Inflammatory Thanksgiving Foods to Avoid this Year

I’m SOOOO ready to be inflamed, in pain, and on a blood sugar and energy rollercoaster for weeks because of all the Thanksgiving foods that cause inflammation that I’m ’bout to stuff my face with!!! … said no one ever.

Honestly, the holidays can be so chaotic and stressful, I don’t understand the loads of inflammatory foods being added into the mix.

I get that there’s a lot of ‘give yourself a break and enjoy the holidays without feeling guilty’ mantras and advice floating around this time of year. But to be honest, those people don’t usually have (or acknowledge) inflammatory, blood sugar, or metabolic issues that wreak havoc when we binge on inflammatory foods.

So it isn’t really about the guilt. It’s about an entire month (or three) of our bodies and brains being completely out of balance just for the sake of a couple of meals.

On the other hand, it’s nice to feel some semblance of tradition during the holidays (and avoid irritating questions from Aunt Edna about why we’re not eating) as well.

So here are the top 5 inflammatory Thanksgiving foods to avoid this year, with swap suggestions.

Feel GOOD this holiday! Grab our Healthy Holiday Swap-Out Planner!

(1) Vegetable and seed oils

Not only are these types of oils extremely inflammatory due to the refining process, but they also contain omega-6 fats which are inflammatory.

To make matters worse, some Thanksgiving foods are fried. When oils– especially ones that are already inflammatory– are heated to super high temps and reheated, you’re adding a hefty amount of inflammatory free radicals to the mix.

It can be really difficult to avoid these when you’re using already processed foods in recipes. And you can guarantee these types of oils are used in pre-made foods and recipes.

πŸ‘‰ Instead, make recipes from scratch and opt for oils like avocado, extra virgin olive oil (only for non-heated foods), or coconut oil (organic, unrefined).

(2) Trans fats

These fats are in nearly any ultra-processed food you can find. They’ve been shown to contribute to heart disease and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). And although the US is in the process of banning trans fats (like other countries have), labeling laws still dictate that foods can have 0.5 grams or less per serving.

For now, all this means is that companies are using this loophole to make their serving size small enough that the trans fat amount is 0.5 or less.

πŸ‘‰ So check the ingredients list to make sure there are no trans fats. You’ll know if they are present because the ingredients will include ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil. If it says this, find a different option.

(3) Refined carbohydrates

Refined carbs seem to be a staple in holiday cuisine. From fried things to bread to desserts, they’re in a ton of sweet and savory recipes.

The biggest culprits of refined carbohydrate savory dishes at Thanksgiving are bread, rolls, breading, pasta, and corn-based foods.

πŸ‘‰ Instead, focus on proteins and veggies that aren’t covered in glazes, gravies, and dressings.

πŸ‘‰ In desserts, since these go hand in hand with sugar, unless you can guarantee they’re sugar-free, it’s best to steer clear of the dessert table, unless fresh fruit that’s not covered in sugar is available.

πŸ‘‰ A good tip is to plan ahead and bring your own sugar-free, refined-flour-free dessert.

(4) Sugar

Sugar is extremely inflammatory, and has about a thousand different names and forms these days. It’s being added more and more to savory dishes to balance flavors and sometimes make it more addicting.

What’s even worse is high fructose corn syrup. Both are added to nearly all ultra-processed foods these days. And you can guarantee all the desserts are loaded with some kind of sugar.

πŸ‘‰ Check ingredient labels! Ingredients have to be listed in order from most to least, so you can tell the general amount of sugar in a package– the best bet is to avoid any with sugar altogether. This may mean foregoing sweet potato souffle and the pink salad (or jello salad) and the dessert table.

Another source of sugar is also beverages. Sweet tea (mostly in the South), sodas, hydration drinks, and alcoholic drinks are huge culprits of sugar during the holidays.

πŸ‘‰ Opt for water or unsweetened tea, and create your own cocktail with the suggestions below.

(5) Alcoholic beverages

Alcohol seems to be a staple at the holidays for most. The problem is, being off work – and especially if you’re not the designated driver- tend to make many feel like they have a free pass to indulge to the max during the holidays.

Beer can drive up uric acid levels, which creates inflammation, wines can have sugars in them, and mixed drinks are normally loaded with sugar from the mixer base.

πŸ‘‰ To enjoy alcohol and still find a balance, alternate one drink with water. Hydration is extremely helpful in flushing inflammatory foods from the body.

πŸ‘‰ Choose dry red wines instead of beer or white wine.

πŸ‘‰ Mix liquor with sparkling water and a couple of drops of liquid stevia.

Tips for creating a more balanced Thanksgiving meal:

πŸ’ŽIf you’re the one cooking the meal or contributing, it can be a lot easier to have control over what’s being served.

What we’ve learned through the years is that my husband’s and I’s families have only like two staple holiday recipes that are the same. The rest are recipes with super-inflammatory processed ingredients that the kids don’t even like.

That makes it much easier to eliminate inflammatory recipes and replace them with something much better for us.

πŸ’ŽWe focus first on the protein and choose quality meats, and then prepare them with healthier options (ie- NOT frying an entire turkey).

πŸ’ŽOur second focus is on vegetables. We decide what dishes we can convert into healthier options from the old-school versions, and how we can make them taste amazing.

πŸ’Ž If you’re not confident in altering recipes, search up options with the words, ‘Paleo’, ‘low-carb’, or ‘keto’ at the front, and make sure they’re sugar-free and refined-flour-free.

πŸ’ŽOne thing my husband and I have discovered over the years is that when you experience nice restaurants- not chains- but ones with true chefs, is that they take a lot of pride in the flavor profiles and combinations of ingredients.

They also use very fresh ingredients and cook from scratch (for the most part). The result of that is incredibly delicious meals that aren’t processed, and – if the correct ingredients are used- aren’t inflammatory. The same holds true for the holidays.

Consider revamping some of your old-school recipes that use processed junk and challenge yourself to see how you can improve the health profile while maximizing the flavor profile.

Then save those in a binder for the next holiday season!

An amazing resource for doing this is a book called The Flavor Bible. We use this all the time to create new recipes or even add more pizzazz to existing ones.

{This is an affiliate link, which means if you click through and purchase, I’ll receive a small portion of the proceeds, at no extra charge to you.}

And as promised… Grab our free Healthy Holiday Swap-out Planning Sheet! πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡

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Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

Author: Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

Laura is a Nutrition Specialist and Certified Health Coach with a Master of Science in Nutrition. Her goal is to help women reduce inflammation, balance blood sugar, and regain natural energy with an Anti-Inflammatory Diet + Lifestyle.

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