Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 22 2017

50+ Primal Thoughts, Tips and Recipes for Your Thanksgiving

By Mark Sisson
16 Comments

Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey on rustic wooden tableThe team and I are hustling today, getting everything in place before the holiday weekend, and all of us are already thinking about the festivities (not to mention feasts) to come. So, you’ll forgive me if I indulge the holiday spirit and even wax a bit sentimental—just a little. (Thanksgiving IS my favorite, I’ll admit….) And, on a more practical note, let me share some “best of MDA” tips and recipes for making the holiday weekend healthier and happier.

By now most of us have the “stuff” that typically goes into the meal itself: the food, the napkins, the centerpiece, etc. We’ve unearthed the ginormous serving tray from the basement and dug out the carving set. We’ve taken down the box that holds the heirloom gravy boat. And we’ve likely ironed out the logistics of the occasion: when guests will arrive, when the turkey will go in the oven, and who will bring what. We’ve straightened the house, cajoled the kids to make their bedrooms presentable. Maybe the more ambitious and organized among us have even made a dish or two ahead of time.

Some of us tomorrow will be hosting large gatherings or perhaps celebrating with just immediate family, a partner, or a friend. A few of us will eat alone. Others of us will be guests in friends’ or families’ homes or part of larger groups hosted by religious or neighborhood communities.

It’s true that there’s something about a holiday meal itself—the variety, the rich flavors, the calm (and flurry) of annual preparation rituals, the deep-seated emotional associations and memories. Nonetheless, the day has the potential to feed us in ways the best turkey or family recipe can’t.

Our culture and even individual responsibilities sometimes encourage us to get so caught up in the practical operation of the holiday that we find ourselves shuffling through the motions, hitting all the obligatory dishes and events, but never really touching down emotionally or interpersonally. It’s likely that some of us have previously taken the lesson and pared down or honed in on what we deem the most essential (and enjoyable) aspects of the holiday. (The gathering, the gratitude, the giving of time….)

In this hectic part of year, the suggestion bears repeating. Carpe Diem. Enjoy the moment—the company, the conversation, the chance to connect and tell stories new and old. Start some fresh traditions or revive some old ones (a pre-dinner family game of touch football, an after-dinner walk, an evening around the board games or family albums, a morning of volunteering).

Whether you’re alone or with a whole horde, here’s to making the most of the day in such a way that we’ll all go to bed that night fulfilled (not just full), inspired, at peace, nostalgic, and grateful for the day instead of just relieved the dishes are done or glad we made it through.

Whatever you’ll be doing, wherever you’ll be celebrating, whatever you’ll be looking back on (or looking forward to) in the spirit of thankfulness, everyone here wishes you the best for your holiday.

Thoughts On the Spirit of the Holiday

No matter how we’re observing the day, celebration and gratitude offer significant benefits as well as meaningful reflection.

15 Primal Ways to Savor the Holiday Season

What It Means to Be Thankful for Your Health

The Benefits of Benevolence

The Power of Food Rituals

The Benefits of Giving Thanks

Applying Primal Motivation To the Meal

The big feast doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing event. Where does your health commitment best intersect with your enjoyment of the meal? That’s your sweet spot for approaching the holiday.

A Primal Take On the Holidays: Surviving or Thriving?

The 10-Week Countdown to 2018

The 80/20 Rule

The Importance of Non-Negotiable, “No Matter What” Rules

Gateway Foods: The Slippery Slope of “Just a Bite”

Post-Holiday Triage (For Anyone Who Needs It)

No judgment… We Primal types don’t deal in regret after all. We do, however, pride ourselves in being informed.

Burning Off Holiday Sugar

How to Recover from Holiday Overindulgence

Last (But Certainly Not Least), the Recipes…

Over the years, we’ve put together a small cookbook’s worth of delicious holiday recipes. (It’s hard to pick favorites, but I might have to go with the turkey legs.)

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Simmered Cranberry Sauce and Spicy Cranberry Relish

Braised Turkey Legs with Fennel and Artichoke Hearts

Heritage Turkey and Mashed Parsnips

Crock Pot Turkey and Primal Stuffing

Cornish Game Hens With Egg and Sausage Stuffing

Crispy Roast Duck with Holiday Seasonings and Sauces

Breadless Cauliflower and Mushroom Stuffing

Ultimate Walnut Pie Crust with Pumpkin Filling

Homemade Turkey Stock

How to Make Turkey Jerky

And for those of you who can never get enough ideas (for this year or next), here’s yet a whole set of menus to choose from.

Have a great holiday week and weekend, everyone. What’s on your mind—and on your menu—this week? I’d love to hear in the comment board. thanks for reading.

TAGS:  mental health

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16 thoughts on “50+ Primal Thoughts, Tips and Recipes for Your Thanksgiving”

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    1. I don’t actually fast before a big meal. However, I try not to eat heavy meals a few days leading into a holiday…

  1. I am so thankful for this beautiful life, good health and great family and friends. Great recipes, I must try them. Thank you Mark for providing amazing tips as always!

  2. Many thanks to you, Mark and your talented posse of MDA Worker Bees for bringing me days, months and years of knowledge, inspiration and encouragement on the road to a quality life. Happy Feast Day, everyone!

  3. Thanks Mark! This really helped to remind me to put things in perspective in regards to what Thanksgiving is all about. These special occasions give us a break from the norm and reunite us with family and friends. Watching the football game, while enjoying a meal cooked and prepared by the blessed hands of my family always holds great memories for me. As Thanksgiving dinner only comes around once a year, I’m going to enjoy the feast and maybe even eat an extra dessert. I may do an intermittent fast (coffee and water) tomorrow to account for all the extra calories I’m going to consume!

  4. I’ve truly come to a place with holidays where I just eat like any other meal – to fuel my body. I’m there for the people, particularly my husband this year who has been working some exhaustingly long hours lately and finally will get a few day’s break!
    I’m very thankful of our primal/paleo “gurus” (if you will) like Sisson, Hartwig, and Cordain and the life changing work they do. Truly, life changing. Our menu this year consists of pastured turkey, plenty of vegetables in healthful fats and fresh herbs, and a primal ingredient cake for those who want to partake. It feels amazing to know that holidays like this no longer have to involve recovering and can simply be about living.
    Happy Thanksgiving!!

    1. Well I’ve been reading MDA for over 6 years and have noticed that his blog is kind of boring now, he seems to be slowly running out of new things to write about (hence the new Keto angle to appeal to a new demographic). I still occasionally come by to see what he has to say 🙂

  5. The last few years we’ve had Thanksgiving dinner with non-Primal relatives. I do take a little of everything, concentrating more heavily on the turkey, veggies, salad, deviled eggs, etc. It’s easy enough to pass on the desserts since I’m usually too full. My meal ends up being less than Primal, but that’s okay. Thanksgiving dinner with friends or loved ones isn’t the time to stress out over the food.

  6. Love this post – all of it! The links on a primal perspective around feasting…those on the post-indulgence Day After…and, of course, the recipes!

    Most of all, I love your focus on what about a holiday truly feeds and nourishes us – especially off our plates. Thank you, Mark! Grateful for all you do!

  7. I plan to start Thanksgiving day with a buttered coffee (my family will have a light breakfast) serve dinner in the early afternoon, then have bits of things to nibble on later in the day. Having dinner early leaves plenty of daylight hours to get outside for some fresh air, even if we don’t have sunshine tomorrow. It is how my family traditionally spends the holidays, and it works well with a Primal lifestyle.

    1. Also, thanks Mark for all the things you and the team do to help us all on the Primal path. Your blog posts have been a big help to me over the years.

  8. I make the heritage turkey with mashed parsnips and the breadless caultiflower and mushroom stuffing recipes for Christmas every year. They’re good ones.

  9. I am not hosting this year, but bringing the balsamic roasted brussels sprouts, which are pretty amazing, and some cranberry sauce lightly sweetened with coconut sugar. Had planned on coming up with some type of pumpkin/coconut cream mousse but ran out of time.
    Started the day with my usual collagen coffee, and trying to eat lightly throughout the day but not stressing about it.
    My holidays are far from picture perfect but I am so thankful for where I am right now. And super grateful for this entire community…we are all so fortunate to have these amazing resources and support available to us from anywhere in the world.

  10. Thank you Mark for your kind remarks and sage words of wisdom regarding this special holiday. My “recipe” for the holidays is to ramp up the exercising in the week leading up to Thanksgiving (plus getting in a early 6 mile walk the morning of Thanksgiving), which allows me to be more forgiving to myself if I choose to splurge on extra calories, a few alcoholic drinks, and heaven forbid, eat slightly less Primal than I do the rest of the year. However, tomorrow it’s back to clean eating Primal style!