When it comes to the holidays, it can be much more difficult to stick to your Paleo Diet. But – fortunately – there are many ways to “Paleo-fy” your favorite holiday meals. Today, I will be covering how you can transform a traditional Christmas dinner – into a much healthier one. Forget the empty calories of stuffing, rolls and pumpkin pie. Instead, say hello to some delicious sweet potatoes, free-range organic turkey and a large helping of brain-friendly vegetables! While your loved ones may be passed out on the couch after dinner, you will be energized, alert – and maybe even ready to run a 5K. So without further ado, here is my guide on how to have the best Paleo Christmas dinner.
Forget the Rolls, Bread, Mashed Potatoes and Stuffing
As I have covered many times on The Paleo Diet, gluten and pseudograins are not ideal for your body (or brain).1,2,3 And as Dr. Cordain has written, white potatoes are not the healthiest choice for you, either.4 The first difference between a healthy, Paleo Christmas dinner and the more gluttonous traditional version? Sweeping away all the extra, empty calories! As tough as it may be, say goodbye to the huge doses of stuffing, bread, mashed potatoes and rolls. But just because you might be skipping these – does not mean you necessarily have to forget about all forms of carbohydrates.
Replace Them with Sweet Potatoes and Mashed Cauliflower
Sweet potatoes are much different than the traditional white potato, and make a great substitute for holiday meals. And if you are missing the mashed potatoes – try mashing up some cauliflower instead.5 Once you add some grass-fed butter, herbs, spices and perhaps even some other vegetables, to this mashed mix, you will hardly notice the difference! Not only are you avoiding the numerous problems with white potatoes – you are getting a much bigger dose of nutrients than you normally would, at a traditional holiday meal.6,7,8,9,10,11
Keep the Turkey, But Make Sure It Is Properly Sourced
The best news about a Paleo holiday dinner? You can still indulge in the turkey! That’s right, keep the bird on the table. However, it is important to make sure you get a free-range, organic turkey. Though the cost may be slightly more, the benefits of properly sourced meat are definitely worth it.12,13,14,15 For example, an organic, free-range turkey has absolutely zero of the hormones or antibiotics, which are usually found in most meat.
The most commonly asked question I get about buying this premium type of bird is ‘do I really need to spend this much more on a turkey?’. While there is little doubt that a high quality turkey may cost more upfront – most people have no problem paying the extra cost, once they realize exactly what they are avoiding.16,17,18,19
For example, a regular turkey is usually fed a diet which consists mostly of grain and corn. This means they are usually also consuming very large amounts of pesticides – as well as GMOs. These unhealthy elements can end up making their way into your body, as a result. 99% of the time, grain-fed meat is also lower in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – as well as being much, much higher in omega-6.20,21 As I have covered previously, this is far from ideal.22
Make It More Colorful By Adding Vegetables and Fruits
The traditional Christmas dinner has the same old, regular line-up of vegetables – but it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. Try making a super-nutritious salad, filled with cancer-preventing kale, spinach and broccoli.23,24,25,26 Or try some other nutritious sides, like yucca root, butternut squash soup or a Swiss chard salad. Let your imagination run wild here, and avoid the excess sugar and carb loads, which plague nearly every holiday meal.
Increase the Fat Content
Traditional holiday meals are also plagued with very low amounts of heart (and brain) healthy fats. Try making your big meal more Paleo, by adding healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocados. Numerous scientific studies tout the myriad of health benefits shown, when consuming these fats.27,28,29,30,31,32 Dig in!
What about Dessert?
While it is very tempting to indulge in pumpkin pie or some other form of sweets after the big meal, it does not make sense, if you truly wish to stay healthy. I have written on the ills of sugar numerous times, and it is a much better idea to skip dessert, altogether.33,34 Plan a healthy activity for after dinner, like a short hike or run, that way you have something to look forward to. If you absolutely must indulge, pick a very high quality, organic dark chocolate. And keep your portion small!
Keep It Fun!
Ultimately, holiday meals are about being together with your loved ones. While consuming lots of carbohydrates can produce serotonin (a neurotransmitter closely related to your mood) – this is artificial.35,36,37,38 Find gratitude and happiness in your own life, and keep your holidays fun – not stressful! Remember to avoid caffeine as well (especially in excess), as it can make you more anxious and tense – which is the last thing you want during the stress-filled holidays.39,40
As you can see, you may have to give up some of your favorite holiday foods, but the health benefits of leaving these foods out, are definitely much better in the long run. In closing, I hope this guide has provided you with a plethora of good ideas, about having a much healthier Paleo meal, this holiday season. I wish you, and your loved ones, the best!
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