The Ultimate Guide to a Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. An American traditional filled with gratitude, delicious food, and football. Most of us look forward to enjoying this day off, but those of us who are gluten intolerant (or just have other food sensitivities/intolerance) can be put in a difficult situation. My goal here is to identify what small changes need to be made to create a Gluten Free meal, and to suggest a few recipes that will help you “kick it up a notch” and bring a little more nutrition and health to your celebration!

If you have a family member or friend who’ll be joining you for the holiday, I’d suggest providing your full, exact recipe to them in advance – they will be able to cross reference and know if/what they’ll be able to enjoy. Many people with food intolerance will bring something to snack on with them to events, so don’t feel offended. It’s safer for their health to bring their own food, and it’s less inconvenience to the cook! Now let’s look at how we can easily modify your traditional Thanksgiving basics….

THE TURKEY

Turkeys don’t have any bread or pasta in them (which is what we typically think of when we think gluten free) but not all turkeys are created equal. Some turkeys are injected with flavorings/preservatives containing gluten, so make sure you read the label or contact the company in advance!

Here’s a great response from a popular grocery store brand, Butterball: “When there are dietary concerns, we advise purchasing Butterball Fresh Turkey and Butterball Fresh Breast of Turkey, which are all-natural and contain no added ingredients.  Individual ingredients (water, salt, sodium phosphate to retain natural juices, modified food starch [corn or potato source], dextrose and natural flavors — no allergenic ingredients) are specified on the labels of all Butterball Frozen Turkeys and Butterball frozen line extension products.”

THE GRAVY

You’ll need to make your own gravy from the turkey drippings, using corn starch or gluten free flour as the thickener.

THE STUFFING

The core ingredient in stuffing is dried bread, so this will need some gluten free modifications. Purchase a gluten free mix from a local gluten free bakery (like Apple Gluten Free Kitchen – tastes great)! You’ll also have to check for gluten in the stuffing’s sausage and get gluten free turkey stock (Kitchen Basic Gluten Free Turkey Stock is available at Jewel).

THE CRANBERRY SAUCE

I can’t promote the use of a sugar-filled, preservative-full fruit sauce that comes from a can. But what I can do is suggest a recipe for a homemade raw cranberry sauce below:

In a food processor, add 1 orange (remove peel and seeds), 1 lemon (remove peel and seeds), 4 dates (pitted and chopped). Slowly add 2 cups fresh cranberries and process until coarsely chopped.  If you like cranberry sauce that is less tart, add more dates! 

THE SIDES

The more fresh, colorful veggies the better! A green bean casserole contains soup (not gluten free) and onion toppings – substitute crumbled “funions” for the onion topping, and get a gluten free soup from your local health food store. In the Chicagoland area, Fruitful Yield will have what you need (including a complete green bean casserole mix)! If you’re serving bread/rolls, gluten free options are available at practically any store. But here’s a better recipe for Thanksgiving green beans:

Steam 1 lb. fresh green beans for about 8 minutes (about half-done). Meanwhile, prepare ingredients for your skillet: 1 tbsp. coconut oil, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 1/4 cup hazelnuts (finely chopped), zest of one lemon, 2 tbsp. chopped rosemary. Add those ingredients to the skillet, on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add green beans, coat, and cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve and enjoy! 

Here’s an easy, gluten free recipe for Butternut Squash I use all the time, but goes great with the Thanksgiving theme!

Ingredients: 1 butternut squash, 1 tbsp. coconut oil, 2 tbsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. raw honey

Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place one half face down in a small glass baking dish with 1 inch of water. Microwave on high for about 6 minutes, to slightly soften the squash. Remove and cool. Remove outer skin of squash, and cut into 1 inch cubes. Add coconut oil to a pan, heat on medium. Add squash, cinnamon, honey. Cook until mostly soft and serve. 

Gluten Free Kale and Cranberries, borrowed from one of my favorite recipe sites ElanasPantry.com. Kale is a very healthy vegetable choice – it’s full of essential nutrients and vitamins, and is naturally low in calories.

Ingredients: 2 large bunches of kale, 1/4 c. pine nuts, 1/4 c. dried cranberries, 3 tbsp. olive oil

Steam kale until bright green. Meanwhile, toast pine nuts until golden brown. Allow both to cool, then mix together in a large serving bowl. Add cranberries and olive oil, serve. 

THE PUMPKIN PIE

The pie crust is not gluten free, so you’ll need to make some modifications here. I would suggest using crumbled gluten free graham crackers (or gluten free gingerbread cookies) as a substitute in a pie crust recipe. Or, pre made gluten free pie crusts are available at Whole Foods.

Want to try a new, healthier recipe that isn’t a sugar vehicle?  This one is borrowed from PaleoLifestyleDiet.com:

Filling Ingredients: 1 can pumpkin puree (or 1  3/4  c. fresh home made pumpkin puree), 2 eggs, 1/2 c. raw honey, 1/2 c. coconut milk, 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. fresh grated ginger

Crust Ingredients: 1 c. pecans, 1/2 c. hazelnuts, 4 tbsp. coconut oil, pinch of sea salt

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Process nuts in food processor until flour like consistency. In a bowl, mix nuts, salt, and coconut oil – then spread the crust mixture into a pie pan and bake for 10 minutes. Mix all filling ingredients in a bowl. Fill evenly into the baked crust and bake additional 45 minutes. 

Please remember to read each label carefully, and check for ingredients that are processed in a plant containing wheat. Best wishes for the Thanksgiving Holiday!

Gluten Intolerance & Food Sensitivities in 60 seconds….

Food Sensitivities are not the same as Food Allergies. A Food Allergy is a peanut causing anaphylaxis. A Food Sensitivity (or Intolerance) is about inflammation. It is a slow, internal process that causes global inflammation all over the body.  Inflammation causes discomfort and symptoms. It spreads to other parts of the body and destroys delicate tissues. It causes cancer.

What does this look like? Digestive Issues – people with constipation, diarrhea, and diagnosis of IBS or Crohn’s. Headaches. Fatigue. Inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise.  Any inflammatory condition (arthtiris, aching joints, and so forth). Skin problems like acne, psoriasis, eczema, or rashes.  Allergies (sinus infections, ear infections, sneezing, cough).

What foods would most likely cause this? Well, the “heavy hitters” of Food Sensitivities are Gluten, Dairy, and Sugar. Each of those are actually not a single item, it’s a category. Example: Gluten is actually: Barley, Brewer’s Yeast, Gliadin, Gluten, Hops, Malt, Oat, Rye, Spelt, and/or Wheat. Dairy is: Caesin, Cow’s Milk, Egg Yolk, Egg white, Goat’s Milk, Sheep’s Milk.  And if you’re thinking that you don’t even eat these items, think again. Cow’s milk is ice cream. Sheep’s milk is the primary ingredient in yogurt. Eggs are in practically anything that comes in a wrapper or box.

Why do you need a test to find all of this out? Simply because it would be extremely difficult to choose one item at a time and test it out to see if removing it makes a change. AND, if you can be sensitive/intolerant to Cow’s Milk…. Why couldn’t you be to Broccoli? Or Olive Oil? It’s not just foods that are “bad” for you – it can be anything and everything. The testing I use is the gold standard, and it even includes household chemicals, medications, herbs and supplements.

Fact: Cancer Cannot Survive in an Alkaline Environment.

Within the umbrella of nutrition exists the concept of alkaline versus acidic internal pH. Our body primarily likes an alkaline environment, in fact, we should be about 70 percent alkaline and 30 percent acidic.

As you have heard me say many times , food is our fuel , like gasoline to a car. If we put junk in, our insides will be junk. So this means that if we want our insides to be alkaline we need to eat a diet that is 70 percent alkaline. Alkaline foods are primarily vegetables … Not always though, so it’s a great idea to check out a handy chart like this one :

Acidic foods tend to be processed, pre made, meats, carbs, and so forth. The average American eats a diet that is 70 percent acidic …. And therein lies the problem. Disease cannot survive in an alkaline environment. In fact, disease and bacteria actually love and thrive in acidity. Having health is not about how we feel or our symptoms. Health is about functioning at 100 percent.

In order for our body to function well and prevent the development of disease and cancer, we need to create the  correct environment. we need to provide it the correct fuel to do it’s job and function well.

Do you know what else affects our body’s pH? Stress level! The more stress we have, the more acidity we create. But that’s a whole new topic for another post….

Please share – What are your favorite alkaline based recipes or foods ?

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Juicing Part Two

We’ve already covered WHY you’d want to juice, WHAT equipment you’d need, now let’s talk about WHO, WHEN and HOW….

There are two types of people who will benefit from juicing. The first is someone who has a lot of health problems and would like to improve or even resolve their health problems (especially arthritis, bowel problems, skin problems, and so forth). The other person is someone who already has a good base of health to begin, and wants to stay healthy and prevent disease. I suppose you could also say that maintaining a healthy weight is a “side effect” of consuming a lot of veggies!

Fresh Juice is designed to be consumed immediately after making. When you expose it to light and air, it begins to

loose nutrients. Storage of juice is not the best idea, but if you make a large batch (to take to work that day, for example) you should store it in a metal container, in the refrigerator. It’s best to consume juice between the hours of 7am and 9am when your Stomach is most energetically active! Juicing is easier and better than eating whole vegetables. You can consume a greater amount, a greater variety, AND research has shown that the nutrients are more “bio-available” to the body in juiced form. With that being said, Juice every day, and the more colorful the vegetable the better!

As far as HOW to juice, it’s pretty simple. Don’t put items in the juicer that don’t have liquid – like bananas, avocado, or thick peels. Most vegetables can be put through the juice with their thin skin left on or their green tops (just make sure you wash it). Depending on your juicer’s mouth opening and strength, you may or may not need to chop your vegetables first.

I have posted a few recipes to get you started from our Juicing Workshop below – give these a try and make sure to let me know what you think!

“The Mojito” (Note: Aloe helps heal the inner lining of our digestive track)

2 green apples, 1 wedge of Aloe (remove outside skin and just use the clear jelly part of the plant), 1 handful of                   fresh mint, Splash of water and ice

Carrot Juice (Note: this recipe is great for the skin or an upset stomach)

3 parts apple, 3 parts carrot, 1 part ginger  

“Basically Green”

1 green apple,   ¼ cucumber (skin on), 1 celery stalk,   ¼ lemon (peel on)

Dilute with an equal amount of H2o.

Detox Recipe 2  (Note: use beets sparingly)

1 beet (raw with skin on),    ½ lemon (can leave skin on), 2 carrots, 1 green apple, 1” piece of ginger

Quick V8 Juice (Spinach: the healthiest leaves are colorful and dark!)

3 carrots, 1 tomato, Handful of spinach

How to Juice for Dollars a Day (Part One)

This is a question I get asked often. “Okay, I want to start juicing so I can improve my health and resolve my (fill-in-the-blank) problem… now what do I do?”

The very first step is to learn more about the health benefits of juicing, and why one would want to do this. If you’ve already done this, keep reading… if not, please click here to watch a brief video.

The next step is to choose your equipment. A juicer is not the same as a blender, so you will need to make a purchase. There are a variety of machines and price points out there – from $35 to over $500. The first juicer I ever owned cost about $35. I would never discourage someone from juicing if this is the level of financial commitment you can make at this time…because doing some healthy things are always better than none!  However, I will say that this is one of those situations where you get what you pay for. This juicer (by Cuisinart) was loud, made of cheap plastic, hard to clean, and was broken in about 6 months. If you are going to start juicing, I would recommend planning on spending about $100-200. At this price point, you will look at a Jack Lalanne, Omega, or Breville, which are available at major stores and online. I have had a positive experience with my Jack Lalanne Power Express, and in fact, I would suggest this over a Breville which I have used as well. Comparably, I found the Jack Lalanne to be sturdier and more powerful. Around the $500 price point, you will encounter the holy grail of juicers – the Vitamix. It is so powerful that it leaves no leftover pulp behind. It even comes with a cookbook and a 7 year warranty! I have yet to meet a person (including myself) that has not fallen in love with this piece of kitchen equipment. 

Now, we need to explore the recipes. Start with simple recipes that have minimal ingredients! Keep your focus on vegetable recipes (as opposed to fruit) because that is where the health benefits are!

Please read Part 2 of this article next week as we continue to explore the beginning stage of becoming a healthy juicer…. And don’t forget to leave a comment or question!