How the newest healthy eating craze can transform your Turkey Day Dinner
You already know that eating food that comes from the un-altered, natural earth is a great way to safeguard your health against the evils of poor nutrition, fertilizers, hormones and chemical additives. Odds are you already eat only-organic vegetables and if you do consume meat – only grass-fed and hormone-free varieties.
The one Achilles Heel of any year-long health plan is Thanksgiving. This traditional American day of indulgence makes it almost impossible to eat healthy foods – even traditional vegetable recipes are smothered in cream, cheese or gravy. Enter the Paleo diet: a natural-foods-only plan that has some remarkable similarities to what was probably on the table at the first Thanksgiving!
The Paleo diet is a relatively simple concept: eat the kinds of foods that were available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors: meat, vegetables, fruits, and seeds. The agrarian-age foods we now know and love are not part of the Paleo diet: dairy products, legumes, potatoes (this notably does not include sweet potatoes) processed meats and oils.
If you’re interested in going Paleo, there are plenty of references you can find online – Paleo Diet Thanksgiving recipes that let you stay well within the limits and scope of the Paleo diet, or cheat a little and use creative ingredients to work around the modern-age recipe requirements of your favorite dishes. But why bring this up now? As it turns out, a delicious Paleo Thanksgiving feast is well within the diet’s normal constraints!
We’ll assume that for your Thanksgiving, you’re going to serve meat. While we understand and acknowledge the millions of healthy vegetarian consumers out there, let’s face it: Thanksgiving is not your time to shine. Try passing off a tofu turkey as the real thing. You’ll be lucky if you’re ever invited to anyone’s Thanksgiving ever again – let alone be allowed to host!
In regards to Paleo, Turkey has it right. If you can find an organic or hormone-free farm raised turkey, buy it. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a wild game gobbler, even better! Wild game is packed with nutrients and vitamins that are simply absent from farm-raised livestock meat – and there will be far, far less fat on the bird as well. (Note: you may need two game turkeys or another meat dish … wild turkeys are also far smaller than their farm-raised cousins).
And just like that, we run into our first roadblock for a Paleo Thanksgiving. Traditional Turkey stuffing is made with bread – and grain products are definitely not on the Paleo menu. You can do three things when it comes to stuffing on your Paleo-turkey day:
- Don’t serve stuffing
- Cheat, and use a breaded stuffing
- Check out this amazing recipe for cornbread stuffing (ancient peoples ate maize, why can’t you?) courtesy of a brilliant gal at A girl Worth Saving blog.
This “cornbread” stuffing works because instead of flour, things like coconut flour and cornmeal are used. Coconut flour is essentially a gluten-free powder made from the dried coconut meat after it is used to make coconut oil. It’s naturally low in carbohydrates, so give Coconut flour a try on your favorite recipes other than Thanksgiving! Sweet Potatoes There is some debate as to whether the Sweet potato counts as Paleo. The White potato is almost universally panned by Paleo enthusiasts because of its widespread cultivation and (relatively) poor nutritional content. But the sweet potato is a different matter: the nutritional benefits of a sweet potato far outweigh a ny cons – be they carbohydrates or concerns about cultivation.
To try to stay as healthy as possible, avoid things like sweet potato casserole (although technically still Paleo if your recipe avoids processed oils, dairy or marshmallows) and stick with delicious roasted sweet potatoes.
This is a sweet and savory dish that (when cooked properly) is delicious with just cracked pepper sprinkled liberally all over. One reason we like the Paleo diet: spices are not on the list of no-no foods! To add even more flavor, find a roast-recipe that adds diced carrots and onions to the pan.
Tomatoes, Squash and Green Beans
Squash is an ancient staple food. It is also delicious when served pureed – and it adds color to your plate, a definite sign of a healthy dinner. You may have heard of a raw-foods diet. Paleo allows you to cook your food, but there’s no reason you can’t take a page or two from this far more difficult to maintain dietary regimen – and serve a delicious salad before the main course. If your family aren’t a salad eating bunch, opt for sliced tomatoes (organic, if you’ve got access to any) sprinkled with pepper to taste. You can also get fancy and prepare tomatoes and onion in balsamic vinaigrette dressing; but just slicing these tasty vegetables to serve is much easier. Green and Yellow squash or zucchini can be prepared a similar way: simply slice into 1-2 inch slices and cover in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1-4 minutes (depending on microwave power) or until hot and soft. Sprinkle a little olive oil (we know, but still) over them beforehand and ground pepper and a dash or sage after. Green beans are great too – just avoid the green bean casserole and opt for boiled or diced snap peas. There are steam-in-bag Green Beans available at your local grocery store that are not only tasty, but probably the fastest, no-mess dish you’re going to prepare this thanksgiving. Cranberries It is very difficult to make your own Cranberry sauce – and getting it out of a can is most definitely not in keeping with the idea of the hunter-gatherer diet. However, cranberries have a host of health benefits that make it almost impossible to ignore a delicious, health-conscious Cranberry dish. Here are some health benefits of Cranberries:
- UTI and Ulcers – high proanthocyanidin content (a phytonutrient) helps prevent certain types of bacteria from attaching to your stomach and urinary tract lining.
- Anthocyanin content – phytonutrients that give cranberries their red color are more prevalent in fruits that receive more direct sunlight. Because most cranberries are bog-harvested (and thus exposed to more UV rays) anthocyanin content in Cranberries is extremely high.
- Vitamin C & Fiber – Vitamin C supports the immune system, and Fiber protects everything from your digestive tract to your cardiovascular health. Cranberries are packed with these nutrients, yet have only 45 calories per cup!
- Antioxidants – Cranberries have more of these powerful disease and free-radical fighting nutrients than any other fruit. Only blueberries have higher antioxidant content than Cranberries.