Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes

Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes are easier to make than you think. 

turkey cirrhosis hep c
No Salt? No problem! Beat ascites with this turkey.

Many who are trying to fight liver or heart disease assume that Thanksgiving is a day off from healthy eating. Or if you are like me, with a failing liver, you try and avoid the whole food and family scene altogether. Changing traditions and recipes can be hard.


I was a downer that 1stt year after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C and end stage cirrhosis. I didn’t even watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. As a matter of fact, I let go of all of my traditions. There was more than a little anger and sadness mixed.


Some things are hard to let go of.  Gosh, I miss a spiral sliced ham with the bone in. For you, it might be letting go of drinking beer while watching football, or eating yourself into a food coma. However you CAN keep some traditions, including food. You may just have to change the way you prepare them.


I am happy to say that things have certainly changed since that first Thanksgiving after the diagnosis. I completed Hepatitis C treatment, and now eat a liver loving diet, and enjoy many of the same traditions that make Thanksgiving great! How do I do it? You, dear friend are going to get an insider’s look at Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes that will fill your heart with gratitude and your tummy with mouthwatering food!


On the Menu –


Roasted Turkey and cornbread dressing are served with mashed potatoes and gravy. Sweet potatoes and green beans are on the side. Waldorf salad is a crunch and cool addition and the cranberry relish has a sweet and tangy zest. Add a hot roll and iced green tea and you are ready to celebrate a traditional holiday meal with gratitude for just being alive.

All of the recipes are posted on the liver loving drop down menu. But here’s a quick look at just how nutritious this meal is.


Roasted Turkey is the centerpiece for most Thanksgiving meals. It is naturally low in fat which is good for your heart and your liver. This delicious meat is full of trace minerals and selenium also. Many brands inject sodium, so you should check the label and choose a turkey that has the least amount. When baking, do not add extra salt. Instead rub it down good with olive oil and cook as you normally would.

Mom always put hers in breast side down, and so do I. If it is a huge turkey and the lid won’t fit, I make a little tent out of aluminum foil. It turns out juicy and tender – the butter and salt are not even missed!

Turkey is low in fat and considered to be a great option for the liver to easily metabolize. Not only that, it helps to protect you from fat overload. Your heart and your liver will thank you.


I love cornbread dressing! My mom made the best in the world. Gosh I miss her and try to duplicate her recipe every year. That is, except the year that she grabbed the wrong bowl by mistake. She sautéed the celery and onion in Cool Whip! We didn’t figure it out til we went to look for the bowl of margarine later. Needless to say, the dressing was on the sweet side that year.

The cornbread itself is made with baking powder, so it’s low in sodium. The whole grain goodness of coarse corn meal and eggs provide healthy carbs, fiber, and protein. When you add in the celery and onion, this is a hearty healthy dish! Click here for recipe


Mashed potatoes are always great prepared with almond or rice milk and a little low sodium butter or margarine. Take your portion out and then season it up for your family if you want to. My bunch has learned to eat it my way, but you may want to make creamy buttery potatoes for the holiday. I make them healthy and that means a second helping is guilt free.


I hook my gravy up to an IV bag. Not really, but I love the stuff! It is not too difficult to make some low fat gravy. When I was a kid, mom always took a spoon and made a little pond in our potatoes. Then she ladled it full of turkey gravy. I still like to do that for my grandkids. My mouth is watering right now just thinking of it!


Sweet potatoes are a staple at our place year round. But on Thanksgiving it becomes a much bigger deal. Mashed sweet potatoes are so good for you. They contain nearly triple the amount of Vitamin A than other vegetables. They’re full of fiber and naturally sweet. Unless you’re watching sugars, you can indulge yourself here.


It’s a family affair to put the marshmallows on top. The kids always stuff their mouths full playing Chubby Bunny. This nana buys 2 bags to make sure there is enough for the baked sweet potatoes. If you follow some of my recipes and add nuts or orange juice, it really kicks in protein and vitamin C as well. We always slide them in the oven until the marshmallows are melty and golden. Except last year when my sis turned the broiler on and caught the whole thing on fire. When it is done right, it is like desert for me! Sweet potato pie can actually be made with low sugar!

apple hepatitis c cirrhosis
No pic of Uncle Homer and his can…


Waldorf Salad is like a desert and a salad at once also. Apples are full of vitamins and antioxidants as well as fiber. The natural sweetness has benefits in many areas. With the iron in raisins, and protein from pecans, this is uber healthy. Good news: If you are borderline diabetic or have sugar metabolism problems, this is a great dish for you. The dressing has to be modified to reduce fat and sugar for me. You may be able to indulge for the holiday.


Grandmother’s salad was always beautiful and made fresh that morning. Uncle Homer came down from Kansas and peeled the apples every year. He could peel an apple without breaking the peeling. All of us kids loved watching the curling red slice as it came off of the apple with his pocket knife. I can see grandma and Uncle Homer watching from heaven every time I make it. Last year I used pecans, which was a no no. She insisted on walnuts. Mine was just as good if I do say so!      



Cranberry Salad is one of my favorites all year! I like the mix of tangy oranges and sweet apples with tart cranberries. These little berries are popular for those who are battling urinary tract infections. They are also anti-aging, antioxidant, High in vitamins and minerals as well as omega 3 fatty acid. Click here for recipe!!


Families are funny. Uncle Homer could spit his chewing tobacco in a can while peeling apples. There’s a lovely image to hold in your mind. He was from daddy’s side. Grandmother washed the apples several times before mixing for the Waldorf Salad. She was from mama’s side. Families are not perfect, but we still create great memories.


Perhaps your famiy has changed through the years. Mine has. There are still good memories of Thanksgivings involving the dinner and those who prepared it. Many of those people have passed on from this life, but their memories and their recipes are treasured during this holiday. It is good to remember those who loved us, and to recall the days shared cooking and eating together.

I hope you enjoy a healthy Thanksgiving meal with someone who loves you. You know that I do. I’ll be logging on. We can share the holiday through cyber space. I am so very thankful for my Best Friends every day, but especially while eating Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes. Xoxoxo Karen:)


Pics via,,

Eating Before Liver Tests

Eating Before Liver Tests 

Bone Scan liver cancer hcc
Selfie at Integris for transplant work up in August – Bone Scan

I think somebody broke into my house and stole my paperwork. I need it tomorrow for my liver tests, an MRI and some bone scans. This paperwork tells me where to be and at what time.  It’s one of those full days, you know where the sun comes up after you get there and sets before you leave. I am certain that there will be no eating before liver tests for at least 4 hours – mainly because of the MRI.  But I need to go check my paperwork to see what others scans I will be fasting for.

The details of my day are in the schedule.  We all have to fast before an EGD and banding.  Once we are on a transplant list, we have to fast before certain bone scans and CAT scans.  Plus I wanna to see if the tumor is contained and make sure nothing has spread into other parts of me. So I’ve been eating on overtime all day just getting ready for the no eating tomorrow.  The stick-to-your-ribs kind of food like oatmeal and nachos.  Then I set the alarm and have a protein shake at 3 AM. I wonder what time I will be able to eat tomorrow? Oh yeah, it’s on that paper and somebody took it.

A few days ago the burglars took my purse and moved it.  I know this is true because I’d put it in the kitchen when I walked in the door on Wednesday. It’s what I always do.  Purse on the barstool and then run toward the bathroom. (I drink a lot of water) I didn’t leave the house again for a few days. I remembered seeing it in the living room at some point after that. So when I got ready to leave on Saturday, I went to the kitchen to look for my purse. Just out of habit.  Then I remembered that I had seen it in the living room so I went in there.  It was in neither place! vegetable for cirrhosis liver
My Marie keeps me healthy with her awesome garden. xo

I had just texted Marie that I was on my way to pick up my produce bag.  Marie has a big chemical free vegtable farm. She has a gate and keeps it unlocked from 9 til noon on Saturdays, but because I was late – she had to open the gate for me. I was looking foward to trying a new acorn sqash soup recipe this week. Except I couldn’t find my purse.

I texted Marie back and told her my purse was missing and I would be late. I walked into the living room and threw all of the sofa pillows on the floor and looked under the cushions. During a loop through the kitchen again, I opened all the cabinets. Then, just to be on the safe side, I looked in the fridge. Last month, I found my library book in the freezer when I went to make a smoothie. It was totally cool after chillin on ice all night. It was a story of women who just gotten out of the concentration camps and the fact that it was near the concentrated orange juice gave me the creeps. Had someone broken in during the night and put it there? I poked around and cleaned out the fridge to make room for my produce. No purse.

A search of the bedroom took some time. The pile of dirty laundry growing on the floor near the empty hamper produced nothing. I wrestle with covers, pillows, pencils, and notebooks some nights. Now a partially folded white load covered the whole mess. It got tossed and thrown into the air  No purse.

I ran out to the car to double check. I couldn’t open the car because my keys were in – my purse. But wait, I had seen it in the living room, right? Another quick run through and then. I sat down on the bedroom floor, cradled my face in my hands. My eyes were dry. Tears locked inside.  I looked up and sawmy purse on the chair. These weren’t burglars. They were pranksters.

Acorn squash soup liver cirrhosis diet
Bake in 1 inch of water, scoop out and blend with fennel and turmeric. Serve warm.

I am going to eat a big bowl of acorn soup while I finish this blog. I know it really doesn’t hurt our bodies to go without food. I still find it difficult. I don’t want to be a whiney and demanding patient. One thing that helps is to rinse my mouth out occasionally. I swish and spit a couple of times an hour while fasting. Sometimes I do it in my car on the way to Oklahoma City. I have gotten good at it.

The first time though, I was driving along and before I knew it, had grabbed the water bottle and was taking a swig. Realizing what I had done, I held it in my mouth wondering what to do next. Spit it back in the bottle? In the floorboard? I looked crazily around the car for an cup. Finally, rolling the down the window and keeping one eye on the road, I leaned out and spit. It all blew back in my face and hair. Smeared my mascara. Whattamess. Swishing and spitting is best done in the bathroom. Or on the parking lot. In Oklahoma, people will think you are dipping snuff.

Writing this tonight, I am worn out remembering the work it took to go get produce. When I did find my purse, my ATM card was missing. A call to the last store I was in revealed that no card was found. But anyway, I wrote a check for my veggies and when I went to put the cushions back on the sofa, there was the ATM card. I must have been paying hospital bills over the phone. Which reminds me. I need to find that paper so I can go run up some more bills tomorrow. But first I need some oatmeal and a bath.

Now I feel better. I sat on the toilet lid and ate my oatmeal while staring at the bathwater shooting into the tub. I always go for a closer shave when they are scanning and X-raying and measuring tumors and such. Tonight the tub wouldn’t fill. I had to lie down to rinse the soap off my neck, and in that position I got comfortable and started to doze off. Oatmeal relaxes me that way. That’s when I heard the sucking water sound and sat straight up. The water was swirling down the drain faster than it was coming in! With a twirl, i closed the drain and the tub soon filled.

spinach liver cirrhosis vegetable
Sweet Marie washes everything and bags it so nicely!

I came back in determined to finish this blog and decided to check my email. There was an attachment with a copy of the paperwork for tomorrow! Angela is my transplant coordinator’s assistant. I love her. I mean L-O-V-E her angelic blond hair and her round forgiving face. I love the way her shoulders curl toward me when I go in for a hug. I can get a respectful answer filled with grace when I call her because I have forgotten what to do next, or when I’m crying, or when I’m excited, or when I don’t know who else to call. I’ve got to remember to take her some acorn squash tomorrow. I wonder if Bok Choy will keep good in my car?

Thinking about this blog (which is about the rule of no eating before liver tests) makes me take a step back. I get concerned about not eating because my liver has problems with glucose regulation. We all do at End Stage. I feel tired, weepy, and goofy when my protein levels get too high. I feel exactly the same when they are too low. Small meals eaten frequently are the best way for those of us with advanced liver disease. Some things we have no control over. I have protein bars and chewable fruit snacks and will be gorging myself by mid-afternoon. Until then, I can expect to be zoney. I will see other zoney people in the waiting room. If it’s you, please say hi!

Do you know what? I am beginning to wonder if somebody really came in and moved my stuff. I keep my doors locked. I have accused my daughter of misplacing things. Once during treatment I was trying to get dressed and couldn’t find my black shoe. I held one of them in my hand and called the youngest granddaughter in and asked her to help Nana. Her eyes grew big and she looked at my foot declaring, “I found it Nana! It’s on your foot!”

I wonder if this blog could also be titled Trying to Think with Hepatic Encephalopathy, or Brain Fog with Cirrhosis, or Low Blood Sugar and Forgetfulness with Liver Disease. I’ve got to remember to ask my doctor about that. I’m sure he’ll do ammonia levels. But they don’t always reveal everything. Those forgetful moments are like the background music in the lives of those of us who have HE.

brain fog he hep
You’re not alone. With liver damage, brain fog and HE are just part of it.

Liver Protein Tests may require fasting. It depends on your clinic. Albumin (tells how well your body is making proteins) and Globulin (helps fight infections) are the 2 main ones what make up Total Protein. Low levels can mean damage.

Prothrombin us a protein that tells how long it takes for your blood to clot. A high prothrombin time can indicate liver damage.

A Bilirubin Test measures the level in your blood. It is easy to know if it is too high, because you can turn yellow and have dark yellow urine if it leaks from your liver into your blood stream.

Liver Enzyme levels - High levels of Aspartate Transaminase (AST) and Alanine Transaminase (ALT) indicate liver damage. If the Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP) or Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) is an enzyme is high, it can indicate damage in the liver, and also bile ducts, and possibly pancreas. If any of these are too high, it can mean liver damage.

Want to check the Normal Values on lab results?
click here and go to Lab Test Results – Lessons from a Human Pincusion

I’m ready to hit the bed. I’ll be leaving at 5:30 for OKC. Thanks for listening to my stories about HE, lost stuff, and tests. I’m a little nervous tonight and writing is such good therapy. No matter what happens, joy is found in every moment. I love you my besties. xoxo Karen:)

pics via karen hoyt and