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Thanksgiving can be a stressful time if you're living with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. If you're worried about what you'll be able to eat at Thanksgiving this year, here are 5 flare-friendly dishes you can bring to be sure you're still able to enjoy the meal with your family and friends.
We've also included a number of ways to adapt traditional Thanksgiving dishes to improve your tolerance based on your unique trigger foods.
Typical turkey recipes include a lot of butter and the skin and dark meat contain more fat which may trigger symptoms if you have IBD.
If you still want to enjoy turkey but want fewer symptoms, consider these 3 adaptations to improve tolerance:
- Try cooking it without butter or use less butter than the recipe calls for.
- Choosing a leaner cut of white meat over dark meat which may contain more fat.
- Choose a piece of turkey without skin. The skin of the turkey may be harder to digest because it contains more fat.
2. Mashed or Roasted Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are often made with a lot of butter or milk which may be irritating to your gut. To improve tolerance while still preserving the flavor, here are a few recipe adaptations to try.
The great thing about mashed potatoes is that you can bring them as a side dish to share even if you’re not the host for Thanksgiving dinner.
- Make them without butter, or with less butter than the recipe calls for
- Use non fat and lactose free milk
- Flavor them with fresh chives, garlic, and olive oil instead of butter or milk
- Adapt the dish and bring roasted potatoes or roasted sweet potatoes instead
3. Roasted Squash
Squash tends to be one of the most well-tolerated food groups among our clients with IBD and there are countless ways of preparing it to create a delicious Thanksgiving side dish.
Here are a few of our favorite squash dishes that would make an excellent, well-tolerated addition to your dining table:
- Roasted spaghetti squash – slice a spaghetti squash in half and roast it in the oven until fork tender (leaving the skin on). Once cooked, carve the meat of the squash away from the skin and top with salt and pepper to taste.
- Roasted squash medley - roast an assortment of squash including butternut, acorn, zucchini in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper until caramelized
If the gluten, butter, or sausage in traditional stuffing triggers your symptoms, here are some options to improve tolerance while still allowing you to enjoy that warm, delicious stuffing experience:
- Consider making your own stuffing with gluten-free bread (if gluten triggers your symptoms) or from freshly baked bread with simple ingredients
- Instead of butter, season your stuffing with fresh herbs, olive oil, and vegetable or chicken broth
- Instead of sausage, try adding food processed mushrooms in to add a “meatier” flavor
5. Banana Bread & Pumpkin Muffins
If you’re worried about being able to tolerate the dessert options after Thanksgiving dinner, bringing your own dessert to share could be a great option.
Our two favorite flare-friendly desserts are homemade banana bread and pumpkin muffins.
- Homemade banana bread – to improve tolerability, you can swap the flour for gluten-free flour, use a non-diary milk instead of cow’s milk, use date sugar instead of regular sugar, and use olive oil instead of butter or just use less butter.
- Homemade pumpkin muffins – if you don’t tolerate gluten, you can swap the flour out for oats or a gluten-free alternative. You could also consider swapping out the milk for plain, non-fat kefir and swapping out the sugar for less sugar or unsweetened apple sauce instead.
- Our favorite banana bread and pumpkin muffin recipes are available for free in our IBD recipe book
Important tips for navigating food on Thanksgiving
- Remember, one portion of an inflammatory food doesn’t trigger active disease, so if you want it, it’s okay to have it and enjoy it!
- If you’re worried or scared of eating certain foods that will be served, bring one or more of the dishes above or any other safe dish to share with others – that way you’ll still be able to eat without triggering symptoms.
- Consider adjusting the type, texture, and portion size of trigger foods you consume to help improve your tolerance to them. This will allow you to still enjoy these trigger foods without causing as many symptoms.
- Know that it’s okay to consume trigger foods, even if you know it’ll trigger your symptoms – sometimes the symptoms are worth it to you and sometimes they’re not. The important thing is that you feel empowered to decide what you want to eat based on how you want to feel.
- Give yourself some grace this holiday season – try to reject feelings of guilt or shame after eating certain foods. After all, it’s not what your diet looks like on any given day, but rather what your diet looks like overall, that really matters.