This Not That: Anti-Inflammatory Swaps for an Autoimmune-Friendly Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and gathering with loved ones, but for individuals living with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout, it can be a challenging holiday.

Traditional Thanksgiving recipes often feature ingredients that are not only calorie-laden but also inflammatory, which can exacerbate symptoms for those with autoimmune conditions. However, there’s good news: you can still enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal while taking care of your health. In this blog post, we’ll explore anti-inflammatory Thanksgiving alternatives for three popular Thanksgiving recipes, making it possible to savor the holiday without sacrificing your well-being.

Autoimmune-Friendly Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a staple of Thanksgiving dinners, but the butter and cream used in many recipes can trigger inflammation in people with autoimmune diseases. Fear not, there are healthier alternatives that can be just as creamy and delicious.

Swap Out:

  • Regular potatoes for sweet potatoes or cauliflower: Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and fiber, while cauliflower adds a delightful creaminess.
  • Butter and cream for olive oil and almond milk: Olive oil provides heart-healthy fats, and unsweetened almond milk offers creaminess without the dairy.
  • Garlic and herbs for turmeric and ginger: Turmeric and ginger have natural anti-inflammatory properties.

Autoimmune-Friendly Green Beans

Green bean casserole is a beloved side dish at Thanksgiving, but the canned soup and fried onions can be inflammatory. Try this revamped version to keep your holiday meal healthy and tasty.

Swap Out:

  • Canned cream of mushroom soup for homemade mushroom gravy: By making your own gravy, you can control the ingredients, making it dairy-free and lower in salt.
  • Fried onions for caramelized shallots: Caramelized shallots add a savory crunch while reducing the unhealthy fats found in fried onions.
  • Canned green beans for fresh green beans: Fresh vegetables are always a better choice for an anti-inflammatory diet.

Autoimmune-Friendly Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is a classic dessert to round off Thanksgiving dinner. Traditional recipes often include excessive sugar and dairy, which can spell trouble for individuals with autoimmune diseases. Here’s how to enjoy a healthier, inflammation-friendly pumpkin pie.

Swap Out:

  • Refined sugar for maple syrup or honey: Natural sweeteners like maple syrup and honey add a rich sweetness without the inflammatory effects of processed sugar.
  • Dairy-based pie crust for an almond or oat-based crust: Almonds and oats provide a heart-healthy, gluten-free crust.
  • Heavy cream for coconut milk or almond milk: Coconut milk and almond milk maintain a creamy texture without the dairy.

A Rheumatologist’s Tips for an Anti-inflammatory Thanksgiving

Now that we’ve covered anti-inflammatory swaps for specific Thanksgiving recipes, let’s explore some general tips to make your entire holiday meal healthier while keeping it delicious.

Focus on Fresh Ingredients:

Opt for fresh, whole foods. The less processed your ingredients are, the better they are for your health. Fresh produce, lean proteins, and whole grains should be the stars of your anti-inflammatory Thanksgiving meal.

Use Herbs and Spices:

Experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor and depth to your dishes. Many spices, such as turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon have anti-inflammatory properties.

Cut Back on Salt:

High-sodium foods can trigger inflammation and increase blood pressure, causing bloating and swelling in your hands and feet. Reducing salt in your recipes or using alternative seasonings can help.

Choose Healthy Fats:

Swap out saturated and trans fats for healthier options like olive oil, avocados, and nuts.

Prioritize Lean Proteins:

Turkey is a lean protein and a great choice for your Thanksgiving main course. Consider other lean proteins like chicken, fish, or plant-based options.

Portion Control:

Enjoy your favorite dishes in moderation. This way, you can savor the flavors without overloading on calories and potentially inflammatory ingredients.

Stay Hydrated:

Drinking plenty of water is essential to help your body process the holiday meal and reduce inflammation.

Be Mindful of Alcohol:

If you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation. Mixed drinks are often filled with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, which can contribute to joint pain and stiffness and even trigger gout flares.

Thanksgiving is a time for celebration and gratitude, and with a few thoughtful adjustments, it can also be a time for those with autoimmune diseases to enjoy a delicious and anti-inflammatory feast. By making smart swaps in traditional recipes and focusing on fresh, whole ingredients, you can savor the holiday without sacrificing your health.

Whether you’re battling rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, or any other autoimmune condition, an anti-inflammatory Thanksgiving meal is within your reach. So gather your loved ones, create a beautiful and inflammation-friendly feast, and give thanks for the gift of health and delicious food. Happy Thanksgiving meal planning!

If you struggle with painful joints and chronic inflammation, now is a great time to see a rheumatologist. Manage your pain and get on track with the right medications before the holiday season is in full swing. Give our team a call at (480) 494-2770 or send us a message to schedule your appointment.


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