Thanksgiving in the United States will be here before we know it, and many of us are wondering how to plan a Paleo Thanksgiving! Caring about where our food comes from is an important part of a Paleo lifestyle, but it can be difficult without a game plan. In this post, I lay out the step-by-step plan you can use to source ingredients for your Paleo Thanksgiving.
In order of importance, I recommend you focus first on the quality of your healthy fats first (and dairy, if it’s part of your Paleo template), followed by meat and eggs, then vegetables. This is a great formula to follow when planning your Thanksgiving meal, as it will help you prioritize your spending (see also Budget Paleo: Priorities and Strategies and 5 Tips for Eating Paleo on a Budget)
For instance, the simple shift of using grass-fed butter or ghee in your mashed potatoes instead of margarine can make a HUGE difference in your family’s health! The unfavorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, plus the oxidation of fats through manufacturing, in industrial seed oils like canola makes them very inflammatory. Since animals store toxins in their fat, conventional animal fats aren’t the best choice either.
Fats from pasture-raised or grass-fed animals, including tallow, schmaltz and grass-fed butter and ghee, are best choices for your holiday meal. Plant fats including avocado, olive, coconut and palm oils are also worthy of inclusion. You can find many of these at your local grocery, render them yourself, or purchase them through Shop AIP, One Stop Paleo Shop or Thrive Market. If you’re wondering how to replace traditional baking fats like Crisco or canola oil (although I would argue these aren’t traditional at all!), don’t sweat! Either choose a Paleo-friendly recipe or use these rule of thumb:
A note on dairy: if it works well in your Paleo template, remember that it is often high-fat and should be sourced as you would any other fat. Always choose grass-fed dairy, including any milk for mashed potatoes, whipped cream for desserts, butter or cheese. You’ll be amazed at the difference in quality, too!
Whether you go the traditional turkey route or opt for a ham, lamb or something more adventurous, Thanksgiving is no time to forgo high-quality meat. Choosing grass-fed beef and pasture-raised poultry and pork ensures your family and friends are getting healthier fats, denser protein, and more essential vitamins and minerals.
If you need to find a pasture-raised turkey or ham, I recommend starting with your local farmer’s market! Many farmers take orders ahead of Thanksgiving, and talking to a farmer is the best way to understand how the animal you’re eating has been raised—and whether it meets your standards.
It can be very difficult to find a pasture-raised bird in a typical store, even if you’re shopping at a chain like Whole Foods or Sprouts. Instead, if you don’t have a local farmer’s market, I like buying from ButcherBox, US Wellness Meats and Pasturebird.
ButcherBox is one of my favorite go-to’s, and they have some wonderful options just for Thanksgiving. Their turkeys are raised on a vegetarian diet free from antibiotics and hormones. They are non-GMO project verified and animal welfare certified. The Thanksgiving boxes range from just the turkey to the ultimate feast with all the high quality meat you need for your holiday meal. It’s a great way to source your Thanksgiving without having to leave home!
If your Thanksgiving plan includes eggs, their quality is important as well! Many people are sensitive to the soy in chicken feed, so seeking out a soy-free egg is key. Just like meat, eggs have a hierarchy of quality. A pasture-raised egg from your farmer’s market is the healthiest choice, as chickens raised on pasture eat bugs and plants that imbue their eggs with deep nutrition. If this isn’t accessible to you, choose organic soy-free eggs.
Thanksgiving is fabulously easy to make Paleo because so many traditional sides already focus on vegetables! It’s simple to source organic veggies, then tweak these traditional recipes to meet your dietary needs.
As usual, I recommend turning to your farmer’s market to look for these veggies. You’ll find the freshest veggies there, as well as those that are in-season, and a trip might even spark your creativity!
When you visit your farmer’s market, remember that many farmers practicing what we would consider “organic” practices don’t have the money for an organic certification. Talking to farmers is a great way to determine whether your veggies are pesticide-free. If you don’t have a local market or can’t find what you need, nearly every grocery store and even super stores Walmart and Target now carry organic options that are both fresh and frozen. If your traditional recipes call for canned vegetables, you’ll probably even be able to find organic versions of these at your local store as well!
If you’re struggling to source healthy produce, I recommend FarmBox Direct, where you can get CSA (community supported agriculture)-style veggies delivered directly to your door.
Now we come to the area of Paleo holiday celebrations most likely to break your bank: baking! “Paleo-fying” traditional baked goods often require a blend of grain-free flowers, natural sugars, and nuts that can be quite pricey.
I recommend turning to cheaper alternatives. One strategy is to use recipes that rely on just one grain-free flour and use it in more than one way. Cassava flour is my go-to because it’s relatively inexpensive and doesn’t require many other additions to make it work, unlike almond flour (it’s often used in egg-free recipes, too!). I buy my cassava flour from Otto’s Naturals Cassava Flour because the texture is consistently great, making it dependable for recipes. It’s perfect in my recipes for Dinner Rolls and Pumpkin Pie (sub out the pie crust in Apple Pie (Two Variations, AIP and Standard Paleo)).
Of course, many of my favorite Paleo baked goods do rely on almond flour and other specialty ingredients. Instead of paying an arm and a leg for these at the grocery store, I grab them for a serious discount from Thrive Market. Shop AIP and One Stop Paleo Shop are also excellent online stores for dry goods, seasonings, sauces and baking ingredients you’ll need to round out your Thanksgiving menu, and they both deliver anywhere in the United States!
So, just to sum it up, here are the steps I recommend you take to source your Paleo Thanksgiving:
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