Going gluten and/or dairy free can be a huge adjustment. “What will I eat now?” Wheat shouldn’t be the base of anyone’s diet due to its inflammatory properties, so say goodbye to cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner.
Navigating parties, dinners, and the holiday season in general can feel daunting. I tell my clients that for every dish they’ll miss (always pizza!), there is a way to alter it to be a health promoting dish rather than a health robbing dish. Instead of causing inflammation and weight gain, paleo pizza with almond meal crust actually quells inflammation. So, enjoy your favorite holiday foods and enjoy their therapeutic benefits. Here are a few tips.
How to Make Your Favorite Holiday Recipes Healthier
Replace white flour with Bob’s Red Mill or Pamela’s gluten free baking mix. Bob’s Red Mill works better in savory recipes, and Pamela’s swaps out perfectly for baking. Ratio is 1:1. You can also tinker with using an almond meal/coconut flour combo for baking, but this takes experimentation (so if you’re not into baking, just use the gluten free flour mixes). There are myriad other gluten free flours: brown rice flour (makes things too grainy when used alone), garbanzo flour, sorghum flour, etc, but those are often used in combination with other gluten free flours.
Replace sugar with xylitol 1:1. I think most recipes call for too much sugar, so I almost always cut the sugar down anyway. But xylitol is wonderful because it’s granulated, and using honey in baking when a recipe calls for sugar may yield you a soggy end product. It also doesn’t spike blood sugar or contribute to bad bacteria/candida overgrowth like refined sugar does. Xylitol is also completely safe for diabetics! You can also use coconut nectar sugar, which is low on the glycemic index, but it’s not as miraculous as xylitol.
Replace dairy with full fat coconut milk. It shouldn’t make your recipe taste too coconutty.
Replace eggs (if you have egg sensitivity; otherwise, use eggs!) with a 1tbsp ground flax to 3 tbsp hot water (or chia seed/hot water) mixture. Or:
1/2 of a medium banana, mashed
1/4 cup of applesauce
3-1/2 tablespoons gelatin blend (mix 1 cup boiling water and 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin, and use 3-1/2 tablespoons of that mixture per egg. I like Great Lakes gelatin. Gelatin can be quite the superfood.
For pasta dishes, use brown rice pasta noodles. Tinkyada brand is good. Or you can get super creative and use zucchini “noodles” for lasagne dishes by grating into ribbons with a microplane grater. Or swap out spaghetti squash for noodles. I also like the yam and kelp noodles in place of pasta.
Want whipped cream but can’t have dairy? Don’t despair! Use whipped coconut milk! Seriously people, this stuff is DIVINE. All you do is chill a can of full fat coconut milk over night, then scrape off the solid top part (save the coconut water). Add some vanilla and whip like whipped cream. Yummmmm. Or try my cashew cream.
Cheese. Evvvvvveryone loves cheese. Cheese is a little tricky to replace. You can make cashew cheese for cheesecake bases, but I don’t think it works well for savory dishes. Do some googling for cheese substitutes– there are some pretty creative recipes out there using miso paste or tahini, for example. Don’t use tofu– soy is harmful. You can also grind toasted walnuts and nutritional yeast together for a topping on pizza or pasta or anything else you want cheesy (doesn’t have a melty texture though, sadly.)
Instead of mashed Idaho potatoes which are very high on the gylcemic index, try a root vegetable mash made with sweet potato and parsnip. Naturally sweet and creamy delicious thanks to coconut milk. Here’s my recipe (see full recipe here):
2 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into chunks
2-4 yukon golds or red skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (optional, can just use sweet potatoes/yams & parsnips)
4-5 parsnips, sliced
1 can coconut milk
Butter or ghee
nutmeg, cinnamon, sea salt to taste
Place all root veggies in a large pot, and fill with water just to cover. Salt the water and bring to a boil. Boil for 10-20 minutes until all are tender—pierce with a fork to determine softness. Drain and let cool. Transfer to large bowl and pour ½ can coconut milk over the root vegetables and a tablespoon of butter (use ghee if dairy sensitive). Add a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg and salt and mash together or beat with a hand blender until whipped. Add more coconut milk and butter to desired thickness. Taste to correct seasonings.
If you have any tips to share, please leave a comment. Happy holiday eating!
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.