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Surviving Thanksgiving on an Anti-Infammatory Diet
Surviving Thanksgiving on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet: The Life Renovations Guide to the Holidays
Remembering to give thanks when your Thanksgiving spread is full of traditional dishes can be so difficult when you're trying to make positive change in your life. My family traditions for Thanksgiving are not composed of saying grace (unless it ends with "For Pete's Sake, Amen") and saying what we're thankful for. Instead my family traditions include vegetables drowned in cream of mushroom soup and covered with cheese; various fruits, nuts and root vegetables disguised by marshmallows; mashed potatoes full of sour cream, butter and milk; stuffing of all shapes and sizes (including the White Castle Stuffing made by Uncle John), and of course pies - so many pies - mincemeat, apple, blueberry, pumpkin and cherry. All followed by long naps in front of the TV watching football. Sounds heavenly, and for many years it was, until my doctor prescribed a very strict diet to combat my inflammation issues.
What used to be a Midwestern gastronomical extravaganza turned quickly into an entire table full of food that I couldn't eat. I began making my own Thanksgiving meal - a plate of turkey, some potatoes (if I could save them between the stove and the butter) and some quick steamed frozen vegetables from the freezer. Desert had to be skipped. What I found, wasn't that it was terribly upsetting for me to avoid the other foods, but upsetting for the others who felt judged because I wouldn't eat what they were eating. This began many years of avoiding going home for Thanksgiving, which did not leave me very thankful for the holiday. I've found a few easy tools to combat this and now absolutely love Thanksgiving.
How can you have a fantastic (and fulfilling) Thanksgiving on an anti-inflammatory diet? It's not as hard as it seems.
1. Be grateful for what you have
Nearly all Thanksgiving meals include a Turkey. It may be the only thing you can eat, but it's always going to be there. Start there with a portion about the size of a deck of cards.
2. Check in with your host a few days before
Most people want you to enjoy yourself, regardless of what you can and can't eat. Ask the host what they're planning to cook and ask them to set aside as few options for you. Mashed potatoes can easily be made dairy free by adding a little bit of the cooking water and mashing them yourself. A small serving of vegetables can be set aside when preparing the various casseroles and steamed for you. A serving of salad can be set aside before adding cheese and dressing. Even better, offer to help cook, then you can set aside your own servings as the food is being prepared.
3. Come prepared
Ask your host if there's anything you can bring and make dishes that correspond with your dietary needs. Squash soup, roasted vegetables, a salad, even a fruit based dessert are wonderful additions to any Thanksgiving Day spread. If bringing your own dishes is inappropriate, be sure to eat before the meal on your own so you're not starving.
4. Don't fold
We all pick our poisons, and if having a piece of pumpkin pie is worth the pain it might create later, then by all means, have a small sliver - but not an entire spread of all the various pies. The secret to keeping on track is to listen to yourself and Thanksgiving is one of those "should" holidays. No you shouldn't eat stuffing on Thanksgiving just because that's what you do on Thanksgiving. If you're avoiding gluten, the Thanksgiving hangover is not worth it. When you hear yourself say "I really should just have some ...." take a step back and think about what the consequences are.
5. Replace diet talk with grateful talk
Trust me, the last thing anyone wants to hear on Thanksgiving is how the meal they're eating is the root of all evil. It is not the time to talk to them about healthy eating. It makes you a very un-welcomed guest at a feast. If asked about why you're eating differently, you can shut down the conversation by saying "Turns out, I have a slight allergy to ...., but it looks amazing." Then change the subject to something you're really grateful for, "You know, since I've made this change, I really notice an increase in my energy and I've started exploring my city... taking classes... volunteering for..., etc. " Every time the conversation comes back to food, very casually steer the conversation back to something you're grateful for.
Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy your friends, family and most importantly yourself. Take the time to value your body, give it what it needs, surround yourself with family and feed your heart with love.