Paleo Christmas Dinner Ideas
Don your most-festive loin cloth.
Get ready to eat like it’s 10,000 years ago — that's the basic principle of the paleo diet. Your ancestors weren't gifting holiday sweaters and building gingerbread houses, so what would a modern paleo Christmas meal look like? Here's a quick primer on the ultimate paleo pantry and some suggested celebratory, caveman-approved dishes.
What is the paleo diet? There was no modern agriculture during the Paleolithic period. Accordingly, adhering to the paleo diet today means avoiding processed foods (including refined sugars, grains and dairy) and loading up on vegetables, (some) fruit, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats and meat from ethically raised animals.
What are the supposed health benefits? Paleo advocates claim that the diet cuts out foods that can contribute to weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. It can be rich in foods high in soluble fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats — all of which hopefully contribute to better health.
What's in? Grass-fed beef and organic, pasture-raised poultry, wild-caught fish and seafood, organic eggs, healthy fats (olive and avocado), indulgent fats (ghee, grass-fed butter, duck fat), dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, fruits* (apples, berries, citrus, melon, peaches, plums), nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and sea salt.
*Bananas are controversial — some say yes, while others say no.
What's out? Foods that are highly processed: white or whole-grain flour, processed sugar (think high-fructose corn syrup), grains, pulses (lentils), legumes (beans and even peanuts), artificial sweeteners and overly salted food.
Christmas paleo pantry
Go gather these at your local supermarket (hunting not required):
- Organic, pasture-raised turkey or chicken
- Grass-fed beef
- Wild-caught salmon and seafood
- Chicken liver
- Avocado, olive and/or walnut oils
- Grass-fed butter
- Duck fat
- Organic eggs
- Fruits: apples, berries, citrus fruits
- Vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, spinach, sweet potatoes
- Nuts: any of your favorites
- Seeds: any of your favorites
- Fresh herbs
- Dried spices
- Sea salt
Note that there are other seasonal paleo-approved fruits and vegetables; the ones listed here are the most-Christmas-friendly.
Christmas Menu Ideas
- Serve salmon rillettes with veggies for dipping or go for chopped chicken livers served with hardboiled egg and cornichon.
- This spinach-walnut pate is great spread on Belgian endive (plus it's vegan).
- Bring your A game and make venison stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon.
- Serve assorted smoked shellfish-- like mussels and oysters.
Soup and salad:
- Make broccoli special with umami-packed anchovies.
- Serve shaved Brussels sprouts with pecans and lemon.
- Braise collard greens with butternut squash with a hint of brightness from fresh ginger.
- Savoy cabbage is charred and crisped with a little caraway.
- Make this golden cauliflower dish — thank saffron for the beautiful color.
- Roast sweet potatoes with a ting of heat and spice from chile powder.
- Brew a selection of herbal teas and refrigerate.
- Organize sparkling water or flavored seltzers with herb garnishes.
- Try these fun infused waters.
- Dessert is not really a big paleo thing — all those potential refined sugars. But for the rogue sweet tooth, here are a few ideas:
- Put out platters of fresh, seasonal fruit and nuts after dinner.
- Section citrus fruits like blood and navel oranges, clementines and pink, ruby and white grapefruit — or peel and slice them into rounds and toss with the seeds scraped from fresh vanilla beans or a splash of pure vanilla extract.
- Cut apples into thick slices (scoop out the core with a melon baller), slather each piece with your favorite nut or seed butter, and sprinkle with sunflower and chia seeds.
- Toss fresh berries with chopped fresh mint and the smallest pinch of dried culinary lavender.
- Make a fresh fruit salad and top with a grating of fresh nutmeg right before serving.
- If you consider bananas paleo-appropriate, then go for a magical 1-ingredient (plus vanilla) banana ice cream (aka nice cream) — there's no added sugar. It can be whipped up in a food processor and frozen a couple of days ahead.