Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Nov

Thanksgiving Dinner: Vote for Your Plan of Attack

It’s time for the annual procession of all things carb: potatoes, rolls, cranberry molds, all manner of desserts. Thanksgiving, however, needn’t be a salivating stare down with the spuds. The subject du jour: how you plan to handle the holiday. Primal types seem to fall into two camps when it comes to these occasions. Some say every day is a Primal day, and they go about preparing their Thanksgiving feast the way they do every other meal. If they’re visiting for the holiday, they selectively forage and might even bring a Primal dish of their own (to share or relish alone). Others take a looser approach, balancing the value of family traditions with their Primal interests to forge a reasonable compromise for the day. There’s plenty of room under the Primal tent for both good, old-fashioned moderation and rock solid resoluteness, I’d say. Let’s take a closer look.

The “Taking 20” Approach

Yes, there’s the 80/20 Principle to consider here, and it plays out a little differently for everyone. Some folks stay pretty much fully Primal throughout the year but make their exceptions on special occasions like holidays and other celebrations. The thinking here is, “It’s only one day. I’ll have my stuffing and then go back to normal life the next day. No biggie.” Although I’m not advocating inhaling the Thanksgiving pie all by yourself, I understand the sense of making a moderate concession for the holiday. Every once in a while I’ll take that approach myself. Chalk it up to convenience or nostalgia, but Thanksgiving does only come once a year. Your family may have very meaningful traditions that you enjoy participating in, or you might just reserve a special place in your heart/stomach for a certain annual dish. Some folks will even consider the day a strategic carb-refeeding opportunity. My suggestion is to gauge where you’re at in your Primal journey. Beginners or those interested in weight loss might have a harder time traversing the route of moderation. After all, you don’t want a momentary compromise to derail your progress. However, if you feel you can enjoy it and then return to your Primal track the next day none the worse for the wear, go ahead and partake.

The “Stickin’ to Your Guns” Approach

Of all the days in the year, this can be the most difficult to navigate. Particularly if you’re spending the day with family or cooking with a non-Primal partner, your commitment can get some blowback even if it’s “tolerated” the rest of the year. Rest assured: you’re not a stick in the mud or a killjoy. It’s entirely your right to eat the way you want to on Thanksgiving just like it is every other day. You might choose to explain your reasoning (once again), or you might just try to lay low and avoid the subject for the day. (Comments/anecdotes, anyone?) In the interest of keeping peace and harmony, however, there are plenty of ways to politely turn down the un-Primal fare on the table.

The truth is, there are plenty of ways to make your holiday fully Primal – or any degree between. Whether you’re hosting or visiting, I invite you to look back at our most popular Thanksgiving recipes. They’ll truly an indulgent way to stay on track this holiday, and they’re proof once again that eating Primal doesn’t mean sacrificing taste.

Make It a Primal Thanksgiving!

Turkey Time: Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers

Heritage Turkey and Mashed Parsnips

Primal Pies: Fill ‘er Up

Primal Holiday Desserts

Share your delicacies and you might even win over some converts!

However you choose to approach the holiday this week, know that it’s ultimately about owning your choice. Gorging with the delusion that a carb binge won’t have any repercussions isn’t exactly taking responsibility, but neither is seething at the holiday spread while swearing off a mere shadow of a carbohydrate.

The decision itself doesn’t matter as much as the spirit and knowledge behind it. Make your own, fully informed, entirely unapologetic choice and relish the holiday for all its worth!

Now it’s your turn. Good readers, what say you? Will you be invoking the Primal compromise or planning a fully Primal holiday? Vote and comment below.

What's Your Approach to Thanksgiving?

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. It must be nice to be able to *choose*.

    No, it’s not that I’m doing it wrong the rest of the year. I’m DIABETIC. I also have genetic intolerance to gluten and I’m allergic to nightshades.

    My strategy this year is to completely avoid all food-based celebrations. I can’t quite summon up the courage to sit and smell everyone else’s wonderful food that I can’t/won’t eat.

    It’s NOT good enough to sit there with a plate of naked turkey while everyone else moans with satisfaction about how wonderful the stuffing is, and how perfect the gravy is.

    I’m sad that I’m reading these comments looking for helpful strategies (of which there are some, thank you to those folks), and reading some real judgmental junk.

    LaughSing wrote on November 23rd, 2010
    • LaughSing,
      I am mourning the loss of so many foods this year, even though I have made it through several years of holidays without. I too have diabetes(insulin deficient and managing without meds or insulin-maybe a misdx L.A.D.A.) and need to be GF and have a dairy allergy as well as numerous other food allergies(including many of the nightshades). So, I’m sending some support out to you :)

      I’m hosting T-giving this year and everything on the table will be VLC or similar version of it for me-turkey, mashed califlower “faux”tatoes with “butter”, cranberry sauce with stevia and erythritol, steamed green beans. I’ve been able to tolerate some goat’s milk lately so made baked custards with stevia. Will have them separately-4 hrs. after my meal. I have brought my own meal in a container to many holiday dinners. Not fun but better than high blood sugar, etc. I am also opting out of some celebrations that center around food this year.

      I easily feel as if I have “no choice” but we have to remind ourselves that we could be chosing the ADA way and high or poorly managed blood sugars. Have to remind ourselves to be thankful that we know about low-carb as many do not, and for all the benefit that we get from it. At times like these we have to nuture and take care of ourselves extra good in other ways to fill that void that we would like to with food. I hope that doesn’t sound preachy. I’m there with you in this little corner of the world 😉 You’re not alone.

      Kat wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  2. A piece of pie, little bit sweet potatoes, maaaaybe some gluten free gravy, %85 chocolate, HELLA turkey!
    The next day; turkey and eggs, turkey sandwhich on spinach bread…low carb…
    The day after that; IF

    Birdie wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  3. I like to stick to my guns and I will form my Thanksgiving plans ;however, my brother had an early get together with the family and fixed the traditional holiday favorites. I have bad reactions to corn and all be it very difficult to find stuff without corn, my brother made everything fresh and made sure nothing contained any corn derivatives. I am not a proponent of grains by far, yet I would strongly advise those anyone who does not stick to his or her guns to strictly avoid corn and its derivatives.
    Happy Thanksgiving y’all

    Kenneth wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  4. We don’t have Thanksgiving in Germany, but with Christmas around the corner I take the 20%.
    Waffles with Vanilla cream. They are only available on the christmas market and I’m planning to eat myself silly on them.
    For the rest of the day I’m primal to the point.
    Glad I can choose.

    San wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  5. I’m still trying to migrate from the standard American diet to a primal diet. Since Thanksgiving will be at my house with just my immediate family this year, I’m going to try and be smart about it. Oh I’ll have some butter laden mashed potatoes, but everything will be gluten free, and my focus will definitely be on the turkey and steamed veggies. No dinner rolls, white flour gravy, or sugary pies will be served.

    Jon wrote on November 23rd, 2010
    • That sound wonderful! It can be tough getting away from the SAD to a primal one but it is worth it. Stick to your guns and happy holidays.

      primal tree top wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  6. I’m still in weight loss mode and I plan on sticking to strict primal but if, I falter it will most likely be for the pumkin pie icecream that my cousin makes every year. Last year for the work party I brought a bunch of fruit that was a big hit. I usually make a plate of food eat the primal stuff reload it and tell people I am saving it for later and then I give it to someone who doesn’t have thanksgiving dinner. This way it is never wassted and someone who really needed it will enjoy it.
    I also really watch my carbs comming up to the holidays and new year. However, it is only once or twice a year that falling of the primal diet is even a problem. I really enjoy this lifestyle, food, and the weight loss I’ve lost 30 pounds thus far!!! I like how I feel more that the carbs.

    primal tree top wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  7. Garbanzo bean flour makes an excellent gravy and doesn’t take that long to thicken. To replace the rolls we make con bread. lol no that wasn’t a misspelling I use coconut flour, eggs, coconut oil and or butter with a little backing soda and the bread comes out similar to corn bread. It has that mealy texture of corn bread, not to mention all the nutritional benefits of coconut flour.

    Kenneth wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  8. Let’s see. A two hour urban hike before the day starts for most. A large portion of salad. A large portion of steamed greens with olive oil, balsamic vineger, and grated romano. A portion of beets. All the turkey and prime rib I can eat. A small yam slathered in butter and topped with cinnamon. A bowl of blueberries and cream. Red wine. Yeah, I think I can stick to my guns, no problem at all.

    drdavidflynn wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  9. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and it only comes once a year. So, I’m going to enjoy myself and eat/drink whatever I want. There’s lots of time afterward to get back on the Primal wagon.

    Bob wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  10. Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to remain Primal. Meat and veggies….Greek yogurt with berries for desert. Easy. It’s birthday parties and baby showers, etc. that are tough for me because they revolve around cake, not turkey. I hold my own at those events though – a lifetime of health will taste MUCH better than 5 minutes of cake.

    Jennifer wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  11. 80/20 rule baby!

    The Primal Palette wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  12. Happy Thanksgiving to you Americans. In Canada Thanksgiving is well past (today it is -25C and very snowy). I had my Thanksgiving dinner and stuck to my Primal guns while hosting my extended family–which was easy to do when seeing that my sisters are now 40 or 50lb heavier than I am. One sister called me later to ask about Primal eating! Grok on!

    Joanne wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  13. This is my first Primal Thanksgiving, and my first without ANY of my family, which makes it easy in the food category, but a bit lonely otherwise. HOWEVER, I am working on thanksgiving day, but since my “job” is to play the piano while the members of a yacht club eat and enjoy conversation, I have A LOT to be grateful for. Getting lost in my piano playing for 4 hours is the most primal thing I do, and I LOVE IT. Then, when I’m done, I will grab a plate, and scour the buffet for meat and veggies! Sticking to my (more-defined) guns!

    If I do splurge, (a few tastes of yumminess here and there) I’ll make sure I ENJOY IT.

    I’ll be thinking of all of you while I a play some Charlie Brown..(too bad “peanuts” are legumes)

    Happy Thanksgiving, Grokstars!

    Danielle wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  14. Well, I will be bringing baked sweet potatoes mashed with roasted garlic. And will have veggies and turkey. Never really cared for the Thanksgiving menu anyway. It’s the most boring meal I eat all year.

    Betterways wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  15. I believe that there must have been times (of abundance) when Grok would find a huge selection of food, and that Grok would try these foods that were not part of his everyday diet.
    This is how Grok learned if a food was good or should be avoided.

    Jim wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  16. We’re havin MEATLOAF…WOO HOO!!!!

    Wendy wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  17. I will stick with the primal plan for Thanksgiving. Dinner is at my home so I just won’t make any of the typical high carb stuff. We are having prime rib instead of turkey. What I like about lo-carb is when everyone else is groaning about their overstuffed bellies, I feel just fine.

    The guests may bring something sweet made with gluten – can’t eat that because of gluten sensitivity.

    I find it more difficult to stay away from the carbs when my gluten free support group has potlucks. I will take a few bites then.

    Anne wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  18. The thought of another year of my family’s carb, sugar & beer fest was so unappealing, I simply invited my Paleo pals over for a truly wonderful meal minus the carbs & sugar. We’ll probably splurge on a beer or some wine with dinner. Dinner will be pastured turkey, roasted fall veggies and some sort of mashed veg such as parsnips or cauliflower. I’ve learned that my diet is MY choice.

    Sandra wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  19. I’d like to propose a middle road. I can say that I will be eating a few things that aren’t perfectly paleo, like mashed potatoes. (Even those are going to lightened up a bit with mixing some roasted winter squash in with them.) But I will be making most of the fixings primal. Primal stuffing, turkey, lots of veggies and for the Pièce de résistance a pumpkin flan with whip cream that I have created. It is so good that I don’t even miss the pie part. I have it on my blog at
    Happy Thanksgiving all!

    Dana Zia wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  20. My dinner isn’t too bad: Turkey w/ gravy, sweet potatoes (baked and unsweetened), and green beans.

    However, I’m totally okay with the un-Grokish beer I’ll drink before dinner and the slice of pumpkin pie I’ll have for dessert!

    Rachel wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  21. thanksgiving has always been my favorite meal of the year and i make an exception every year for this meal. so i just won’t think about eating the drugged up turkey (antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, etc), potatoes (they will be organic because i’m making them), bread stuffing, pumpkin pie, pecan pie (my fave, and whatever else they have.

    hyesun wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  22. Stickin to my guns. It’s Christmas and New Years that get tricky… three mixers a week, sweets everywhere you turn for 6 weeks, and not enough time to work out. Thanksgiving is almost a vacation in comparison…

    Shauna wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  23. I am pre-diabetic and have to make some adjustments, too. I am contributing an appetizer, veg dish (brussel sprouts seem to be popular here!)and a dessert – pumpkin cheesecake w/almond crust. Yup, had to use some artificial sweetener (shhhh!) I guess that is my 20!I know I can at least eat what I brought and plenty of turkey. Happy Thanksgiving Mark – and to everyone contributing here – great stories.

    Judi O wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  24. Let’s see my menu is as thus:
    -Goose (with yummy goose fat)
    -soaked cornmeal dressing with some goose fat (soaked in kefir to deal with anti-nutrients in the corn)
    -roasted veggies (in goose fat)
    -deviled pasture raised eggs
    -homemade cranberry sauce (with fresh stevia as a sweetener and thickened with diatomaceous earth instead of flour/starch)
    -goose gibblet and fat gravy with diatomaceous earth as a thickener instead of flour
    -and if the liver looks good… i may make some patte afterwards with some of the fat
    – Red wine to pair with Goose
    – homemade raw cheese-cheese cake with soaked almond bottom

    so while this sounds heavy on the non meats…. it is how much of each you put on your plate that matters. I pile the meat and proteins first (allows less room for other things)… then grab some of the veggies and dressing. also if you make smaller amounts of the sides you influence others to eat more of the meat because there is less of the sides to go around. heheheheh….

    I am sticking to my guns…. i have sourced all my foods, i am making certain they are eaten in the healthiest of ways by removing anti-nutrients and adding fats to high carb/sugar dishes and replacing unnecessary ingredients with healthy ones. I even offer a pre dinner digestive….homemade beet kvass.

    Elizabeth wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  25. I’ve been gluten-free for several years, so my and my partner’s well meaning families were all excited to whip up gluten-free stuffing, bread, pie, and even waffles for me this Thanksgiving. I’m planning to stick to my guns though, at least as far as grains and sugar are concerned.

    I emailed everyone coming to dinner a couple of weeks ago to explain that I’ve been trying to control my blood sugar / insulin levels and that as much as I appreciate everyone’s offers of gluten-free dishes, I will be sticking to turkey and veggies this year. Complete conviction mixed with a healthy dose of humor seems to have done the trick. As far as I can tell, no one has taken offense and I’m anticipating things will go smoothly on Thursday.

    Of course, it probably helps that I’m already known as the girl with the weird food needs due to many years of veganism and the more recent gluten issues…

    Kelly wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  26. so happy to NOT be cooking a bunch of stuff that i can’t eat anyhow without getting sick! 1st time in like 20+ years! just gonna graze at a friend’s house

    DThalman wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  27. I love to eat primal, but life is too short to miss out on Mom’s baking now and then!

    Nathan wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  28. I read something great on the forums I while back that has become my mantra: You can cheat, but “Don’t cheat with wheat.”

    September wrote on November 24th, 2010
    • Ah @September. That is more or less what works for me. I voted primal all the way, but I was counting the mashed potatoes with butter that I’m bringing as primal…oops or not. Guess wine puts me over too. Those are things I enjoy on occasion so I don’t consider them out of my normal range. Maybe I voted wrong! I’m forgoing the stuffing for sure. I have Turkey gravy prepared by me to bring along, though haven’t decided whether I need to avoid the small amt of gluten in the gravy that is sure to be there. Made a pumpkin pie this week with a little maple syrup and coconut milk, so I’m pre-empting the need to indulge in one that won’t treat me well.

      Kim wrote on November 24th, 2010
    • Oh yeah!

      Kelly A. wrote on November 25th, 2010
  29. Tomorrow I will have been Primal for exactly 10 days. This presented an obvious dilemna for me. We’re going to my partner’s sister’s house and it is a huge carb fest with 2 stuffings and at least 4 pie selections. Wham! However, this week alone I have survived 3 frontal attacts from cake pushers (“just have a small piece, then”) with nary a bite so I have hope for tomorrow’s buffet.

    Though not Primal, my partner is roasting brussel sprouts, parsnips and carrots so I’ll have an alternative to the mashed potatoes and gravy; I’ll be OK with a small serving of her sister’s homemade cranberry chutney and as-large-as-I-wanna-have portions of turkey.

    Grok on and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    BW wrote on November 24th, 2010
  30. Definitley 20. When you do this long enough you miss nothing!.Roast Turkey, sauteed brussel sprouts with onions and bacon,fresh cranberry relish,stuffing substituting a combo of diced butternut squash and eggplant for bread crumbs. mashed cauliflower with scallions and a bit of cheddar,oven roasted sweet pototoes topped with cinnamon and coconut oil and a touch of maple syrup. Paleo pumpkin pie in pecan crust. I mean do you see deprivation anywhere? yummm and the whole family is gonna eat it.. So much to be Thankful for… Thanksgiving is NOT Thanksgorging> Blessings to you all

    Robin wrote on November 24th, 2010
  31. Stick to your guns! It should be easy enough if you offer to bring a side dish and make roasted asparagus or brussel sprouts. You can have a very fulfilling thanksgiving meal on turkey, a sweet potato and your green side dish. And for dessert, offer to make this:

    Great pumpkin ice cream from our friends at Eat Primal. Happy Thanksgiving and GROK ON!!

    Tim Carley wrote on November 24th, 2010


    Roslyn wrote on November 24th, 2010
  33. I’m definitely a 90/10 guy.
    I won’t go balls out and carb down everything in sight, but I’ll do a little stuffing, some of the sweet potatoes with the marshmellow topping, and a little dessert.

    Kevin wrote on November 24th, 2010
  34. I raced ironman 3 days ago so am still in recovery mode…bring on the thanksgiving feast, pie and all! will restart primal on friday :)

    Daph wrote on November 24th, 2010
  35. I voted for the 80/20. I am just trying to get started being primal. Bread and sweets have been very difficult for me to get away from. Thankfully I don’t really like pumpkin pie and there’s never any other sweet item offered at my aunt and uncle’s Thanksgiving.

    I will have some mashed potatoes, but just a small amount – no more huge volcano mounds. I will also allow myself ONE small roll instead of eating between 3 and 5 rolls.

    Most everything else that is served is primal – turkey and veggies.

    Baby steps are going to be key for me – I tried going all out and I fell off the wagon after about 5 days :(

    A lot of bread makes me feel horrible within 20 minutes of eating it, but one roll won’t cause me any discomfort, so I’ll allow myself to enjoy it :)

    For me, Christmastime is much more difficult – sweets everywhere you turn, Christmas parties, potlucks…I will just have to say no!

    Kristin wrote on November 24th, 2010
  36. Sticking to my guns this Thanks-taking.

    I went Primal in large part due to seeking digestive harmony. I wanted to stop breaking wind all the time and feeling like my gut was brewing something toxic.

    So, I don’t eat the things that make me feel like crap after. Simple.

    Turkey, veggies and football for me.

    Randy Redroad wrote on November 24th, 2010
  37. ..take 1 tablespoon..liberally spoon ghee or cocunny or mixture or orgasmic lard on the non-shite foods…enjoy this and if you use 3-4 tabs of the stuff i can almost guarantee(i seldom say this about anything) you you will not be tempted by the shite-foodies.
    Here endeth the lesson..or be a contemp paleo version of a 70’s Studio 54 crowd and hang a tableppin measuring implement around ones neck…tres fecking chique (le freak..says Chic ?!)

    Justin De Quim wrote on November 24th, 2010
  38. c’est tres!

    September wrote on November 24th, 2010
  39. I’d answer this question very differently at Christmas! As a UK transplant in the US, Thanksgiving it not a tradition. We’ve shaped our own odd tradition for the day, which works beautifully…we each get to pick our favorite foods and eat those. So I’ll be eating my favorite primal stuff tomorrow, the kids will mostly be eating sugar.

    At Christmas, I’ll definitely be doing the 20%. I am looking forward to Christmas pudding with brandy sauce and a slice of Christmas cake. Just the one day though!

    Liz Chalmers wrote on November 24th, 2010

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