This time of year is always the toughest for even the most steadfast Paleo loyalist. Being bombarded with cookies, pies, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, biscuits (just to name a few of my personal favorites) makes staying on track really hard. I completely understand that Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie and stuffing. This is my third year since going Paleo that I am faced with the holidays. The first year, I let myself derail and I paid the price. UGH! My stomach, my head, and my overall mood really suffered the aftermath. I’d say take my word for it, IT IS NOT WORTH IT and DON’T DO IT!!! However some of you will just do what I did, throw all commonsense and everything you learned about what foods make you feel good, and just have a “taste” of all the little things you cherish about the holiday season. It’s as though I had to touch the hot stove just one more time to make sure it will really burn me before I never touched it again.
First of all let me just say if you chose to “cheat” (I hate that word, you are not on a diet, you are living the right way for you, cheating doesn’t apply here) Let’s say you choose to make less than ideal choices for yourself this season. Let me be the first to say, it’s ok! You answer to no one but yourself here, kid. If you want to lick the crumbs from the bottom of the apple pie dish, then refill it with whipped cream and lick it clean again, go for it. You are the one who suffers, no one else (unless of course you are like me and the kids end up having to walk on tip toe and avoid you for a few days) but honestly, no one cares but you! Go bonkers, feel like shit then get back on track. Get over it, you didn’t let anyone down but yourself, the sun will rise tomorrow (whether you want it to or not) and life will go on. Sometimes just giving yourself permission to enjoy is all you need to actually choose not to and make a better choice.
Your second option is to limit the damage. I have friends who remain Paleo 80% of the time normally and take that attitude into the holidays. They avoid surrounding themselves with crap at home but when at parties they don’t stress about it. They make the best choices they can based on what is available and may even add gravy to their turkey or grab a cookie. Gasp!! These people know they probably won’t feel awesome afterwards but all things considered they know they could have felt far worse and are happy with that. For some of you new to this Paleo life this might be a good approach. You will feel less deprived and proud of yourself for the fact that you remained true to your healthy lifestyle 80% of the time during a really tempting time.
Your third option, and one I followed last year and will from now on, is to just provide for myself. I have gotten to the point that intentionally eating things that make me feel crappy is no longer tempting. I would rather just not eat it. I do not feel like I am depriving myself. On the contrary, I feel like I am providing the absolute best for myself and feelings of deprivation just aren’t there. If I want pumpkin pie, I will make a pumpkin pie, (Paleo style!) There are literally hundreds of Paleo thanksgiving recipes out there. I will post a few myself but the links in the right side bar of this site have many more to choose from. I actually think this time of year is very easy to make Paleo. All the meats eaten (unless wrapped in dough or something) are fair game. Most veggies dishes will be just fine (except the cream of mushroom soup filled and French’s fried onions topped green bean casserole). If this is the road you choose I am here to help. Here are a few tips.
Tip #1: Offer to be the host! The best way to make sure there are Paleo friendly options is to host the shindig! This is what I have done the last few years.
- The meat part is easy.
- I offer both Paleo and non-Paleo sides. Lots of veggie options. My favorites are roasted brussel sprouts with bacon, green beans with slivered almonds, honey glazed carrots or a carrot soufflé, mashed cauliflower in addition to mashed potatoes. Mashed, roasted, baked or candied with maple syrup sweet potatoes. A big green salad using fall veggies.
- One of the toughest is stuffing. There are a couple of recipes out there that might be awesome but for some reason I just don’t think it will be close enough to my memories to bother. I have made a Paleo stuffing that was really more like a hash and it was yummy but there were so many other great sides, I decided to skip it this year. If stuffing is a must have for you then go ahead and search the net for one of the many recipes and go for it. I make a regular stuffing for my non-Paleo guests.
- I offer both turkey juices as well as gravy thickened with arrowroot powder instead of flour or cornstarch. Both are delicious.
- I do not feel the need to eat bread or biscuits but if you do I have a Paleo bread recipe on the blog and I know there are a few almond flour biscuit recipes out there.
- Now for dessert. A Paleo pumpkin pie is super easy. All you need is to use a Paleo friendly sweetener (maple syrup is my personal favorite for the right type of flavor) and an almond or hazelnut meal crust. I also have a yummy apple crisp recipe. I have posted both coconut milk whipped cream and ice cream recipes on the blog that you can use as well.
Tip#2: If you are not the host there are a few things I think you should do.
- First is to be fair to the host and make sure they are aware of your lifestyle. In most cases the host will be a family member or friend and are probably already aware of your dietary choices. But if by chance that is not the case the last thing you want to do is offend the host by not eating the food they so lovingly prepared.
- I have said something like this in the past, “Thank you so much for the invitation to join you for dinner (or party or the holidays, whatever) I am excited to spend this time with you. I am not sure if you are aware that I have some dietary restrictions (or food sensitivities…whatever) and I do not want you to be concerned or upset if there is something you prepare that I don’t partake in. I just want you to understand that while I am sure it is delicious there are just certain foods I can’t eat. Would it be ok with you if I brought something(s) to share with everyone?”
- You will find the host will ask what you can or cannot eat and will likely make sure there is something there for you. Make sure you emphasize you do not expect him/her to make a special meal for you and that you will happily eat what you can and avoid what you can’t. By bringing something to share you ensure there is food you want to eat and will enjoy while remaining gracious. My recommendation would be to bring a side, a dessert or both.
Tip #3; Make sure you get enough sleep
- I know this sounds weird. But sleep deprivation is one of the biggest reasons people go off the dietary cliff. When you are tired your brain craves carbs and sugar like crazy!! You will find you are more likely to just eat what is close and easy, especially things like bread, sweets, potatoes etc.
- Lack of sleep also makes you cranky and provides a “screw it!” frame of mind. You want energy now and a short-term fix seems like a good idea at the time that you end up paying for big time later.
Tip#4: Enjoy but moderate the alcohol.
- I really love a few glasses of wine during my holiday celebration but past experience tells me that too much wine will somehow make my brain rationalize the “apple pie plate” scenario I mentioned above.
- Alcohol while a lovely part of any celebration, when taken too far can also ruin one. Have fun, but be smart.
Tip #5: Keep in mind what the holidays are really about.
- Thanksgiving is about giving thanks! It’s not really about the stuffing, pie and green bean casserole! Food was just the manifestation of that celebration. Being with family and friends and feeling thankful for all we have INCLUDING OUR HEALTH is what this is all about.
- I know that not everyone reading this celebrates Christmas, but I do, so this is my frame of reference. This holiday has nothing at all to do with gifts, or food. It is about celebrating the birth of Christ. (Which was in an manger by way not around the dining room table) Celebrate by being with those you love and taking a break at the end of the year from the rat race. Relax, don’t stress.
- DON’T LET THE FOOD GET IN THE WAY. DON’T LET THE STRESS OF TEMPTING BUT CRAPPY FOOD RUIN YOUR HOLIDAY. USE FOOD TO ENHANCE YOUR NEW PALEO LIFE, SHARE IT WITH OTHERS AND ENJOY THE SEASON.
Until next time,
~ Laura – MGP