Plan your Thanksgiving meal around special diets with ease

Many Thanksgiving traditions are centered around the table, with family gathering for a meal and conversation, perhaps playing catchup with relatives who live far away.

For some, the dinner table can present a challenge, with special dietary needs — like gluten-free, low-carb or no salt or sugar — or the desire to eat healthier foods or abstain from anything that contains animal products.

Hosts can make sure their guests are well cared for by adding a few simple dishes to the menu or adapting some of the family favorites to accommodate family members with special needs.

Let your guests know ahead of time what dishes may be suitable for them and ask them to bring a dish they like as well. Try not to single them out at the dinner table — sometimes it makes guests uncomfortable if they think you went out of your way to make something they can eat.

Below are a few suggestions to try for your next family meal:

  • Instead of making a calorie- and fat-heavy green bean casserole, why not blanch fresh by dipping them in boiling water, then letting them cool. The green beans can be seasoned with soy sauce, garlic and olive oil or tossed with sauteed mushrooms for a healthy side dish that will for just about any diet.
  • Make mashed potatoes with almond milk and plant-based butter with a mushroom- or vegetable-based gravy.
  • Use rice flour, cornstarch or potato starch instead of wheat flour for a gluten-free gravy. Add vegetable stock in stead of meat broth for the vegan and vegetarians in your family.
  • Dressing also can be made with vegetable stock, which has no cholesterol.
  • Sweet potatoes are already sweet, so don’t add extra sugar. Roasting sweet potatoes before making the casserole helps bring out the natural sweetness and adds another layer of flavor.
  • Looking for a no-added-sugar dessert? Try freezing banana slices and putting them in a blender with a little cocoa powder or fresh fruit for a dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free frozen dessert or make fresh fruit tarts with a honey or sugar-free jelly glaze.

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