Smoked Turkey; Photo © Russ Crandall
By Russ Crandall
Since the lifestyle has grown from a fringe movement to the most Googled diet of 2013, chances are you might be sharing a Thanksgiving table with a Paleo enthusiast this year.
The diet is based on a principle of eating whole, unprocessed foods while avoiding certain ingredients that are possibly disruptive to digestion. Foods to avoid include grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugars, and processed cooking oils such as vegetable or canola oil. No longer intended to impossibly emulate prehistoric diets, today’s Paleo diet is regarded as a marriage between nutritional science and evolutionary evidence. Though the restrictions seem daunting at first glance, managing a Paleo-friendly holiday is fairly easy if you focus on what you can prepare: meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and berries.
Here, six tips that can help you create a Paleo-friendly Thanksgiving while making the meal decadent enough for your nonpracticing guests.
1. Think historically. Holiday feasting is a tradition that has existed throughout human history, and many foods eaten just 50 years ago were naturally Paleo-friendly. So instead of scouring the Internet for new and inventive recipes, try digging in your grandmother’s old cookbooks—chances are they’ll be full of appropriate recipes.
2. Use fat and wine liberally. The Paleo diet is relatively high in fat and full of flavor, so don’t shy away from using duck fat, lard or bacon in your recipes; most Paleo eaters are even OK with the occasional knob of butter. Wine is also considered Paleo-friendly, so use it liberally in your cooking.
3. Give in to mashed potatoes. The Paleo diet is constantly evolving, and 2014 has been the year of the white potato. Though there are no official Paleo guidelines, potatoes have recently been reintroduced to most Paleo-friendly lists, thanks to a growing sentiment that they are a whole food that is low in toxins.
4. Spread the wealth (and the responsibility). Ask your Paleo-following guests to bring a side dish, both lightening your load and giving them a chance to show off their favorite dishes.
5. Do practice runs. Making a tried-and-true recipe is much more relaxing than diving into the unfamiliar, so don’t put yourself through that pain during Thanksgiving. Make a tweak to a familiar recipe, or do a test run on a Paleo-friendly recipe from a popular Paleo blog before Turkey Day.
6. Consider smoking your turkey. Deep-frying is out (peanut oil is not considered Paleo), and roasting it prevents you from using the oven for other dishes. Smoked turkey is straightforward and can be finished in around two hours, although it should be brined overnight. (Recipe: Perfect Smoked Turkey.)