard pie recipe she usually uses.
Pumpkin cheesecake? Amazing that this could be a Paleo recipe, so kudos to Juli for creating something this mouthwatering! (You may want to avoid this dessert if you’re trying to avoid weight gain this holiday season, I would assume the food reward value on this is off the charts!)
Pumpkin. Gingerbread. Maple vanilla frosting. How in the world could this be Paleo? Sounds too good to be true but Melissa has created an incredible recipe that would be great for Christmas time as well.
Juli has done it again with this incredible looking dessert. To be honest, this dessert (being made mostly of coconut oil and pecans) could be a good post workout snack or a healthy treat even outside of the holidays. You could probably even reduce the sweetener content and it would still taste awesome. It’s a great replacement for pecan pie as well, which is pretty much my nemesis.
Another festive beverage, and one that you can easily substitute unsweetened cranberry juice for. If you’re looking for a virgin drink, try adding a splash of cranberry to seltzer with a squeeze of lime, or even to sparkling apple cider.
Do you have any other recommendations for Paleo Thanksgiving recipes? Share them in the comments so we can all enjoy an indulgent, whole foods holiday feast!