Natural Health and Wellness for the Whole Family

Healthy Thanksgiving: Gluten-free, Dairy-free Style

By Sarah Axtell, ND October 29, 2013

Thanksgiving is approaching, and I have had many people ask, “How do I maintain my (gluten-free-), (anti-inflammatory-), (dairy-free-, etc) diet over the holidays?” You do not have to sabotage your diet and your gains in health during Thanksgiving. Here are some basics for eating well during the holidays (and thus avoiding the 3-day “food hangover”).

Gluten-Free Tips

  • Gravy is typically made with wheat flour and may contain soy sauce, which also contains wheat. I recommend thickening your gravy with arrowroot powder.
  • Stuffing is not only filled with gluten, but it is also high in empty carbs, thus spiking your blood sugar and promoting fat storage. Opt for wild rice stuffing or quinoa stuffing.
  • For green bean casserole toppings other than fried onions, consider nuts! Slivered almonds, walnuts or pecans would all add delicious crunch and added protein and anti-inflammatory essential fats.
  • For a delicious and new twist to an old favorite, try using gluten-free ginger snaps as a crust for pumpkin pie. I use Trader Joe’s GF Ginger Snaps. Simply combine one bag of ginger snaps plus 1/3 cup melted butter in a food processor. Press into a pie pan and voila, you have one pie crust.

Dairy-Free Tips

  • If a recipe calls for a cup of cream, substitute 1 can coconut milk.
  • For whipped cream on top of your gluten-free pie, try coconut whipped cream. You must use the full-fat coconut milk and it is necessary to chill it in the fridge before whipping it. See here for recipe.
  • Mashed potatoes are typically loaded with cheese and milk.  Sub nutritional yeast (found in bulk section of health food store) for cheese and almond or coconut milk for dairy milk. See below for a more nutrient dense version of mashed potatoes using cauliflower.

Sugar-free Tips

  • Refined sugar alternatives include maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, dates and stevia. Whenever a recipe calls for plain old cane sugar, I typically use maple syrup or honey. If a recipe calls for brown sugar, coconut sugar is a tasty but lower glycemic alternative.


Here are some of the recipes on my menu this year.

Green Beans with Citrus-Sesame Sauce

Mashed Cauliflower

Brussel Sprouts with Hazelnuts, Sunflower Seeds and Dates

Spiced Kissed Pumpkin Pie with Gluten Free Ginger Snap Crust

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes Topped with Spiced Nuts

Chickpea and Squash Casserole (A real crowd-pleaser and full of anti-inflammatory spices!)

Shredded Beets– simply shred beets and saute on the stove top with coconut oil, butter or olive oil. Cook for 15 minutes on low heat. Season with salt and pepper and garlic.

As a take-home message, be sure your plate is full of COLOR! If your plate consists solely of dull colors such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey with gravy, and dinner rolls, that is a sign that your meal is heavy in starch (which will contribute to a sluggish metabolism, lower energy, and weight loss resistance). However, if your plate is full of deep pigments such as oranges, reds, greens and yellows that means you are truly fueling your body with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

For tips on staying well and combating stress during the holidays, see this previous post. Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

Sign up for our newsletter: