Afterglo 11/11

Turkey day swaps for a special diet

by Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Hey there, hungry girl. Yeah, you. The one pushing peas and carrots around her sorry, sad little plate. Bummed your special diet is keeping you from enjoying Thanksgiving Day favorites?

It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the day of gratitude can be rather tasty for a gal or guy who likes gluten-free, soy-free and vegan cupcakes and wants to eat ’em, too. All it requires is a bit of finesse and, naturally, those killer kitchen instincts you have hiding up your sleeve.

Ready to get to work? Here are a few tips for swapping out common offending ingredients in these classic dishes to create the Thanksgiving meal of your special diet dreams.

Trade in the turkey

So, you don’t eat meat, but you also can’t have gluten, huh? If certain ingredients (e.g., gluten, soy) keep you from opting for the classic turkey alternative, Tofurkey (, then you may just have to ignore the idea of a bird-like main course altogether. Skip the turkey (or faux turkey) and pile on the sides instead. In my humble opinion, they are really the best parts anyway. However, if you really want to test your kitchen skills, you may want to whip up a vegan, gluten-free spin on a turkey instead. Try the Chef In You’s “Vegan Tofu Turkey” recipe (search recipe name at and voilà!

Say goodbye to green bean casserole

Tell me one thing, sweet peas: Who needs mushy green bean casserole when you can have crispy, healthy veggies instead? Not us, right? Try roasting fresh, halved Brussels sprouts tossed in olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper and take them to grandma’s house for a real crowd pleaser. Green beans, carrots and asparagus are also fantastic, easy vegetable options.

Sayonara, stuffing!

Take the simple route and skip stuffing altogether. Really, your waistline will thank you. Or you can try a store-bought version that omits your offending ingredients. Gillian’s Foods ( makes a gluten-free stuffing and Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery’s (rudisbakery/com/gluten-free) is dairy, soy- and gluten-free.

Adiós, pumpkin pie!

Sure, pumpkin pie is always the star of the Thanksgiving show, but it’s also one of the first holiday desserts that doesn’t make the cut when opting for safe treats on a special diet. Try nixing the pumpkin pie altogether and try a vegan and gluten-free Hail Merry Tart ( instead. With flavors like Coconut Vanilla Creme, Chocolate Mint and Persian Lime, I find it hard to believe you’ll still be jonesing for pumpkin. Still want pumpkin on the day of gratitude? Try Iced Pumpkin Cookies from local gluten-free bakery Tina’s Sweet Treats (, or make your own using the recipe below, and you’ll be thanking the gluten-free gods for these fellas.

Other potential dish additives that might cramp your special diet style on Thanksgiving Day include breadcrumbs, eggs, milk, butter, flour and vegetable stock or broth. Ask the host or hostess about the ingredients and nix a dish completely if they seem unsure of every last detail. Be sure to also watch out for cross-contamination via utensils that are used in dishes you are trying to avoid.

Of course, you might also want to avoid playing investigator Nancy and bring one or two of your own safe dishes to dinner instead. Not only will you feel safe scooping seconds on your plate, but you will give others a chance to see that your special diet can be yummy, too. Plan in advance by calling the host or hostess and giving him or her a heads up about your requirements. Offer to bring a side dish and assure them you won’t be a more difficult guest than your mouthy third cousin who likes to keep things interesting at the dinner table.

And, of course, give thanks for good health and company – and yummy special diet dishes at the Thanksgiving Day table.

Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at

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