Holidays can be one of the toughest times to try to follow an elimination food plan. Food is such an integral part of celebration in every culture on earth. Our treasured holiday recipes hold emotional, religious, and family memories and meaning for many of us. Even if you’re not really attached to the holidays, you see everyone else eating mashed potatoes with gravy, pumpkin pie, and sugar cookies, and you’re starting to wonder how much harm it would do to join in. Before impulsively snarfing down that cookie, however, here are a few points to consider in deciding how to handle holiday eating.
- Cheat day. Some folks will just allow themselves to eat whatever they want for the day of the holiday feast, and then get right back on the elimination plan the next day.
- Partial cheat. This means allowing yourself some foods that aren’t on your plan like nuts and potatoes, but still avoiding the foods that you suspect are the biggest problems (for instance, gluten and dairy).
- Host the family get together yourself, and cook a GRIN-compliant meal.
Each of these approaches has pros and cons. Number 1 is the easiest-you don’t have to prepare special foods or worry about explaining your diet to critical relatives. The problems with this approach are that it is very, very easy to keep eating all those leftovers, and have one day turn into a week, or a month. Be aware that even one day of eating foods you are highly sensitive to may cause you to feel terrible and set back your progress significantly-for weeks or even months.
Number 2 involves a few accommodations in food preparation, like making gravy with arrowroot powder instead of flour, using a gluten-free pie crust, avoiding the stuffing. The same possible problems with option number one apply here. Unless you have reintroduced foods methodically, one a time, it can be difficult to know which ones are really bothering you or causing inflammation. So this approach does still have a risk of setting back your progress significantly.
Obviously, I recommend option 3, although I know that isn’t practical for everyone. It is definitely a little more difficult to create a GRIN compliant menu, but if you are already used to cooking, and particularly if you have some help in the kitchen, it can definitely be done. (There will be some added sweeteners for a special holiday meal that you don’t use on the GRIN plan, but a small enough quantity that it shouldn’t derail your progress). Bonus-some of your guests likely have undiscovered food sensitivities and will feel better without all the traditional gluten and dairy!
Here are some tips and recipes for modifying many traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dishes. I’ve only included links to most of the recipes instead of the full recipes, as many websites request that users not repost full recipes, although posting links to the recipes is fine. Many of these sites call the diet the “autoimmune paleo diet”, or AIP, which is almost the same as the GRIN plan. Disclaimer: I haven’t made all these recipes myself, but have only chosen recipes with excellent reviews.
Turkey: No major modifications needed here! Make sure you choose a turkey that does not have any gluten added to the water solution that it comes in. If at all possible, get a free-range or organic turkey, or choose one that is antibiotic-free. You can still brine your turkey if you normally do that. Use maple syrup or Sucanat for the sweetener in the brine.
Gravy: Gravy made from turkey drippings is still OK-if you use arrowroot powder for the thickener instead of wheat flour. Here is a link to a recipe that uses a blender: http://janeshealthykitchen.com/best-paleo-turkey-gravy/
Or just substitute arrowroot powder (Bob’s Red Mill is a good brand) for flour or cornstarch in your regular recipe. You’ll need about 1 T. arrowroot powder for every 1 cup of turkey drippings, and just like flour or cornstarch, mix it well with cold water before whisking into the hot drippings. It loses thickness upon reheating, but that’s a bonus in my book, as reheated gravy tends to be too thick anyway.
Potatoes: It is relatively easy to substitute another vegetable for mashed potatoes. Mashed sweet potatoes are fantastic, although you usually wouldn’t put gravy on them. Mashed parsnips and mashed cauliflower are both excellent. Use a little garlic powder and full-fat coconut milk as you are mashing to add some flavor. Some people like to add a little bacon to the final product. Here is a slow-cooker recipe from paleoaholic.com.
Paleo Garlic Mashed Parsnips
- 2 pounds parsnips, peeled
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 2 T. coconut oil
- 1 T. water
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- Peel parsnips, garlic and then slice
- Combine parsnips, garlic, water into a slow cooker
- Add coconut oil over the ingredients and salt and pepper to taste
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours in a slow cooker.
- Once tender and cooked, mash together with coconut milk
- Serve and Enjoy!
Most vegetable and salad recipes are going to be fine for a GRIN meal-just watch out for nuts and croutons in the recipe. Use a homemade vinaigrette type of dressing.
Stuffing: This is a little harder, since you can’t use any grains or breads. But, Mickey Trescott has a fabulous recipe using cauliflower rice as the base. It’s on her website here:
So it IS possible….
Green bean casserole
Green beans are an “iffy” item on the GRIN plan-they are technically a legume with an edible pod. So if you have enough other vegetables on your Thanksgiving table, skip the green beans. If you’re sure you have to have them, here is an amazing recipe for green bean casserole by Kelly Bejelly.
Of course! You have to have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving! At least, most of us do. Here are a couple of options.
Dr. Shanks has a wonderful recipe listed on her website. This one does use nuts, so be aware of that if you are avoiding nuts. http://karynshanksmd.com/2016/10/28/paleo-pumpkin-pie-recipe/
This nut-free version is from Mickey Trescott’s site. http://autoimmune-paleo.com/pumpkin-spice-cake-with-gingersnap-crust/
While sugar cookies really can’t be replicated to meet the GRIN standards, there are some cookie recipes that can. Here is a link from the ieatrealfood.com site by Hayley Stobbs for some recipes that work for the GRIN diet. The root vegetable, sweet potato, and plantain cookies are all acceptable. http://www.ieatrealfood.recipes/?p=1000
Elana Amsterdam’s fabulous website “Elana’s Pantry” has recipes for traditional Jewish Hanukkah recipes. Look on elanaspantry.com and find the Hanukkah recipes. Some of these recipes do use eggs, so you may need to avoid or modify a few of these if you are not eating eggs.
A few more resources….
Sarah Ballantyne has a great collection of holiday recipes on her site that she has curated from some of the best AIP websites.
Mickey Trescott’s tips for holiday eating and get-togethers
Holiday cookbook by Breanna D Emmet on amazon.com
Have a blessed holiday!!
Lisa Scranton, MS, RDN, LD
Nutritionist. The Center for Medicine and Healing Arts
610 Eastbury Dr. Suite 5 Iowa City Iowa 52245
- 319-358-9510 F. 319-358-9524 E. firstname.lastname@example.org