Nothing is worse than Thanksgiving on a diet. Literally nobody wants that life.
And yet, whether you are trying to lose weight, get in shape, or just want to be healthy, Thanksgiving is such a concentrated moment of indulgence that the mere sight of a full table makes most of us—me, especially—crack. Let me be clear though, I love and live for every last morsel of this holiday. I just hate missing out.
So, in the words of June Diane Raphael, “I am not taking it on.” I’m not. Why sit, stare, and suffer? It’s not me and it should not be you.
This year, I am taking control and throwing a low-carb Thanksgiving. Why? Because food itself is not bad for you. It is not eating the right foods at the right times and proportions that gets us into trouble. Carbs, for example, are a great source of energy, but seeing as most of us are so drunk on Turkey—or, other things—that we just need to sleep post-meal, a smarter way to eat during this holiday season is to avoid carbs and focus on protein and veggies. I also do this at parties and it’s a great way to get your tummy satisfied and also stay on track with personal health goals.
Here is the game plan:
1. Eat the meat.
It’s so paleo, but it makes sense. It’s filling, it’s delicious, and as long you don’t overdo it, you get to partake in the main event—aka turkey!
And what a moment it could be. Just check out this paleo Duck Fat Roasted Turkey. Usually, you will have me at the mere mention of duck, but the recipe actually uses very little fat and has four other ingredients: turkey, stuffing, salt, and pepper. Talk about easy. Get the recipe.
Besides that, ham is essential. But, we must remember, there is a lot of sugar in most cured hams. Whenever possible, it is good to try a paleo recipe for your ham so that you’re not replacing carbs with sugar. I love this Paleo Leap recipe because it uses fresh oranges for the sauce to give it natural sweetness and the honey is an optional ingredient. Get the recipe.
It also doesn’t hurt to have healthier proteins present. How about salmon? Specifically, this Salmon with Herbed Yogurt can add a different flavor profile to the traditional Thanksgiving table. Plus, if you like the recipe and want a new twist in the future, you can sub out the fresh spices for your favorites. I love basil and cilantro. Get our Cedar Planked Salmon with Herbed Yogurt Sauce recipe.
2. Swap out carbs for veggies whenever possible.
In the turkey recipe, it calls for stuffing, but we know that stuffing is one of the most carb-heavy moments of the day. Thankfully, there are many grain-free options like this gluten-free Best Paleo Stuffing. It combines onions, celery, apples, dates, almond flour, to make a grain-free alternative that has a similar texture to the traditional version and a whole lot of flavor. Get the recipe.
Then, mac ‘n’ cheese isn’t just a standard, it is non-negotiable. That is until I tried this recipe and realized that I am mostly obsessed with baked cheese and could always live without the bloated feeling of eating too much pasta. The genius behind this recipe is roasting the cauliflower first so that it is nice and crispy under the melted and crispy cheese. Also, who doesn’t like a recipe that tells you to add bacon? Get the recipe.
Now, I have been dreading mentioning this, but actual mashed potatoes need to sit out this year. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t something that might replace them. What is that? Thyme Mashed Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic. It’s the perfect substitute. Creamy, spiced and delicious. Get the recipe.
3. Get your ‘veg’ on.
Someone once said that the perfect plate has as many different colors on it as possible. So, do this with your veggies.
Kim Alter’s Late Night Green Beans are perfect because they are easy, fresh, and will help you digest all the other goodies. Get Kim Alter’s Late Night Green Beans recipe.
Next, kale has gotten some flak as a basic and bougie food, but if people don’t like something a lot, haters never make jokes. That is why this Kale Tahini Salad is a must. It’s a savory but sweet salad with nutty tahini and pumpkin seeds with sweet dried fruit. A lot of the food on this day will be heavy, so why not give your body a break and eat something that will make you feel fresh? I know. It just makes sense. Get the recipe.
Boiled carrots are lovely, said no one. Raw Carrot Pasta with Peanut Sauce, though, is the business. Just imagine. The raw carrots will have a natural sweetness that is balanced by the ginger-garlic-lime-Sriracha dressing. It is basically a carrot Pad Thai. Get the recipe.
4. Save room for dessert and make sure the treats are low-carb so that you can enjoy the sweets.
What is a holiday celebration without dessert? No answer. Well, that is probably because an absence of dessert is neither fun nor worth associating with the holidays.
My Natural Family has an easy vegetarian, gluten-free Paleo Pumpkin Pie recipe that uses almond flour. The almond flour adds a nutty quality that many pumpkin pies miss. Also, if you need to go vegan for a guest, sub sugar for the honey. Get the recipe.
Now, for chocolate—because there is never a reason to miss out. Let’s talk about Zucchini Brownies. Not only are they flourless and moist, they are a serving of greens in a dessert. Think! There could not possibly be a better way to make sure your kids get some vegetables in them. Get the recipe.
Have you also heard of No-Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake? It is basically two of my favorite things in one dish.
Also, Lord knows there is little more in life that we need more than cheesecake on any day of the year. So, let’s not leave anybody wanting. Just offer them this gluten-free, flourless version. The almond flour crust, peanut butter, and cacao will add a touch of sensuousness to balance that tart cheesecake creaminess. Get the recipe.
5. Remember that Thanksgiving is a big food day.
So don’t freak out if you are still stuffed at the end. After all, it’s almost rude to not take the turkey’s situation into account, right?