Health Hack: How to Eat (Mostly) Healthy for Thanksgiving

I will confess that I am a foodie.  I love trying new foods (and beverages), especially when I am traveling.  But it doesn’t have to be a gourmet restaurant – I’m more of the food truck, street stall, Mom & Pop restaurant, diner type of foodie.  (I’m certainly not opposed to a gourmet dining experience – I’m just too frugal to do it often.)

But, as you can imagine, my recent allergen-elimination diet has had quite an effect on my foodie ways.  

Lately I’ve just been eating to live, getting little enjoyment from the same few bland foods.

However, I was determined to have a delicious Thanksgiving meal.  It was too depressing to think of forgoing the holiday treats.

On the other hand, I didn’t want to be sicker than a dog afterward either.

So, balancing taste and health concerns, here’s the Thanksgiving menu Spousal Unit & I created:

Cornish Game Hens

  • We weren’t having a crowd for dinner, and these are easier to cook than a turkey.  No seasonings – just basted with olive oil and butter and cooked in a rotisserie.
  • We select game hens that are NOT packaged in a flavor solution, as many meats are.  These flavor solutions often contain MSG, a known migraine trigger.
  • allergens: butter (milk/dairy)

Paleo Thanksgiving Stuffing

  • We delete the onion (hard to digest if you have gallbladder issues), mushrooms (prohibited if you have a mold allergy), and pecans (because I don’t like them).  We also substituted apple cider vinegar for the white wine vinegar (more flavor, lower in histamines).
  • Rather than using pork sausage, which often contains MSG, nitrates and/or nitrites (all known migraine triggers), we buy ground pork that is not packaged in a flavor solution, and add spices ourselves.  Melissa Joulwan’s book, Well-Fed, has great recipes for DIY spice and seasoning mixes.
  • We use uncured bacon (cured foods are prohibited if you have a mold allergy) with no nitrites or nitrates (which can trigger migraines).
  • We also buy chicken broth that contains no MSG (a known migraine trigger).
  • allergens: eggs; apples; celery

Paleo Sweet Potato Casserole

  • We delete the pecans/walnuts, because I don’t like them.
  • This dish satisfies the sweet potato craving, but is less sweet than traditional sweet potato casseroles.
  • allergens: eggs; apples; cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice

Maple Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts

  • Spousal Unit hates Brussels sprouts, but will eat them prepared like this.  If you really REALLY hate Brussels sprouts, you could make Coconut-Almond Green Beans instead (if you can tolerate the spices).
  • We use uncured bacon (cured foods are prohibited if you have a mold allergy) with no nitrites or nitrates (which can trigger migraines).
  • allergens: butter (milk/dairy)

Cranberry-Orange Bread

  • We modify the recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook.  Instead of using all-purpose flour (which contains gluten), we substitute 1/2 almond flour and 1/2 coconut flour.  This makes the bread slightly more dense (and crumbly), and gives it a slight coconut flavor.  We also substitute orange extract for the grated orange peel, because it’s easier.
  • allergens: gluten-free; butter (milk/dairy); eggs; orange juice (citrus); almonds (nuts)

[Dessert] Pumpkin Harvest Crunch

  • This year we modified the recipe we traditionally use, substituting 1/2 almond flour and 1/2 coconut flour for the yellow cake mix.  This reduced the amount of sugar and eliminated chemical additives in this dish.
  • Instead of canned Pumpkin Pie Mix, we buy canned pumpkin and add pumpkin pie spices ourselves.  This eliminates chemical additives.
  • This year, instead of homemade whipped cream (milk/dairy), we made Whipped Cream from Coconut Milk (recipe from James L. Gibb’s book, Is Food Making You Sick? The Strictly Low Histamine Diet).  We used coconut sugar to sweeten the whipped cream, and substituted vanilla extract for caramel essence.
  • allergens: gluten-free; eggs; almonds (nuts); cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice


You may or may not be able to drink alcohol.  Alcohol is not recommended on my allergen-elimination diet – particularly fermented beverages such as wine or beer.  However, I really wanted one drink with Thanksgiving dinner.  So I selected Cranberry Margaritas, since tequila is distilled, not fermented.

  • We used agave nectar to sweeten the margaritas.
  • Be sure to select a cranberry juice that is either 100% cranberry juice, or just cranberry concentrate and distilled water – no added sugar, no other ingredients.
  • I had one margarita.  It may have affected my sleep patterns, but it did not cause my allergies to flare.

NOTE: We did not have mashed potatoes or mashed potato substitutes this year, to reduce the dairy load (and because we already had plenty of food).  If you really want to satisfy that craving, try Mashed Cauliflower.  It might sound weird, but it really does satisfy the mashed potato craving.

NOTE: We are not a gravy family.  If you want gravy, try this recipe from nom nom paleo.  We haven’t tried it ourselves, but it sounds easy and tasty. Allergens: gluten-free; butter (milk/dairy); heavy cream (milk/dairy).  See previous information on onions and chicken broth.

BOTTOM LINE: You *can* have a healthy and tasty holiday meal.  Just pay attention to the ingredients and select recipes that your body will tolerate.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a health professional.  All content is for educational or informational purposes only.  Do not eat food to which you are allergic or which will otherwise negatively affect your health.


Weekly Wrap-Up (21-26 November)

In case you missed it (ICYMI), here’s a list of the links that appeared on One Sick Vet’s Facebook page this week:

Monday: My Pillow

Have you seen the commercials on late night TV and wondered about the My Pillow? “Late-night infomercials and other ads claimed that the company’s pillows could cure not only insomnia but also such ailments as sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, and even multiple sclerosis.

Earlier this year, the consumer watchdog Truth in Advertising ( warned My Pillow that it would file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if the unsubstantiated claims continued. My Pillow scrubbed its website of any health claims, but others continued cropping up on its social media sites, reports.”

Tuesday: Dry Winter Skin

Helpful information, except that if you have mold allergies, humidity should be *below* 30% in your home.

Wednesday: End-of-Life Planning

“93-year old psychotherapist Margie Jenkins wants you to plan a great party for the people you love, do what you’ve been putting off, and live “bodaciously.” The only catch? You have to think a lot about death first.”

This Therapist Wants to Make End-of-Life Planning Fun

Thursday: How to Make Sure You Are a Designated Representative In Case Your Loved One is Incapacitated

Heads Up! A power of attorney and a medical power of attorney are no longer sufficient. Read this article for other necessary paperwork to allow you to speak on behalf of a loved one (or vice versa):

Friday: Substance Abuse

“An estimated 20.8 million people in our country are living with a substance use disorder. This is similar to the number of people who have diabetes, and 1.5 times the number of people who have all cancers combined.”

Saturday: Saturday Humor

Weekly Wrap-Up (14-19 November)

In case you missed it (ICYMI), here are the links that were featured on One Sick Vet’s Facebook page this week:

Monday: Don’t fall for the hype – some foods may not be as healthy as you think

“So how do you sort through the nutrition hype of all these packaged eats and treats to find the healthy gems? When checking out nutrition labels, follow these three important rules: 1. Read carefully. 2. Read carefully. 3. Read carefully.

Before loading up your grocery cart, read up on why six of the foods that you think are healthy are far from it, then swap them out with the suggested alternatives.”

Tuesday: Delirium: A surprising side effect of hospital stays

“A recent meta-analysis led by Harvard researchers found that a variety of non-drug interventions — which included making sure patients’ sleep-wake cycles were preserved, that they had their eyeglasses and hearing aids and that were not dehydrated — reduced delirium by 53 percent. These simple fixes had an added benefit: They cut the rate of falls among hospitalized patients by 62 percent.”

Wednesday: 2016 GAO report on health effects of burn pits

“It had been six years since the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last reported on the number of active burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq and their potential harmful health effects on military personnel.

In September, another GAO report found DoD and the VA still have made inadequate efforts to collect data needed to understand burn pit health risks to troops and their families.”

Thursday: 5 simple ways to slash your salt intake

“Adults in the United States consume an average of 3,400 mg of sodium a day, more than double the 1,500 that the American Heart Association recommends. All that excess sodium contributes to high blood pressure, heart attacks and an increased risk of stroke, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease.”

Friday: Something to consider as you make end-of-life plans:

“For veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, even a Medal of Honor may not guarantee a spot in Arlington National Cemetery.

That’s according to a report by Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) staff.”–-Maybe-Not-Your-Final-Resting-Place-.aspx

Saturday Humor: