How to Enjoy Thanksgiving with an Autoimmune Disease

Autumn is nearly synonymous with buttery pecan pie, soft pumpkin bread, and decadent roasts. These hearty dishes threaten the waistlines of just about everyone but can pose a particularly diffcult health hurdle for those with autoimmune diseases. To help you better navigate the upcoming holiday season, here are some autoimmune diet-friendly recipes to indulge in this Thanksgiving.

Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Becca Malizia, BS, Hailey Motooka, BS

Thanksgiving can be a difficult time of year for anyone trying to mind their waistline. With such an emphasis on starchy, buttery sides and desserts, it can be a problematic time for many people, especially those with an autoimmune disease.

Diet modifications and specific autoimmune protocols vary, but most diets suggest reducing – if not completely eliminating – gluten, dairy, processed foods, and added sugars. If this is the case, then how are autoimmune patients supposed to enjoy a holiday like Thanksgiving–the cheat day of all cheat days?

Regardless of whether you are hosting people yourself or heading over to feast at a relative’s, we recommend at least bringing some of your own dishes. This way, you can ensure that there is at least one dish you don’t have to sweat over the ingredients.

Luckily, unless you are vegetarian or vegan, the main feature, turkey, can be fully enjoyed if prepared mindfully!

Alternative Recipe Options

Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes for those on a restrictive diet:

For Turkey/main dish:

Although a fried turkey is definitely delicious, there are many other ways to cook your turkey that are equally amazing and better for your health. Baking a turkey in the oven is the traditional method, creating a crispy yet juicy finished product. We recommend trying to stay away from rubbing your turkey in butter and instead, opt for some olive oil. Don’t forget to add varying spices and herbs to enhance the flavor! You can also try baking the turkey in a bag, which can help keep the turkey from drying out in the oven while still allowing it to fully cook and crisp.

Below is a simple yet flavorful turkey recipe you can try!

For Sides:

Sweet potato casserole in original form is loaded with added sugar and butter. But don’t worry! You can still enjoy this Thanksgiving staple with a modified recipe.

You can also try out another holiday favorite: green bean casserole. However, this modified green bean casserole is low carb, dairy free, and grain free.

And you can’t have a turkey without the stuffing! Thankfully, we found a paleo, autoimmune protocol cauliflower stuffing recipe that serves as a fantastic substitute to all that glutinous bread.

For Dessert:

While many of these staples will probably be off limits to those following a strict diet, there are some awesome substitutions and recipes that offer a new, healthier take on old classics.

You can even add some dairy-free whipped cream to your pumpkin pie.

Some advice:

In general, try avoiding the butter and using small amounts of olive oil or coconut oil for cooking. While butter is very flavorful, adding more herbs and spices such as rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, black pepper, tarragon, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves will guarantee a delicious meal, without aggravating your symptoms.

It can be hard to have a restrictive diet, especially around the holidays. Don’t let it get you down; there is so much more to the Thanksgiving festivities than rich foods! Connect with loved ones, celebrate Friendsgiving, and just know that even though having an autoimmune disease can feel frustrating and isolating at times, you are part of a much larger community of spoonies who support you.

There is still much to be thankful for.

If you have any other autoimmune-friendly Thanksgiving recipes, feel free to share them in the comments!


On Key

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