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How to Survive a Thanksgiving Full of Picky Eaters, Special Dieters, & Football Fanatics

It's Thanksgiving dinner, and the desire to please everyone is...well, understandable, admirable even. And yet, even at Thanksgiving, the old adage holds true: You can’t please all the people all of the time.

There will be paleo people and low carbers; gluten-intolerant and gluten-sensitive folks, and those with nut allergies -- ditto dairy, egg, and tree-nut allergies; and of course vegetarians and vegans, not to mention the food phobic and the just plain picky.

Frankly, it takes courage just to step into the kitchen. To make preparation a little less daunting, we’ve assembled top-rated recipes that anticipate the quirky needs of your fellow humans -- those very folks you're so thankful are gathered around the holiday table.

Perfectly Paleo Thanksgiving

Easy Smoked Turkey

Good news, turkey is full-on paleo friendly. Except, no bread stuffing. Leave that on the side as dressing.

Easy Smoked Turkey

Photo by KGora

Honey and Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

Back in the day, true paleolithic peeps ate roots, tubers, and bulbs. They also ate grubs and insects. Basically whatever was edible that they could get their hands on, they ate. But let's not go crazy. It's Thanksgiving, not Paleo Authenticity Day; we'll settle for sweet potatoes.

Honey and Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

Photo by LilSnoo

Duck Fat-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

No need for butter or vegetable oil when you have duck fat, delicious duck fat! Also try frying sweet potato rounds in duck fat.

Duck Fat-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Photo by Big Shots Mom

Low-Carb Mashed Cauliflower

For paleo people as much as any of us, a rich fantasy life is important. Here's one "for those of us low-carb peeps who like to pretend that we are eating mashed potatoes," says catiebrooke.

Low-Carb Mashed Cauliflower

Photo by lutzflcat

Perfect Paleo Pumpkin Bread

For your perfectly paleo snacking pleasure. This recipe calls for coconut flour and coconut oil. Did actual paleolithic people eat coconuts? When they washed up on shore, sure. Also, interestingly, a coconut's not a nut, it's a drupe. The name cocodrupe, however, never got past marketing.

Perfect Paleo Pumpkin Bread

Photo by Bibi

Turkey Soup with Root Vegetables

Here's that rare turkey soup with no pasta or rice. Interestingly, the very first soup was likely prepared by a paleo person in a pre-soup-bowl environment. They stuffed an animal's stomach with various foods and stream water and then roasted it over an open fire. Now that's going paleo. With this recipe, a pot on the stove works fine.

Leftover Turkey Soup

Photo by Meredith


See our complete collection of Paleo Thanksgiving Recipes.


Vegetarian and Vegan Thanksgiving

Four Cheese Lasagna

You know what loads of people are thankful for? Lasagna. You don't need to be vegetarian to love this cheesy treat. Perfect for vegetarians. Also perfect for picky kids who don't want turkey and gravy. It's basically cheese pizza in casserole form. Can't lose.

Vegetarian Four Cheese Lasagna

Photo by Allrecipes

Tofu Turkey II

At Thanksgiving, bird is the word, even if you're talking tofu turkey. "The directions may seem a bit daunting at first glance," says Holly, "but don't worry! It is much, much easier than it appears and the actual preparation time is under 15 minutes." You might also like Harvest Vegan Nut Roast

Tofu Turkey II

Photo by Tami Le

Onion Gravy

Full disclosure: This recipe calls for chicken stock. Sub in veggie stock to make a totally turkey-free vegetarian version of Thanksgiving gravy. It’s rich with caramelized onion and red wine flavors. Try your vegetarian gravy on vegetarian stuffing.

Onion Gravy

Photo by lutzflcat

Vegan Option: Easy Gravy

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

The roasted garlic adds sweet yum to these fluffy potatoes.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Photo by naples34102


See our complete collection of Vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes.


Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

Gluten-Free Stuffing

It's not difficult to go gluten-free for Thanksgiving. Reject the rolls, pass on the flour-crust pies, and skip the bread-based stuffing recipes...unless it's this one.

Gluten Free Thanksgiving Stuffing

Photo by mis7up

Quinoa Stuffing

Here's a non-bread stuffing that gets it done with high-protein, gluten-free quinoa.

Quinoa Stuffing

Photo by Allrecipes

Wild and Brown Rice

And here's a wild rice dish loaded with good gluten-free stuff.

Wild and Brown Rice

Photo by naples34102

Pumpkin Flan

Not a fan of the flan? You will be. It's completely gluten-free and delicious beyond reason. Also, low in fat.

Pumpkin Flan

Photo by Chef John

Picky Eater Plan

For the pickiest eaters, quietly fill them up with delicious roasted nuts before dinner. Roasted nuts are healthy and filling. So you don't have to feel too bad when they're at the table aimlessly pecking about the plate.

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts

Photo by Sherri

Hey, What About Those Football Fanatics?

Sadly, nothing can be done. Set them in front of the TV with Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts or these crispy sweet potato chips and a beer, and be glad they're not bothering you in the kitchen.

Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Chips

Photo by Shearone


Check out our complete collection of Thanksgiving Recipes.


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Carl Hanson

About Carl Hanson

Carl will eat that. Share with him @CarlNo9 on Twitter.