For many people Thanksgiving dinner is the single biggest family feast of the year. It represents a time of gathering together, rebuilding bonds of love and friendship, sharing thoughts and feelings of gratitude for blessings received, and the centerpiece is always the meal. Food is an important element in our lives. It can garner memories from childhood that warm us and make us feel nostalgic. Many who cook use their culinary creations as a meaningful show of love and affection for those the food has been prepared for. And when we consume dishes that have been carefully prepared to be especially delicious it makes us feel loved. It is no wonder, then, that we associate so much emotional connection with the Thanksgiving feast!
That being said, however, the traditional Thanksgiving fare most of us are accustomed to eating on this day is usually a far cry from “health food”. Many dishes are heavily prepared with unhealthy fats and saturated with sugars of every kind. The turkey is probably the healthiest part of the meal, since it is essentially pure protein and in that sense, “real” food, without a lot of added ingredients (if we aren’t counting the grain fed diet, antibiotics, and hormones most are raised on). Most of the side dishes, from the mashed potatoes loaded with real butter and heavy cream, to the stuffing…normally white bread cubes with lots of fat and little nutritional value…to the white-flour, milk, and butter dinner rolls, to the candied yams, and normally ending with pies (baked in white flour and hydrogenated vegetable oil shortening – read trans fats – crusts) topped with piles of whipped cream, meringue, or ice cream. I read recently that the typical Thanksgiving dinner for an average adult runs right around 3,500 calories! OUCH!
Sooo…I’d like to challenge you this year! I know it can be a daunting task to want to alter long-held tradition. One which will inevitably be met with substantial resistance from family members. So, rather than try to talk you into doing anything too overly difficult which could result in conflict and contention, I have a more subtle suggestion…try taking baby steps. Especially if you are relatively new to the high-raw foods lifestyle, and particularly if you are the only family member following such a path. Here are some practical application things you can do to make your holiday meal HEALTHIER while still maintaining peace and harmony in your home, all the while offering the same delicious and satisfying, comfort foods your family is used to for this most important meal:
1. Substitute unhealthy sugars, such as white sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup with healthier sweeteners such as stevia, pure maple syrup, dehydrated cane juice sugar, agave nectar, molasses, etc.
2. Substitute unhealthy fats, such as margarine, shortening, and most refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils with healthier fats such as coconut oil (especially for cooking), cold pressed olive oil (mostly for drizzling over warm or cold foods and in dressings but not for cooking), and real butter.
3. Try making pie crusts out of ground nuts and dried fruits such as dates or use coconut flour instead of the traditional refined white wheat flour.
4. Stuffing is delicious using ground almonds or pecans to give substance and body rather than using the traditional bread cubes.
5. If you are going to make rolls, try using whole grains rather than refined white flour. Better yet, go for some of the gluten-free grains such as rice or kamut. Spelt is a great alternative to regular wheat (they are cousins) with a higher protein profile and can be better tolerated by those who have gluten or wheat sensitivities. Coconut flour is an amazing and health-promoting alternative to regular flour. It is loaded with fiber and lots of great, healthy benefits! Just be sure to adjust your recipe accordingly because coconut flour is very dense and a little goes a l-o-n-g way! You can order it (along with fabulous coconut oil and other coconut products) online at Tropical Traditions
6. Make your own cranberry sauce from scratch using natural, healthy sweeteners instead of purchasing the canned version which is full of high fructose corn syrup.
7. And last but certainly not least…add more raw side dishes to fill out the meal with lots of delicious, nutritious selections that will add healthy options and introduce your family and friends to the wonderful variety of decadent foods available in raw form! There are SO MANY amazing dishes that can be prepared from healthy, whole foods and the holidays present a great opportunity to share these foods with your loved ones! Try making a raw dessert to go along side the other desserts you prepare, as a healthy alternative to the more calorie-dense versions.
Remember that making improvements in your health and wellness can come one baby step at a time and it doesn’t need to be a drastic or drama-filled experience. In this way, you can feel good about the foods you are offering your friends and family while preserving the essence of the traditional Thanksgiving meal.
Now THAT is something to be thankful for!
Blessings to you at this special time of year.