We are huge fans of eating the way our ancestors ate, following the principles behind a Paleolithic (Paleo) diet. That means steering clear of all refined sugar, dairy products, cereal grains, potatoes, legumes and processed foods. This presents quite a challenge when facing a celebratory meal, especially when the traditional dairy-filled casseroles, gluten-laden stuffing, candy canes and sugar cookies are involved. But with some smart planning and a little imagination, it is possible to enjoy a holiday dinner with all your favorites without compromising your health. Whether you’re a seasoned Paleo devotee or a newbie approaching your first holiday without mashed potatoes, here are 10 paleo swaps for meeting your goals.
10 Paleo Swaps for Holiday Meals
Celery Root for Mashed Potatoes
A holiday meal sans potatoes might sound dreary indeed, but not if you’ve tried mashed celery root. Prepared in the same style as traditional mashed potatoes, mashed celery root takes on the same taste and texture. Simply swap cow’s milk for homemade hemp or almond milk, and add lots of fresh herbs, spices and roasted garlic.
TCM Pick: Celery Root and Cauliflower Purée with Garlicky Greens
Coconut or Almond Flour for Wheat Flour
When making everything from your favorite Christmas cookies to your grandmother’s pie, swap coconut or almond flour for wheat flour. Both flours work surprisingly well, maintaining the same flavor and feel of the real thing.
TCM Pick: Organic Coconut Flour
Spaghetti Squash for Wheat Pasta
If you have not had the chance to try spaghetti squash, now is the time! Spaghetti squash is a gourd vegetable similar to a butternut squash. When cooked, its inside meat becomes stringy and soft, making it the perfect substitute for traditional wheat pasta.
Sea Salt for Iodized Table Salt
No holiday dish is complete without a dash of salt. The problem is that iodized table salt is refined and void of essential trace minerals, making it hard on the body. Swap table salt for sea salt. Sea salt is the unrefined version of table salt, rich in minerals, and free from chlorine bleach.
Coconut Oil for Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is a highly refined and processed food, one that contains genetically modified oils from soy and cottonseed. It may also contain hydrogenated (trans fat) oils, which clog the arteries, leading to heart disease and obesity. Use coconut oil instead which has a high smoke point and is rich in super healthy, fat-burning medium-chain fatty acids.
TCM Pick: Unrefined Coconut Oil
Animal Fat for Butter
Butter is a questionable Paleo food with hardcore Paleo followers avoiding it altogether. Animal fat such as duck fat can make a delicious and super satisfying alternative. Duck fat can be used to coat a turkey, for roasting vegetables, for making a soup stock or even a savory pie. Be sure to only purchase fat that comes from an organically raised animal. This will ensure that it is free of toxins.
TCM Pick: How to use Lard, Tallow and Duck Fat
Raw Honey for White Sugar
Fear not, desserts are still on the Paleo table if made correctly. All you need to do is to ditch the white cane sugar, and use a natural sweetener such as raw honey instead. Raw honey is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healing agents, making it a therapeutic superfood. Raw honey easily replaces corn syrup or simple syrup, similar to maple syrup and molasses. If you are in need of a dry sweetener, check out coconut sugar.
TCM Pick: 3 Best Natural Sweeteners
Flax Meal for Breadcrumbs
Unless you have homemade Paleo bread on hand, look for flax meal as your breadcrumbs replacement. Flax meal offers the same crunch and texture as breadcrumbs without the gluten. It is perfect for mixing into meatballs or coating chicken before baking or frying. Flax is also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which drastically improve heart health, balance the hormones and improve the skin and mood.
TCM Pick: Organic Flax Seeds by Bob’s Red Mill
Nut Cheese for Cow Cheese
May sound like a crazy swap, but thanks to some very dedicated companies, there is an array of nut cheeses commercially available. Made with macadamia nuts, cashews or almonds, nut cheese is fermented just like cow or goat cheese. This creates the same tangy taste and texture as cow’s dairy.
TCM Pick: Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheese
Sweet Potato for White Potato
Whether you are making an easy baked potato side, potato pancakes, a casserole or gratin, simply use sweet potatoes instead. This is the easiest swap of them all, and one that tastes even richer and sweeter! Sweet potatoes contain far more nutrients than white potatoes, topping the charts with their high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins and minerals.
TCM Pick: Sweet Potato Latke