How to Have an Anti-Inflammatory Thanksgiving


We’re exactly one week away from Thanksgiving, which means you may be thinking about what you’re going to cook for the big feast.

Traditional Thanksgiving food is notorious for being full of bad fats, sugar, and acid – the exact equation for inflammation.

“But,” you say, “I love Thanksgiving food, and I don’t want to give up my favorites and traditions!”

Listen, I get it.

This is a holiday that’s all about indulging, and you should allow yourself a few treats throughout the day. But many Turkey Day classics such as green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and more could be nutritious as well as delicious, if they weren’t piled high with acidic ingredients that cause inflammation and fatigue.

It’s about picking and choosing where you’re going to indulge while otherwise making smart choices.

After all, do you want to end the day feeling bloated, tired, nauseated, and guilty over what you ate? Or would you rather feel energized, satisfied, and ready to do some bargain shopping or tree decorating?

Here are 9 of the classic Thanksgiving foods that cause inflammation, as well as my best alternatives that will leave you feeling great.

Inflammatory Classic #1: Turkey

Although it’s commonly thought of as a lean protein, I’m here to tell you that turkey may be harming your health. Like all poultry, turkey is among the highest sources of omega-6 pro-inflammatory fats. Americans eat way too much of these fats as it is – on average, 20 times too many! This is why we desperately need anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Anti-Inflammatory Alternative: 3 Choices

I’ve got 3 different options for the inflammatory star of the Thanksgiving show…

The most popular turkey alternative is vegetarian and vegan-friendly tofurky. While soy-based products are not my favorite option, the holidays are all about making better choices where you can. Unfermented tofu is a better option and a great source of protein — don’t be afraid to give it a try! Not one I will be eating, but wanted to throw it out there for you just in case.

The second option is to stick with the Thanksgiving tradition, but make the turkey the side show, not the main event. This means the turkey should make up a small portion of your plate, with the rest loaded with dark, green leafy and cruciferous vegetables. Think moderation, not deprivation!

And the third option is my personal favorite. Skip the turkey altogether! Think of all of the time and hassle it will save you! Not having turkey will free up your plate for all of the tasty sides you want to enjoy. The sides are ALWAYS the best, and we have some good ones!

Inflammatory Classic #2: Traditional Gravy

Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to gravy. Its ingredients, which include chicken broth, flour, butter, and turkey giblets are high in sodium (the bad salt) and highly inflammatory.

Anti-Inflammatory Alternative: Boneless Broth Vegan Gravy

By creating a multipurpose, alkaline, anti-inflammatory broth, you can replace fatty, acidic foods with healthy alternatives. Make your own Boneless Broth from my recipe more seasonal by adding pepper, sage, onion powder, garlic, and oregano.

From there, you can use it in your turkey-free gravy by combining it with coconut oil, gluten-free flour, onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mmmmm….

Inflammatory Classic #3: Cornbread and Rolls

Full of butter, gluten, and refined sugars, these classics may be more detrimental than you realize. Many people believe that the tryptophan in turkey makes them tired on Thanksgiving, but I would argue it’s the sugar in all of the bread and gluten, along with over-eating in general.

Anti-Inflammatory Alternative: Gluten Free Bread

Bake a gluten-free bread using almond flour to replace traditional flour for an alkaline indulgence that can replace cornbread or rolls, be added to stuffing and even crumbled into gravy.

Inflammatory Classic #4: Stuffing

The unfortunate thing about stuffing or dressing is that it has all the makings of a good-for-you side dish that’s taken down with lots of gluten and a few bad choices. But that also means it doesn’t take much to turn stuffing around into an anti-inflammatory side super star.

Anti-Inflammatory Alternative: Gluten-Free Stuffing

Simply replace the bread or cornbread with gluten-free bread or Ezekiel bread in your stuffing, swap butter with coconut oil or grass-fed butter at least, and go heavy on the stuffing veggies: celery, onions, and lots of sage and other herbs. Another option would be to replace the bread altogether with quinoa.

Inflammatory Classic #5: Sweet Potato Casserole

Here’s another case where nutritious foods like sweet potatoes are paired with fattening, bloating, inflammatory foods like butter, cream, and marshmallows. You can still enjoy this sweet and creamy side dish without all of that.

Anti-Inflammatory Alternative: Fresh Sweet Potatoes or Pumpkin
By simply switching some ingredients, you can create culinary masterpieces without all the acidity and inflammation-causing foods. Use fresh pumpkin or sweet potato and almond milk for a creamy, plant-based version. Don’t get rid of this side dish completely; just skip the marshmallows!

Inflammatory Classic #6: Mashed Potatoes

If you prefer white mashed potatoes at your Thanksgiving table, you’re getting far fewer nutrients than sweet potatoes, but you’re still getting loads of butter, cream, and table salt.

Anti-Inflammatory Alternative: Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”

Here’s the recipe for my delicious, alkaline alternative to mashed potatoes, Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes.

Inflammatory Classic #7: Green Bean Casserole

This dish may be based around a vegetable, but it’s stuffed with bad fats and unhealthy additives, like monoglycerides and diglycerides, that come hidden in common processed foods like breadcrumbs and cream of mushroom soup (yuck).

Anti-Inflammatory Alternative: Clean and Green Sides

Instead of a baked green bean casserole, opt instead for green beans mixed with onion, celery and a little olive oil. Or try my tasty Flash Sautéed Garlic Green Beans recipe.

Inflammatory Classic #8: Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving cranberry sauce is both acidic and notorious for containing copious amounts of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Although cranberries contain antioxidants, you won’t get the benefit when you’re mostly eating inflammatory sugar.

Anti-Inflammatory Alternative: Fig and Pomegranate Sauce

Replace sugary cranberry sauce with a homemade fig and pomegranate sauce. Figs are loaded with vitamins and pomegranates are a great source of antioxidants. Puree figs and combine them with melted coconut oil and pomegranate seeds and you’ve got a great alkaline alternative to canned cranberry corn syrup.

Inflammatory Classic #9: Pumpkin Pie

I doubt I have to tell you why pumpkin pie is inflammatory. It’s heaped with sugar, usually involves shortening in the pie crust, which is an inflammatory trans fat, eggs, which are omega-6 inflammatory fats, and evaporated milk, which is acidic.

Anti-Inflammatory Alternative: Raw Pumpkin Pie!

Here’s one of our family’s favorite Thanksgiving recipes to enjoy this holiday season….


Ingredients [Serves 6-8]

1 cup of raw almonds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup of dates or Turkish apricots
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup pecans (ideally soaked overnight)
1 1/4 cup, or 12 oz. of organic pumpkin puree (you can use fresh pumpkin, but canned puree is MUCH easier and faster)
6 dates
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. sea salt (Celtic Grey, Himalayan, or Redmond Real Salt)
1 tsp. of vanilla (or 4 drops Medicine Flower Vanilla)


For Pumpkin Pie Crust: Blend pie crust ingredients in a food processor until you can see the oils coming out of the mixture and it is sticking together (at least a minute or so). Then place mixture in a 9” tart mold or pie pan, and mold against the sides first, then floor of the mold so that it REALLY sticks.

For the Pie Filling: In a blender, blend all ingredients. Then add mixture to fill in the pie crust. Sprinkle cinnamon on top, and place in refrigerator to cool and mold.

Place the beans and tomatoes in a large bowl, add the dressing, and toss well.

Enjoy your delicious anti-inflammatory Thanksgiving!

And don’t forget to take your anti-inflammatory supplements to balance out any indulging you do with a glass of wine or a slice or turkey.

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Dr. Daryl

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