How to Survive the Holidays on an Autoimmune Healing Diet

The holidays are stressful enough for a lot of people, but they can be especially tough if you’re trying to stick to an anti-inflammatory autoimmune healing program. What the heck you are supposed to do when everyone else is feasting on all the foods that are most likely making you sick?

Don’t freak out! And don’t fall off the wagon and binge on inflammatory foods that trigger your condition. Instead of focusing on having to say “No” to holiday treats, embrace the “Yes!” of getting to indulge in the delicious vibrant foods that that will heal your body!

It is true that the healing phase is challenging. It takes some getting used to but you’ll discover that it has never been more easy or satisfying to adopt an ancestral/paleo/primal diet!

When I was healing, the term “paleo”  referred only to dinosaurs and cavemen. These days, it’s a lifestyle that tens of millions of people are thriving on all around the world!

I never feel left out or deprived anymore and I never miss the foods that make me sick. I’ve been cooking ancestral holiday dinners for over seven years. My family and friends always rave about the food at my dinner parties, and they don’t feel hung over and bloated from excess carbs or sugar the next day!

So here are some holiday survival tips along with delicious holiday recipes that will open your eyes to whole new way of celebrating and giving thanks!

Holiday Survival Tips For Autoimmune Healing:

  • Reframe it! Instead of feeling angry, resentful or deprived, be thankful for all the amazing foods you CAN have! Take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone – millions of people will be eating this way over the holidays for fun! It doesn’t hurt to remember how overindulgence in conventional holiday party food can result in uncomfortable symptoms, weight gain and even a flare up of your condition.
  • Ask for Support! The people who really care about you want you to get better. Explain that you are on a healing program and eating this way is restoring your health and vitality.
  • Take Charge! Offer to have the celebration at your home (where you can be in control of the menu). The first time I did this, my family was in shock at how delicious the food was and how great they felt the next day. You could also offer to bring a couple of dishes that you know you can eat.
  • Keep it Cool! If anyone tries to tell you that your food reactions are “all in your head”, resist the urge to club them with a large uncooked yam. Instead, thank them for their concern for your mental health and quickly change the subject. You could say something like; “The great thing about this diet is that I see the results for myself. I know I’m feeling better, and I don’t care if it’s in my head or my body!”

Amazing Autoimmune Healing Holiday Recipes

Roasted Turkey with Rosemary, Thyme & Sage: Serves 8 – 10

Dry Brine:

½ cup kosher salt

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp dried sage

1 tsp dried parsley

Grated lemon zest from half a small lemon


One 12- to 14-pound turkey

I onion, quartered

1 lemon, halved

1 small bunch of parsley

½ stick butter, at room temperature

1 tsp each of dried rosemary, thyme & sage

Wash the turkey inside & out. In a small bowl, rub the salt with the dried herbs & lemon zest. Sprinkle the salt all over & inside of the bird. Place in a large roasting bag, or wrap in plastic wrap, & place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 1½ to 2 days, uncovering the bird for the last 8 hours in order to let the skin dry out – this helps ensure a crispy skin.

Preheat oven to 425°. Remove turkey from refrigerator, rinse & pat dry. Leave at room temperature for about an hour. Place turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Stuff the cavity with the onion, lemon & parsley. Combine the room temperature butter with the dried herbs. Loosen the skin & rub butter under & all over the skin. Truss the turkey & flip it so that it is breast side down. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove the pan & flip the turkey onto its back so that it is breast-side up. Return to the oven, lower the temperature to 325° & roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh registers 165°, about 2 ½ – 3 hours total cooking time. Baste the turkey with pan juices every 30 minutes or so.

Transfer turkey to a carving board or a platter, tent with foil & let stand about 30 minutes before carving & serving.


Roast Beef with Herbs, Garlic & Roasted Onions: Serves 6 – 8

One 4 pound beef top loin roast, fat trimmed to ¼ inch

2 TB olive oil, plus extra for browning

3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced

4 TB chopped fresh rosemary

1 TB chopped thyme

2 tsp salt + ¾ tsp black pepper

4 – 6 red onions, weighing about a pound, halved & drizzled with a bit of olive oil

Preheat oven to 450°. Pat the roast dry with a paper towel. Rub a little oil onto roast; heat large skillet over high heat & brown meat on all sides. Combine the 2 TB oil, garlic, herbs, salt & pepper together in a bowl, then rub into the meat. Place roast fat side up in a shallow roasting pan & place the onions, cut side down, around the meat. Sprinkle the onions with salt. Cook for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350°. Cook until thickest part of meat registers 125° -130° for medium-rare, about 25 – 35 minutes. Remove roast to a cutting board, loosely tent with foil, & let rest 15 minutes. Thinly slice against the grain, & serve with roasted onions alongside.



Honey Crisp Salad with Pomegranates, Radicchio & Walnuts: Serves 4


2 TB honey

Small shallot, finely chopped

3 TB apple cider vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 big pinches salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup olive oil



1 pomegranate

1 small radicchio

2 endives

Small head of butter lettuce

1 large Honey Crisp or Pink Lady apple, thinly sliced

½ cup walnuts, toasted

1 cup pomegranate seeds

Warm honey in small skillet. Combine honey, shallot, vinegar, mustard & salt in a medium bowl. Let stand for 10 – 15 minutes. Whisk in oil; season with freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the radicchio in half, remove the core & tear the leaves in half. Remove the endive leaves & slice them into long, thin strips. Tear the butter lettuce into pieces, wash & dry. Toss the salad greens together, add the sliced apple & walnuts, & toss with vinaigrette to taste. Garnish with pomegranate seeds & serve.


Persimmon and Hazelnut Salad: serves 4


1 ½ TB Sherry vinegar

1 ½ shallots, diced

1 ¼ tsp Dijon mustard

Salt & pepper to taste

6 TB olive oil


1 large head of butter lettuce, torn into pieces

1 small bunch of watercress, trimmed & washed

3 ripe Fuyu persimmons, peeled, halved & sliced

⅓ cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, & chopped

Combine the vinegar, shallot & mustard & a couple pinches of salt in a bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil, season with pepper. Taste & adjust as necessary. Combine the lettuce, watercress & persimmons together in a serving bowl. Toss with vinaigrette to taste, garnish with the hazelnuts & serve.


Side Dishes

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Onions & Apple: Serves 4 to 6

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed & halved

1 crisp apple, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 small red onion, sliced

2 sprigs thyme & 10 sage leaves

3 TB olive oil

2 TB maple syrup

Salt & pepper

½ cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 375°. Toss the sprouts, apple, red onion, thyme sprigs & sage leaves together with the oil, maple syrup with salt & pepper to taste. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet & roast in the oven, tossing from time to time, until they are tender & browned, about 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, taste for salt, & garnish with the toasted walnuts.


Garlic Smashed Yams: Serves 6

4 large organic yams
4 large organic garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 tbsp. organic ghee (or to taste)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Boil yams until tender. Strain water. Add garlic, ghee, salt and pepper. Smash and serve!


Maple-Glazed Carrots: Serves 6

2 pounds thin carrots, scrubbed or peeled (sliced in half lengthwise if they are big)

1 TB olive oil

Salt & pepper

¼ cup maple syrup, preferably Grade B

Preheat oven to 450°. Place the carrots on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil & maple syrup, sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste & toss well. Bake for about 45 minutes, tossing them midway, until carrots are caramelized & browned. Serve right away.


Rutabaga & Turnip Puree: Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds rutabagas and/or turnips

Salt & pepper

2 TB butter

1 TB chopped parsley or chives, or 2 tsp chopped thyme, as a garnish

Peel & chop the rutabagas & turnips, making the rutabagas half the size of the turnips. Place them in a saucepan & cover with cold water. Add 1 tsp salt & bring to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 25 – 35 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Return the vegetables to the saucepan & mash or puree. Add butter & enough of the reserved cooking liquid to thin to desired consistency. Taste for salt & season with freshly ground black pepper. Garnish and serve.



Roasted Butternut Squash Soup: Serves 4 to 6

2 ½ – 3 pound butternut squash

4 cloves garlic, unpeeled

2 TB olive oil, ghee or butter (or a combination), plus ¼ cup for the fried sage

1 large onion, chopped

2 tsp chopped fresh sage, plus 12 – 15 whole leaves

I ¼ tsp chopped fresh thyme, or ¼ tsp dried

¾ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground ginger

1 ½ tsp salt

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

½ cup coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut the squash in half & scoop out the seeds. Add 2 cloves of garlic to each squash cavity, drizzle with a little olive oil & turn to coat. Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper, then place cut-side down onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast squash until tender, about 30 – 40 minutes. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out all of the flesh & set aside. Peel the garlic & set aside with the squash

Heat 2 TB oil in a soup pot & add the onion, chopped herbs & the spices. Sauté until the onions have turned lightly golden, about 10 – 15 minutes. Add the squash & roasted garlic to the pot along with the salt & the stock. Bring to a boil, then lower heat & simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender, or with an immersion blender, until smooth. Rewarm the soup, taste for salt & season with pepper.

Heat oil in a small skillet until very hot. Add the sage & fry until dark & crisp. Drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Sprinkle with salt. Serve the soup hot, garnished with the fried sage leaves.



Honey-Vanilla Poached Pears with Dried Cherries, Almonds & Vanilla Glaze

Serves 4

4 ripe, firm Bosc pears, peeled

4 cups water, or a mixture of water & white wine

1 cup honey

1 vanilla bean, split (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)

Half of a lemon

3-4 black peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick

4 – 5 whole cloves

¼ cup dried sour cherries

Slivered almonds, toasted

Halve the pears, leaving the stem intact. Use a melon baller to scoop out the core. In a large pot, combine the water, wine (optional) honey, vanilla bean, lemon & spices. Warm the mixture over moderate heat to dissolve the honey. Slip the pears into the poaching liquid & cover with a round of parchment that has a small vent hole cut in the middle. Bring to a simmer & then continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the pears are easily pierced with a paring knife. Make sure that they stay submerged underneath the parchment while they poach or else they will discolor.

Allow the pears to cool in the poaching liquid. The longer that they sit, the more flavor they will develop. Place the dried cherries in a small saucepan. Ladle out enough poaching liquid to cover the cherries, & warm over moderate heat. Remove from heat & allow the cherries to plump.

Remove the pears to 4 dessert plates, strain out the lemon & spices, & cook the poaching liquid until syrupy & reduced by two-thirds. Spoon the sauce over the pears, scatter with the almonds & sour cherries, & serve.


Baked Apples with Cinnamon, Currants & Walnuts : Serves 4

4 large apples, such as Rome Beauty or Golden Delicious

¾ cup maple syrup

2 TB water

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ cup currants

½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped

2 TB butter, cut into small cubes

Thick coconut milk, from the top of the can, for serving

Preheat oven to 375°. Peel the skin off of the top of each apple. Scoop out the core, leaving the stem-end intact. With a paring knife, lightly trim the bottoms of each apple so that they will sit flat. Place the apples in a 9-inch baking dish.

Combine the maple syrup, water & spices; warm over low heat . Set aside. Fill the apple cavities with the currants & walnuts. Pour the spiced maple syrup over the apples. Distribute the butter over the apples & bake until tender when pierced with a skewer, about 50 minutes to an hour. Remove apples to 4 shallow dessert bowls. Pour the male syrup into a skillet & bring to a boil. Cook until thickened & syrupy, a few minutes. Drizzle the syrup over the apples, & serve, with dollops of coconut cream, if using.


Gratitude Vegan Pumpkin Bread – Courtesy of the Amazing Kimberly Webber

 1 baked small organic sweet pie pumpkin or red kuri squash (approx. 2 cups of meat)

¼ cup melted org. coconut oil

Dash cinnamon

Dash nutmeg

Pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon minced or grated fresh ginger

¼ cup org unsweetened coconut milk

6 Tablespoons org maple syrup

¼ cup raw organic coconut nectar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon apple vinegar (makes it rise)

Organic orange rind zest

¼ cup hazelnut ‘flour’ (powdered hazelnuts)

¾ cup org coconut ‘flour’ (powdered coconut)


Put wet ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Add dry ingredients and stir to the proper consistency, you may add more wet or dry to get the right ‘dough’. Put in coconut oil greased baking pan of your choice (I use a little glazed iron terrine pan from Europe). Top with poppy seeds and bake at 350* until toothpick comes out clean in the center, anywhere from 45 to 55 minutes.

This is a recipe that I created, I hope I have the proportions right! You can play with it and adjust to your liking to make it your own!


More Cool Paleo Holiday Resources

Awesome Gluten Free/Grain Free Stuffing:

33 Recipes for a Paleo Thanksgiving


Happy Holidays!

I hope you’ll enjoy the delicious foods available to you on the autoimmune healing program.

Eat well, be thankful, and love yourself!







One Response to How to Survive the Holidays on an Autoimmune Healing Diet

  1. Seibert December 3, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

    These sound like excellent recipes. My daughter was asking about healthy meals that she could cook. I plan to share these with her! Are there any additional steps for cooking at higher altitudes like in Santa Fe NM?

    Thank You!

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