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If you want an authentically paleolithic Thanksgiving dinner, you can always put on a bear skin coat, go to the woods, chase down a turkey, hit over the head with a rock, and eat it right there. Or you can try these recipes.

Thanksgiving is a tough time for dieters, and it's especially tough for paleo dieters -- although it doesn't have to be. The foods most Americans eat every November (and most Canadians eat every October) are basically paleo-friendly. They just need to be prepared in a different way. Let's start with the main course, the Thanksgiving bird.

Making Your Meal On Turkey

At first glance, there wouldn't seem to be any problem with the roasted turkey on the usual Thanksgiving table for paleo and primal dieters. After all, turkey is meat. The fat is a little high in omega-6 fatty acids, but if you are otherwise sticking to your diet, there isn't enough in the white meat to cause any serious problems. 

The real question is whether you can be satisfied with your turkey and veggies as people all around you are passing mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with Marshmallows, cornbread stuffing, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Here's a helpful hint. If you live in a part of the United States where the weather is still warm at Thanksgiving (that's a large part of North America), and your hosts are serving iced tea, drink up. Either Orange pekoe or green tea, iced or hot, helps you feel fuller sooner with your meal. Water doesn't have the same effect, because it's not the fluid in your stomach that makes you feel full, but rather a combination of phytochemicals in the tea. Regular and decaf both have this effect.

There is also some scientific evidence, although not a whole lot, that brining the turkey before it is roasted helps diners feel fuller faster due to signals to the brain that indicate that the body has enough salt.

(If you are curious what this evidence actually is, it's in research regarding the involvement of central cholinergic mechanisms on sodium intake induced by gabaergic activation of the lateral parabrachial nucleus.) Many cooks do brining (brief soaking in salt water) anyway to make sure the turkey is tender. This just also helps people who eat the turkey feel full.

Paleo- and Primal-Friendly Stuffing

The issue for most people sticking to any kind of low-carb diet when Thanksgiving turkey is being passed around is what to do about stuffing? Many primal and paleo fans decide to chuck their diets and eat this emotionally charged comfort food, citing some kind of 15% or 20% rule that allows cheat meals. If that's what you need to do, OK.

But if you are preparing the stuffing for the turkey, or if you know you are having paleo dieters over for dinner and you want to accommodate their preferences, try these alternatives to white bread and cornbread:

  • Mushrooms.
  • Sausage.
  • Nuts and fruit.

But be aware that if you decide to break your own rules and load up on traditional stuffing, your body won't send you any signals that something is out of balance right away. It typically takes 3 to 4 days, not just 1, for paleo dieters to start feeling differently after indulging in a super-caloric, carbohydrate-laden meal. You won't feel queasy on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It's more likely to be the next Monday.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Bray GA, Flatt JP, Volaufova J, Delany JP, Champagne CM. Corrective responses in human food intake identified from an analysis of 7-d food-intake records. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec. 88(6):1504-10. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26289.
  • Josic J, Olsson AT, Wickeberg J, Lindstedt S, Hlebowicz J. Does green tea affect postprandial glucose, insulin and satiety in healthy subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J. 2010 Nov 30. 9:63. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-63.
  • Photo courtesy of Kimberly Vardeman by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/kimberlykv/5216035895/
  • Photo courtesy of TheCulinaryGeek by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/preppybyday/5076305261/

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