If you have a dietary restriction, you know that it can add an extra layer of stress over the holidays. Having an autoimmune disorder can mean that many of the sugary, starchy holiday staples can have a negative impact on your system and cause painful flares.
The good news is that there are still plenty of holiday foods that fit within the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, which advises you to avoid foods that can cause inflammation or illness and recommends foods that can promote your wellness. Foods that the AIP says can cause inflammation include grains, legumes, nuts, eggs, dairy, processed sugars, alcohol and coffee. Likewise, the AIP recommends sticking to fresh foods with lots of nutrients that can help keep your gut (and the rest of your body) happy and healthy. Leafy greens and many vegetables fit in this category, but they’re not the only things you can have that’ll leave you feeling full and well! The biggest thing you should remember is to always consult your doctor before making big choices about changes to your diet because they’ll have the best advice for keeping you happy and healthy. That being said, here are some guidelines for holiday foods you can eat that will get you into the spirit of the season without compromising your health!
Even small choices when it comes to cooking can make your food more autoimmune-friendly. When cooking, try to use healthy oils like olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil instead of canola oil, rapeseed oil, safflower oil or sunflower oil.
Potatoes are on the list of autoimmune disorder no-nos, which means staying away from mashed potatoes might be a good call. The good news? Mashed cauliflower exists! Whether you make it from scratch or buy it pre-made, well-seasoned mashed cauliflower can fill the potato-shaped hole in your life while keeping you feeling good. Likewise, sweet potatoes are on the AIPI approved list, so making mashed sweet potatoes another autoimmune-friendly option. Craving hashbrowns? You can fry up spaghetti squash until it’s crispy for a crunchy morning treat.
If you’re dealing with an autoimmune disorder, all sorts of yummy veggies are still on the menu. Sauteed broccoli, crispy brussels sprouts, crispy arugula, roasted carrots: if you’re creative, tasty, fresh vegetables can be used to form so many delicious meals over the holidays.
The AIP also recommends avoiding dairy, but the number of plant-based dairy alternatives on the market means it’s never been easier to enjoy all your favorite sides. Substitutes like oat milk, vegan butter, and even coconut milk whipped cream make baking and cooking an easier process all around.
The gluten content in pasta can be inflammatory and the AIP recommends staying far away; luckily, gluten-free pasta alternatives can be found in almost every grocery store. Pastas made with ingredients like chickpeas or yellow peas are an easy switch that might leave you feeling better after your meal.
Any time you can use fresh fruit as a treat, you’ll be getting your natural, AIP-approved sugar fix while also getting much-needed nutrients. Berries like blueberries, raspberries, sour cherries, pomegranates and cranberries also have antioxidants and are great at reducing inflammation.
Again, to avoid dairy, try easy substitutes like baking with vegan butter and plant-based milks, eating ice cream made with oat milk (as nuts and soy are both triggers) and you can even find vegan whipped cream for the perfect topping.
Try cooking with natural sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, molasses, coconut sugar and date sugar as much as possible and avoid anything made with high fructose corn syrup to make sure your health stays intact even while you’re enjoying dessert.
If you’re looking for a place to start and an easy, autoimmune-friendly dessert to make this holiday season, A Clean Plate has a recipe for pumpkin pie pudding that’s dairy-free and healthy. DrBonnie360’s recipe for date pumpkin bars and an AIP approved pumpkin pie can also hit that sweet spot.
In general the AIP recommends staying away from alcoholic drinks, but there are some choices that might be easier on your body than others. The sugars and sulfites in wine can make them a bad choice for people with autoimmune conditions. The same goes for beer and colored liquors because of the gluten and sugar. Attune Health thinks that clear liquors might be the easier on an autoimmune disorder, and cranberries are on the AIP approved list, so this cranberry pomegranate cocktail from Paleo Effect might be the perfect way to celebrate the holidays while avoiding inflammation or illness. Healing Autoimmune has a whole list of cocktails (and mocktails) that are tasty and autoimmune-friendly so that you can enjoy a drink without paying for it later. Make sure you always stay hydrated though!
Everyone deserves to have a holiday season that’s cheerful, fun and enjoyable. Even if you have an autoimmune disorder, there are plenty of ways to make sure you join in on the cheer of the holidays. It can be such a relief to know what to avoid and substitute to feel better, and I hope this list enables you to build a holiday that works for you.