acne-safe Thanksgiving

Alissa Chasen gives her personal recommendations for the best Thanksgiving foods for your skin, plus creative substitutions for healthier, acne-safe options.

Thanksgiving is a dairy, flour and sugar gorge-fest that could single-handedly turn you into a “pizza face” just in time for Christmas. So, I’ve put together an Acne-Friendly Thanksgiving Menu, with tips on how to modify and keep your family’s favorite recipes on your Thanksgiving table.


Everyone knows that turkey is packed with L-tryptophan, the essential amino acid that your favorite uncle loves to blame for their post-meal sleepiness (sorry for the myth-bust but turkey has less tryptophan than chicken, so you’re probably just tired).

However, turkey is also rich in zinc, which is one of the best things you can ingest in the name of skin health. Turkey has a high concentration of zinc which is great for maintaining collagen and elastin fibers, both of which help to maintain the skin’s elasticity and firmness.

Turkey is rich in protein, which provides structure to skin, hair, nails, and teeth, and forms collagen, providing firmness and suppleness to your skin.

Cranberry Sauce

There’s nothing quite like countering the rich, salty flavors of Thanksgiving food with a substantial scoop of tart, lightly sweetened cranberry sauce. The benefits that cranberry sauce has for your skin make that scoop all the more appealing.

Homemade cranberry sauce is rich in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C. The vitamin C helps build collagen, which holds together the cells that make up your skin, hair, and nails. Additionally, cranberries are natural bacteria blockers, and contain reservatrol, which helps fight acne from within.

Sweet Potatoes

When it comes to skin health and your Thanksgiving plate, you can’t do much better than sweet potatoes. While loading your sweet potatoes with marshmallows and brown sugar won’t necessarily contribute to a clear complexion, sweet potatoes are, at their core, a mainstay of skin nutrition.

Sweet potatoes are filled with vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, along with a handful of other great-for-you minerals that can really make your skin glow. In particular, vitamin C boosts your body’s collagen production, and prevents fewer wrinkles and dry skin.

Sweet potatoes contain high amounts of beta-carotene which is a powerful antioxidant for skin that helps convert vitamin A in the body to produce new skin cells. Yellow and orange foods are full of carotenoids which give skin a healthy glow.

Green Beans

Green beans go hand-in-hand with sweet potatoes when it comes to foods that contribute to optimal skin health. Green beans are one of my top beauty vegetables. I prefer purchasing fresh organic green beans from a local farmer’s market.

If making it to a local farmer’s market isn’t feasible, try purchasing frozen organic green beans, as they maintain their nutritional value.

Green beans are rich in antioxidants and an excellent source of vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and manganese. Manganese is largely overlooked for its beauty benefits. The essential trace mineral, which can be obtained only through our diets, helps build collagen and protects the skin from free radicals.

While all green beans have these benefits, organic is preferable when possible. Vegetables grown in organic soil contain higher vitamin, mineral, phytochemical and antioxidant content — all things that promote healthy skin from within. Another tip is to avoid over cooking them to preserve these potent nutrients.


On its own, the skin health prognosis for stuffing isn’t great. Traditional stuffing is packed with savory ingredients like bread, bacon, salt, etc., which can lead to inflammation. However, because stuffing is one of the most enjoyable parts of a Thanksgiving meal — and because Thanksgiving is one of the only times that we really get to eat it — finding it’s redeeming qualities was crucial.

Loading your stuffing with walnuts is a great way to ensure it’s actually doing something for your skin. Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are not only good for the heart but also for the cell membrane. This membrane is important for keeping the skin moist and wrinkle-free.

Pumpkin Pie

Ah, pumpkin pie. The perfect conclusion to any Thanksgiving meal — and as it turns out, the cherry on top of a nutrient-rich food extravaganza for the skin.

Yes, there is sugar in this traditional desert, which can lead to inflammation. However, there’s also plenty of good stuff, too.

The orange color of pumpkins comes from plant pigments called, carotenoids which help neutralize free radical attack on in the skin. Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A, an antioxidant that supports the production and growth of new skin cells.

Acne-Safe Thanksgiving Menu:

  • Roasted Free-Range Turkey
  • Make-Ahead Gravy
  • Pear-Ginger Cranberry Sauce
  • Bread Stuffing with Cashews and Walnuts
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Brussels Sprouts with Pecans
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake
  • Pumpkin Pie

Acne-Friendly Substitutions:

  • Turkey: Use non-iodized salt for your brine and rub
  • Gravy: Whisk in a tablespoon or two of gluten-free tapioca or rice flour.
  • Stuffing: Follow your favorite recipe and substitute with Whole Foods Gluten-Free Bakehouse items like toasted cubes of gluten-free cornbread, gluten-free white bread or gluten-free stuffing cubes.
  • Bread Crumb Topping on Vegetables: Process Van’s Original Gluten-Free Waffles into perfect golden crumb topping.
  • Potatoes, Pumpkin and Squash: Use unsweetened full-fat coconut milk and extra virgin olive oil or grass-fed butter.
  • Cookie Crumb Pie Crust: Use Midel’s Gluten-Free Gingersnaps or Pamela’s cookies (Lemon or Ginger or Chocolate, depending upon the filling) processed into crumbs.
  • Costco Pumpkin Pie: Purchase this pre-made pie and eat just the filling–it’s delicious, healthy AND acne-safe!

With these 6 acne-safe substitutions, this year’s Thanksgiving meal will be delicious, healthy AND skin friendly!

Which holiday food substitution are you going to try first? Do you have any meal tips or substitution strategies to share with our readers? How have you been able to substitute healthier foods when you make your holiday meals?

Read more from the Clean Eats for Clear Skin blog:
The Clean Eating for Clear Skin blog
The Clean Eats for Clear Skin diet
Read Alissa’s clean eating for clear skin journey
“What I Eat In A Typical Day To Keep My Skin Clear & Glowing” on
VIDEO: Acne-Causing Foods (and What To Eat Instead)
E-BOOK: “Clear Your Acne!”

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