Fertility-Friendly Foods for Thanksgiving Dinner

Written by: Dr. Ashley Eskew MD, MSCI

Edited by: Dr. Will Haas, MD, MBA

Last updated: November 11th, 2020

Family gathering around Thanksgiving dinner table

The stress of trying to “eat healthy” around the holidays is real.

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that a “healthy” lifestyle is one of balance, ease,  sustainability…  and one in which you don’t feel like you’re missing out or depriving yourself.

Which means when it comes to the holidays – or any occasion for that matter – you can enjoy yourself while making choices that support your goals, lifestyle, and overall well being.

When I was in a phase of serial ‘dieting’, the holidays used to cause me so much anxiety. But here’s what I eventually realized:

  1. One day or week of eating a little different from my typical pattern wasn’t going to wreak long term havoc on my health

  2. There are many delicious alternatives to holiday staples I could prepare on my own to share with my family so I had more options that fit my lifestyle

  3. If I ate what I enjoyed and made me feel good, I couldn’t go wrong

  4. The food I choose to eat or not eat on a holiday should not be worthy of causing me anxiety… it should bring me joy.

Now let’s bring those realizations to life with some real-world strategies for supporting your fertility come mealtime this Thanksgiving.

Strategies for a stress-free Thanksgiving meal

We know it goes without saying, but there are so many things during the holidays that can be quite triggering if you are trying to conceive… 

… the family gatherings… the trips to the store… the dreaded question about when you are planning to have kids. 

And of course one of the biggest stressors can be the challenge of maintaining a healthy nutrition plan amongst all the traditional Thanksgiving foods. 

In next week’s post, we’ll cover our top tips for surviving the holiday season outside the kitchen. But for now, here are some tips for sticking to a pro-fertility diet.

Tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving meal when trying to conceive

Host Thanksgiving:

Before your palms begin to sweat, we must admit that hosting Thanksgiving is not going to be the best option for everyone. 

It all comes down to whether it’s less stressful to host versus being a situation where you cannot control the environment (or the food). 

For some, it can be quite unnerving to enter someone else’s home and feel obliged to eat foods that you know will not support your efforts to conceive. 

For others, the thought of having to cook for others is terrifying. 

But if you feel up to the task (we’ve got recipes below to help), then consider hosting Thanksgiving. That way you can ensure that the food you eat nourishes your body! 

Bring your own food

Okay, if you decided that hosting Thanksgiving is not your thing – no worries. 

The next strategy is to simply bring a dish or two that you and your partner will enjoy. This way you can relax knowing that there will be at least one dish on the table that supports your current goals. 

And if you know that the host will insist that you don’t need to cook anything, bring it over anyway!

And if you’re not sure what to cook, we’ve got you covered below…

Start a new tradition:

No matter what your mother says, there’s absolutely no rule saying that you must have mashed potatoes and gravy at Thanksgiving. 

Yes, we really just said it… break conventional tradition and start a new one!

Once we became comfortable with introducing new foods on Thanksgiving, things became much more enjoyable for us. 

I used to hate broccoli casserole. And my husband loathed dressing loaded with bread crumbs and raisins. 

So we opted to make a citrus kale salad and baked sweet potato wedges instead – they are now family favorites at the holidays 🙂

Pro-Fertility Food Swaps at Thanksgiving

If you’re looking to make some simply fertility-friendly food swaps, we’ve got some ideas to keep it simple, delicious, and stress-free.

And if only one or two of these recommendations suits you, that’s okay… Remember, it’s all about balance in the end.

Fertility-friendly food swaps for Thanksgiving

Watch the high-glycemic carbs: 

As you may recall, high-glycemic foods can wreck your hormones

So when we call out bread, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, we aren’t trying to ruin anyone’s Thanksgiving… We are simply trying to bring attention to foods that can disrupt your hormonal balance. 

The good news? 

There are many other great carbohydrates to try instead!

Recommended swap

Lower glycemic carbs make for great substitutions. 

So instead of mashed potatoes or baked potatoes, give roasted butternut squash or baked sweet potatoes a try… And if you’d rather pass on the starch altogether, load your plate with more green veggies instead (e.g., broccoli, asparagus, kale, green beans, etc).  

Quick fact: asparagus is loaded with folate – one of the top pro-fertility nutrients. 

In the end, if you just can’t skip the traditional Thanksgiving carbs, choose your favorites and enjoy!

Look for the added sugar: 

Sugar can easily find its way into your Thanksgiving foods, especially items that were store-bought. 

Things like cranberry sauce and gravy are big culprits. 

Make sure to check those food labels and look at the added sugar content. Some amount of natural sugar is okay. Just be on the lookout for too much added sugar. 

Of course the same goes for recipes made from scratch. 

Recommended swap

If you’re looking to save time in the kitchen with premade foods, check out a few different options. Look for the one with the least amount of added sugar. You’d be surprised what you’ll find. 

Alternatively, if you’re cooking things from scratch, try reducing the amount of sugar added to recipes. Swapping out sugar for fat can be a great way to maintain flavor. 

Remember, don’t fear all forms of dietary fat, especially when you’re trying to minimize sugar. 

Be mindful of your beverages: 

The holidays can be a time to enjoy good spirits and libations, but it’s important to be cautious when it comes to drinking alcohol. 

As we’ve mentioned before, we recommend sticking with the CDC recommendations – any woman actively trying to conceive should abstain from alcohol. This is also true for those undergoing fertility treatments as well.

But fear not… we’ve got you covered!

Recommended swap

Mocktails are a great option! 

We especially love anything with mineral water 🙂 

If you’re looking for extra inspiration, we’re big fans of Superfood Juices by Julie Morris… Dr. Haas loves the Pomegranate Chia Fresca! 

Be picky with dessert: 

Pumpkin pie… apple pie… pumpkin bars… and cranberry cheesecake – oh my goodness. 

When it comes time for dessert, there’s no need to sweat it. 

We believe that you should have your cake and eat it too – just be picky with what you choose and balance portion sizes. 

Recommended swap

First and foremost, don’t feel like you have to skip out or swap anything on dessert. 

There are many great options to choose from, including some of the substitutions we have below. 

Personally, we are big fans of anything with dark chocolate as the main ingredient! Fresh berries also make a great after-dinner treat. 

And if you’re looking to go the traditional route, choosing a wholesome pumpkin pie that’s light on the sugar is a great option too.

Fertility-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes

It’s one thing to know what you should eat, and another to put that information into action… And all in a way that’s easy and doesn’t have you feeling stressed about being in the kitchen. 

As you know, we’re big foodies at heart at OvulifeMD. We’re always looking for healthy (and tasty) food recipes. Oftentimes, this means making modifications to traditional recipes or preparing something similar-ish.  

Here are a few healthy Thanksgiving recipes that we recommend giving a try:

Appetizers:

Best Sweet Potato Bites

Sweet potatoes are always a winner, right?

This recipe is SUPER easy to make and will surely be a crowd, please.

To make this recipe a little more fertility-friendly, simply swap out the marshmallow for goat cheese, and drizzle a little honey on it at the end for a bit of something sweet. You can also use cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil in place of the butter. 

We recommend roasting the sweet potatoes in advance so they become chip like- add the goat cheese and pecans for 5 minutes- then enjoy! Melty, gooey, savory goodness 🙂

Thanks, Delish!

Crispy Buffalo Quinoa Bites

Instead of the traditional sausage meatballs or cheese ball filled with mayo (you know the kind with four types of cheese, sour cream, and pork), give these crispy quinoa buffalo bites a try!

They make for the PERFECT appetizer and are savory, spicy, convenient, and delicious! We promise even your carnivore cousin won’t even miss the meat 😉 

We think these buffalo bites do great on their own without the salad. Simply chop off some celery sticks to add to the side and enjoy! 

If you decide to make the dressing in this recipe, remember to stick to full-fat dairy. You can also skip the buttermilk if you’d like. We actually forgo the ranch-like dressing and add more buffalo sauce! 

Be sure to keep this recipe around for football season! 

Thanks, Half Baked Harvest!

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach artichoke dip is simply one of my favorite appetizers. I could probably eat it as the Thanksgiving meal… My partner, on the other hand, prefers the buffalo bites.  

This particular recipe includes all the simple, fertility-friendly swaps we would look for when comparing it to your traditional version – it’s both mayo and vegetable oil-free. 

Enjoy it with vegetable sticks or your favorite chip or cracker!

Thanks, The Clean Eating Couple!

Broccoli Caesar

No substitutions needed here. We simply vote for the egg over the mayo. This recipe is a great addition to any Thanksgiving meal!

Thanks, Bon Appetit!

Sides:

Best Paleo Stuffing (gluten-free, grain-free)

Wait one second… We thought paleo meant no bread… How can you make stuffing without bread?

Our thoughts exactly.

We were skeptical too when we first saw this, but this recipe doesn’t disappoint! The flavor profile and texture can’t be beaten, and it’s full of all the good stuff like veggies, olive oil, and almond flour! That’s my favorite kind of stuffing.

Thanks, 40 aprons!

Herbed Wild Rice and Quinoa Stuffing:

Because stuffing is such a staple at Thanksgiving we wanted to share another option.

We also love this alternative as it’s built around low-glycemic whole grains (gluten-free too if that’s something you’re trying to avoid). 

Thanks, Kitchen Treaty!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta:

Can’t imagine Thanksgiving without cranberries? 

This recipe is a great alternative to that cranberry sauce loaded with sugar and preservatives. The feta adds a delightful twist and can be swapped for goat cheese as well. A sprinkle of pistachios would be a pro-fertility fat to include in this recipe as well. 

Thanks, Peas & Crayons!

Main: 

We’re in full support of enjoying turkey on ‘Turkey’ day… But if you’re vegetarian or prefer to go more plant-based, then we’ve got some delicious alternatives for you to try. Anyone who says Thanksgiving isn’t the same without turkey clearly hasn’t tried these.

Cauliflower Steak with a Walnut Caper Salsa

A twist on traditional mains, this cauliflower steak truly has a meaty texture that hits the spot. The fertility-boosting walnuts and caper salsa add the perfect flavor profile to make this worthy of being the main event.

Thanks, Bon Appetit!

Portobello Steaks with Lemon Basil Aioli

Mushrooms also do a great job at taking the place of meat. 

This recipe has a flavorful pesto aioli that absolutely makes the dish! An added bonus is that they also use Thrive algae oil.  Algae oil is a  great source of plant based monounsaturated fatty acids and has an extremely light flavor that will suit nearly any dish you pair it with.

Thanks, Making Thyme for Health!

Final Thoughts

Whatever you choose to set your table with this Thanksgiving, make sure it’s something that is delicious, you love, makes you feel good, makes you smile, and serves your body.

Holidays are meant for joy and not anxiety, so please don’t sweat the small stuff. 

At the end of the day, you do you and enjoy quality time with loved ones!

Beyond swapping out some of the holiday staples we’ve also started a family tradition of taking a walk or going on a small hike every afternoon on Thanksgiving. Get creative with physical activity and make it a family occasion!

Remember, the food you eat is one of the most important factors that you can control along your reproductive journey.
With Love & Empowerment,
Dr. Ashley Eskew & Dr. Will Haas

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