Dr. Erin Hendriks

Five healthy Thanksgiving recipes

Read this article for the recipes, but stick around for the tips on how to deal with food and family-related stress.


November 11, 2022

Written by:

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr. Erin Hendriks

Board-Certified Physician


May 2, 2024


This season we’re grateful for supportive friends and family…and delicious food. But we know that being around all this during the holidays can get intense, too, especially when you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). That’s why we’ve rounded up five outstanding recipes to help you savor the fall flavors of Thanksgiving dinner without worry. 

Eating well matters, especially when extra seasonal stress could have you running for the nearest restroom. For one thing, your gut and your brain talk to each other and influence each other massively. What you feed your gastrointestinal system, then, can affect your mood and thinking. Even on Thanksgiving! 


Read this article for the recipes, but stick around for the tips on how to deal with food and family-related stress.

Start in style: Sweet & spicy mixed nuts

If you’re eating low FODMAP, note that a handful of nuts is a great appetizer stuffed with fiber, magnesium, and healthy natural fats. Due to their high FODMAP content, cashews and pistachios can be skipped, but peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and walnuts are all fair game. 

This recipe for the Union Square Cafe’s Bar Nuts marries savory rosemary goodness with a ribbon of brown sugar sweetness and a kiss of spice. This recipe shouldn’t trigger your stomach, but it is easy to throw together and proves consistently popular. 

Sweet yet gut-safe: Easy homemade citrus cranberry sauce

It doesn’t get much more traditional than cranberry sauce. Yet the store-bought kind is often riddled with sugars that can spur on inflammation and poor digestion. Making your own sauce ensures you get that tart, traditional taste on your own terms. 

Cranberries are vitamin-rich, bring a bunch of antioxidants to the party, and fight infections, for a start. As this 2019 study demonstrates, they contain powerful plant compounds that can ward off E. coli infections and promote healthy gut bacteria. (And in case you’re not convinced, cranberry sauce goes great on leftover turkey sandwiches…just saying).

The main event: let’s talk IBS-friendly turkey

We know, it can’t be Thanksgiving without the roasted turkey. Yet people often rub these holiday birds with salt, soak them in beer, or use mystery marinades that may upset your stomach. If onions, garlic, or any excess salt is lurking in that turkey, you might start feeling gastrointestinal distress even before dessert is served. A 2019 study, for example, links bloating with high sodium foods, meaning you’ll want to watch the salt in your poultry. If you won’t be the one making the turkey, request that garlic and onions get left out of the marinade and stuffing, too. 

Overall though, turkey is a low-FODMAP source of protein. Plus, it contains tryptophan, which, no, doesn't necessarily send you to sleep, but does possibly promote good digestion and a stable mood. So take control by prepping and cooking your own bird. Make that an easy task with this extremely quick recipe for turkey breast. 

For pescatarians, Pecan Maple Dijon Salmon is a flavor-packed alternative. And for people who prefer veggies, a filling main dish like quinoa-stuffed acorn squash makes an excellent turkey substitute.  

Best friends: suitable sides that turn a meal into a feast

For some of us, a good Thanksgiving menu is all about the sides. Sadly, they often contain onions, garlic, and other ‘no-go’ ingredients. That staple sweet potato casserole? Too many sweet potatoes; too many marshmallows. The green bean casserole? Full of salty cream soups and topped with crispy fried onions. And the mashed potatoes? Cream, milk and garlic tips this perennial favorite into dangerous territory.

Create mashed potatoes everyone (including your stomach!) will love by using lactose-free milk or almond milk and possibly a few parsnips for a kick. For flavor, you could add a little paprika and top them with diced chives or shallots. The potato type matters, too – this recipe, for example, features Yukon Golds, which yield a naturally buttery taste, not to mention vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. 

If potatoes don’t do it for you, roasted carrots or other roasted vegetables (like beets) are easy to prep and pair well with nearly everything. IBS-soothing seasonings like fresh herbs, cinnamon, and ginger can take everyday carrots up a notch. One silver lining to IBS-friendly Thanksgiving side dishes…at least you don’t have to eat brussels sprouts! 

The sweetest thing: spice, chocolate, and everything nice

We know pumpkin pie is the go-to here (and if that’s your jam, we got you!). We thought we might suggest something different though, a dessert that puts spectacular spices front and center: Maple Syrup Spice Bundt Cake. It’s not hard to make, but it’s beautiful, and brings a mellow yet warm and welcome flavor to the Thanksgiving table. The caramel icing doesn’t hurt, either! 

Tips to make Thanksgiving terrific

Dr. Mark Hyman dishes up a lot of tips on how to enjoy the holiday. As you deal with holiday cooking and eating: 

  • Kick the day off with a fiber-filled breakfast so you won’t feel as ravenous at feast time.
  • Design a “low stress plan” for the day so you don’t trigger your gut
  • If you can’t resist a dish, just go slow. A huge meal adds fuel to your gastrocolonic response, possibly making IBS worse.
  • Pay attention to Dr. Pimentel, who points out that food poisoning tends to strike at Thanksgiving, meaning you’ll want to avoid undercooked food. 
  • When cooking, swap olive oil or butter for other fats, use herbs and seasonings like sage, rosemary, and ginger instead of garlic or onions, and reach for cornstarch to thicken sauces rather than flour. 
  • After the Thanksgiving meal, take a walk to help your stomach settle. Then drink some ginger or peppermint tea for extra soothing. 

We know this holiday is about a lot more than the food. At its core, Thanksgiving is friends, family, thankfulness, gratitude, and reflecting on what’s going well for you. Guess what? Gratitude is an amazing stress-buster that can actually calm IBS.  

Start feeling more stable with Salvo Health

At Salvo Health, our digital healthcare platform and virtual clinic provides you with continuous text-based support and care for IBS, anxiety, and related issues. Imagine being able to text a board-certified Physician or Behavioral Health Coach to avoid flare-ups or manage your pain. Alongside messaging-based communication, members receive a customized Care Plan that can take account of how their symptoms can be managed for better digestive health. 

Get immediate access to a coordinated Salvo Health care team, including a certified gastro specialist and board-certified health coach when you join Salvo Health today.

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