A Dieters’ Guide For Cooking A Thanksgiving Meal Everyone Can Stomach

By  – U.S. News Health (Eat + Run)

November 13, 2012

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner these days is not for the faint of heart. As the guest list grows, so too does the list of dietary restrictions.

There have always been your vegetarian cousin and your uncle with diabetes. But this year, your sister with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is bringing her gluten-intolerant boyfriend, and your nephew with the nut allergy will be joining you. Mom called to remind you that your dad’s cholesterol is through the roof, so please go easy on the saturated fat when cooking this year. Oh, and did she mention she’s just been diagnosed with lactose-intolerance?

Take a deep breath, and put away the Excel spreadsheet. Hosting a successful and delicious Thanksgiving meal for a digestively diverse crowd doesn’t necessarily translate into more work. It just means you need to get smart on strategies that make each dish meet the needs of most people at the table. Here are some tips to get started:

• Keep the side dishes vegetarian. By making most—or all—side dishes vegetarian-friendly, you save yourself the work of having to come up with a separate vegetarian entrée for the non-meat eaters. Your veggie guests will leave full and satisfied if they can fill their plates with all the vegetable and grain-based dishes you prepare. So use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock in stuffing (and leave out the sausage); use kosher (gelatin-free) marshmallows in the sweet potato casserole, and use smoked paprika instead of bacon to flavor roasted Brussels sprouts. (Alternatively, you can serve bacon-infused sauces or dressings that can be served on the side if you just can’t envision Thanksgiving without bacon!)

• Use lactose-free products in all recipes that call for dairy. Lactose-free versions of milk, plain yogurt, and sour cream are available nationwide, and lactose-free plain kefir—a thick, drinkable yogurt—is a great stand-in for heavy cream. This swap won’t affect the taste or texture of your dishes at all, but it will make them much more comfortable to digest for guests with IBS and lactose intolerance. Plus, lactose-free kefir is a lower -calorie and lower-cholesterol alternative to heavy cream. As a result, your weight-watching relatives can feel much less guilty about having a nibble of mashed potatoes or a slice of pumpkin pie. Note that aged cheeses (cheddar, Parmesan, etc.) and butter are virtually lactose-free; moderate portions of foods containing these ingredients should be well-tolerated by most guests.

• Minimize the presence of wheat flour at the table, and consider whole-grain, gluten-free alternatives. Traditional bread-based stuffing isn’t doing anyone any favors—it’s a no-go for diabetics as well as weight-conscious and gluten-intolerant guests. Why not use wild rice or quinoa as the base for a healthier and more nutritious stuffing loaded with traditional flavors like chestnut, mushroom, sage, and thyme? A dish like this also adds substance to a vegetarian meal. Separately, note that wheat flour is found in many store-bought convenience foods used in holiday fare—French’s French Fried Onions, for example, to top green bean casserole or Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup for the gravy. If you use these ingredients in your recipes, try seeking out gluten-free substitutes, or serve them on the side whenever possible to avoid contaminating the whole dish for those who must avoid gluten. If you’re making gravy from scratch, swap all-purpose flour for sweet rice flour to make it gluten-free. Easy as pie!

• Speaking of pie, make sure to offer at least one dessert that can be enjoyed by the gluten-free and nut-free crowd. If apple and pecan pies are already on the menu, why not offer pumpkin in an alternative form, like individual custards or gluten-free quick bread? How about a flourless chocolate cake or chocolate-dipped poached pears? Living Without magazine publishes a terrific holiday edition full of allergy-friendly recipes, and a simple Google search will yield recipes for hundreds of allergy-friendly desserts that can be enjoyed by everyone at the table. Alternatively, gluten-free baking mixes for cookies, cakes, and brownies—most of which are also nut-free—are widely available in supermarkets nationwide and help you whip up another dessert in no time flat. As if it needed to be said, fresh fruit is always an appropriate and safe option for ending an indulgent holiday meal. Simply offering a bowl of clementines or platter of fresh grapes is a gesture that will be appreciated by guests with dietary restrictions, and those watching their weight or blood sugar levels.

The downside of hosting a wildly successful holiday meal in which everyone feels included, of course, is that they’re likely to come back next year. Consider yourself warned!

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN, is a NYC-based registered dietitian whose clinical practice specializes in digestive disorders, Celiac Disease, and food intolerances. Her personal blog,www.tamaraduker.com, focuses on healthy eating and gluten-free living.

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Holiday Health Tips from CDC – Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic

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Wash your hands often.

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based product.

Clean Hands Save Lives


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Stay warm.

Cold temperatures can cause serious health problems, especially in infants and older adults. Stay dry, and dress warmly in several layers of loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing.

Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter Weather

Winter Weather


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Manage stress.

The holidays don’t need to take a toll on your health. Keep a check on over-commitment and over-spending. Balance work, home, and play. Get support from family and friends. Keep a relaxed and positive outlook.

Stress at Work


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Travel safely.

Whether you’re traveling across town or around the world, help ensure your trip is safe. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t let someone else drink and drive. Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle. Always buckle your child in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt according to his/her height, weight, and age.

Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety

Impaired Driving

Keep Kids Safe on the Road

Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter Weather

Traumatic Brain Injury

Travelers’ Health


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Be smoke-free.

Avoid smoking and breathing other people’s smoke. If you smoke, quit today! Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or talk to your health care provider for help.

Quit Smoking


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Get check-ups and vaccinations.

Exams and screenings can help find problems before they start. They can also help find problems early, when the chances for treatment and cure are better. Vaccinations help prevent diseases and save lives. Schedule a visit with your health care provider for a yearly exam. Ask what vaccinations and tests you should get based on your age, lifestyle, travel plans, medical history, and family health history.

Things to Do Before Your Next Check-Up

Family Health History Resources and Tools

Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work

Vaccines and Immunizations

Safety of 2010-2011 Flu Vaccines

Women: Stay Healthy at Any Age (AHRQ)

Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age (AHRQ)


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Watch the kids.

Children are at high risk for injuries that can lead to death or disability. Keep a watchful eye on your kids when they’re eating and playing. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, choking hazards (like coins and hard candy), and other objects out of kids’ reach. Learn how to provide early treatment for children who are choking. Make sure toys are used properly.

Injuries among Children and Adolescents

Toy Safety Tips (CPSC)


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Prevent injuries.

Injuries can occur anywhere and some often occur around the holidays. Use step stools instead of furniture when hanging decorations.  Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Wear a bicycle helmet to help prevent head injuries.

Most residential fires occur during the winter months. Keep candles away from children, pets, walkways, trees, and curtains. Never leave fireplaces, stoves, or candles unattended. Don’t use generators, grills, or other gasoline- or charcoal-burning devices inside your home or garage. Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home. Test them once a month, and replace batteries twice a year.

Bicycle Related Injuries

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning Prevention

Fall-Related Injuries during the Holiday Season- United States, 2000-2003

General Injury Related Information

Fire Deaths and Injuries: Prevention Tips

Fireworks-Related Injuries


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Handle and prepare food safely.

As you prepare holiday meals, keep you and your family safe from food-related illness. Wash hands and surfaces often. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs (including their juices) away from ready-to-eat foods and eating surfaces. Cook foods to the proper temperature. Refrigerate promptly. Do not leave perishable foods out for more than two hours.

It’s Turkey Time: Safely Prepare Your Holiday Meal

Seasonal Food Safety: Fact Sheets  (USDA)


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Eat healthy, and be active.

With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays the healthy way. Choose fresh fruit as a festive and sweet substitute for candy. Select just one or two of your favorites from the host of tempting foods. Find fun ways to stay active, such as dancing to your favorite holiday music. Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. Help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day.

Alcohol: Frequently Asked Questions

Get Smart Entertaining PDF

Healthy Weight

Be Physically Active in the New Year

Managing Diabetes During the Holidays

Physical Activity for Everyone


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Protect pets from rabies.

Pets are also considered family members by many. Keep them healthy. There are several things you can do to protect your pet from rabies. First, visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.

About Rabies

Healthy Pets Healthy People

Healthy Pets