Enjoy Thanksgiving – Even When You’re Eating Gluten-free or Low-Carb!
I love the Thanksgiving holiday. Having loved ones and dear ones around the table giving thanks and sharing nature’s bounty is one of the season’s greatest joys – and so much less stressful than Christmas as there are no presents to buy or wrap! I also love the delicious foods of Thanksgiving, but as many of my patients and I know all too well, when you’re gluten-free and/or low-carb, the holiday table can be a something of a minefield. Make a misstep and troubles may soon follow.
So, how to keep yourself and your guests on track during the big meal? Try a few of these favorite, healthy Thanksgiving work-arounds – my patients and I use them every year – to ensure that everyone at the table can enjoy the abundance:
Rethink the hors d’oeuvres – and the cocktail hour.
Thanksgiving is such a big meal, I’ve often wondered, does anyone really need to fill up on pre-dinner nibbles when the main event is really what counts? One of my patients came up with a clever alternative: She cuts ‘cocktail hour’ down to 30-minutes, gets dinner on the table promptly and in the meantime, provides a small, healthy platter of apple slices, olives, cornichons, and sliced hard cheeses as pre-dinner snacks.
Welcome a little extra help.
Another one of my patients lives in an apartment with a tiny kitchen, which makes accommodating special requests and creating additional dishes especially difficult – she simply lacks the fridge and oven space to handle it. Her work-around? She asks specialized-diet guests if they’d be willing to bring their favorite gluten-free or low-carb dish. Need a little inspiration? Try this gluten-free dressing recipe (see below) that’s always a hit no matter which side of the gluten fence you’re on.
Eat the Thanksgiving rainbow!
Turkey, stuffing, gravy – the traditional Thanksgiving meal can be a brown-hued, carb-heavy affair, but it doesn’t have to be! Just as you should do every other day of the year, eat the rainbow and go heavy on the plants! If you’re doing the cooking, add fiber, flavor and nutrients to the meal by adding as many colors to the plate as possible. Make room for naturally gluten-free, low-carb roasted red peppers, steamed broccoli and spinach, bright yellow spaghetti squash and orange butternut squash – put them all together and you’ve got a gorgeous plate!
Lighten up on the marshmallows.
Mashed sweet potatoes. Whoever decided they needed to be tarted up with brown sugar and marshmallows was clearly not a nutritionist! To support health at Thanksgiving, streamline your ingredients. Think savory across the board, and save the sweet for dessert. All that should be going into your sweet potato mash is a little Himalayan salt, a dash of roasted garlic and thyme, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, a drizzle of milk or non-dairy beverage, some butter and a whole lot of love!
Break with tradition – at least when it comes to pie.
Who doesn’t love pie? Well, your gut for starters! Loaded with sugar and flour, Thanksgiving pies are nothing but metabolic trouble, tasty though they may be. Instead of a traditional slab of pie and ice cream, try this lighter, gluten, grain, dairy and egg-free pie-like apple crumble made with nuts and dates or this crust-free, gluten-free no-bake pumpkin mousse – who needs crusts anyway?!
Wild Rice and Mushroom Dressing
Makes 8-10 Servings
8 tablespoons coconut oil
4 large onions (about 2 3/4 pounds), halved, thinly sliced
1 1/4 pounds assorted wild mushrooms (such as crimini and stemmed shiitake), sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
5 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 1/3 cups wild rice (about one 8-ounce package)
1 1/4 cups brown rice
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
3/4 to 1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup dried cranberries
Heat 4 tablespoons coconut oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until very tender and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Transfer onions to large bowl. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons coconut oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and 1 tablespoon thyme; sauté until mushrooms are deep brown, about 12 minutes. Add to bowl with onions. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring broth, 1 tablespoon thyme, and 2 teaspoons sage to boil in heavy large deep saucepan. Mix in wild rice and brown rice return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 45 minutes until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in carmelized onions and mushrooms, remaining 1 tablespoon thyme, and 1 teaspoon sage. Stir in dried cranberries. Cover and simmer 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in toasted pecans. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup parsley.
Have a wonderful – and healthy – Thanksgiving!