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How to make Thanksgiving work for your diet

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It’s fall, which means New Year’s resolutions are just around the corner. But whether your goal is to feel healthier or simply to make it through cold season without using all your sick days, the chilly weather, shorter days, and unavoidable Thanksgiving feast can easily derail your diet efforts. Luckily we’ve come pretty far when it comes to dieting. We can indulge while still sticking to our plan and maintaining a healthy weight. All it takes is a little bit of planning.

If you’re trying to watch your caloric and nutrient intake all while eating healthier, the best way to make it through Thanksgiving with the same belt size is to stick to your diet. Whether you’re living la vida low carb with the ketogenic diet, going against the grain with the paleo diet, or vegging out as a vegan, here are some easy, effective ways to stick to your gameplan during Thanksgiving.

Oh, and in case you’re worried about tryptophan making you sleepy (which is mostly a myth—turkey won’t make you sleepier than chicken), you can always supplement your B12 for an extra energy boost.

The paleo diet

The paleo diet

Often referred to as the caveman diet, eating paleo isn’t as complicated as it might seem. While the diet is inspired by our paleolithic ancestors, nobody’s asking you to cook over an open flame. Instead, think of yourself as a hunter-gatherer, which means you’re skipping grains, dairy, and white potatoes while leaning on meat, fruits, and vegetables.

Which makes it a great fit for Thanksgiving.

Strict adherents to paleo eating can opt against conventionally raised turkeys, but simple (and delicious) fixes like roasting your bird in duck fat instead of butter are an easy swap. The diet’s reliance on fruit also means the real star of Thanksgiving can finally take centre stage. Yes, we’re talking about cranberry sauce. As for those mashed potatoes you grew up eating, trade those bland, starchy Russets for a spicy cajun sweet potato mash. Not only will it make your guests’ mouths water, but switching from white to orange means you’re also getting way more bang for your buck when it comes to nutrition. Compared to white potatoes, sweet potatoes have more vitamin C, more fibre, and about 400% of your daily vitamin A requirement.

Worried that paleo means you can’t eat pumpkin pie for dessert? Here’s an easy, delicious recipe to make this Thanksgiving favourite work for you (and not the other way around).

The ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet

Eating keto is all about getting your body to burn stored fat for fuel. To do that, you’re going to have to all-but ditch carbs. That can make Thanksgiving a little tricky, as sometimes rice and breads can literally be hiding in plain sight (so make sure you know what’s in the stuffing). But staying strict is worth the extra effort. Limiting your daily carbohydrate intake (ideally less than 40 grams) puts your body into a state called ketosis, which can potentially help you lose weight while, unlike a lot of diets, leaving you feeling satisfied and full.

If you prefer dark meat, go right for the turkey’s legs; they’re higher in fat. And when perfectly roasted, they’re probably the best part of the bird. As for the stuffing and sides, you won’t miss rice and potatoes once you become best friends with the humble cauliflower. Cauliflowers are loaded with vitamin C and vitamin K, and the keto diet means you don’t have to be bashful loading up on butter in your cauliflower mash recipe. As for the stuffing, cauliflower has you covered there, too. 

When it comes to dessert, embrace almond flour. An almond-flour crust has just eight grams of carbs, compared to 40 grams of carbs in a traditional flour crust. And you know what that means: more pumpkin pie for you!

If you’re worried about being low on potassium, which is a potential side effect of the diet, consider taking a time-activated supplement with dinner.

The vegan diet 

Vegan diet

Veganism is perhaps the strictest diet on this list, but don’t let that scare you. While the thought of ditching butter, not to mention meat, on Thanksgiving can be a daunting task, the days of dry Tofurkey are long gone. These days, eating vegan isn’t about finding the perfect turkey substitute—it’s about embracing the most valuable player of your Thanksgiving feast: the sides. Though if you’re looking for a meatless main, you could do worse than seitan with a side of mushroom gravy.

But to really make your mouth water, look for filling sides that could easily pass as entrées, like Martha Stewart’s asian-inspired carrots and quinoa salad, which uses Japanese soybean-rice paste to make your taste buds tingle.

Vegan cornbread is perhaps the perfect savoury side, and there’s more than one way to swap out the eggs and butter. If it’s a mouthwatering main you’re after, a protein-packed lentil loaf filled with superfoods like kale and omega-rich walnuts can be taken up a notch with a deliciously sweet cranberry glaze.

Still, if the sides are the secret stars of Thanksgiving, then dessert’s the special guest. That’s good news if you’re eating vegan, because subbing in vegan butter or shortening means you can indulge in pumpkin brownies and caramel apple pies.