As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m frequently asked how I maintain a healthy diet and remain gluten– and dairy-free during a time of decadence and indulgence.

The truth is, for me the holidays are no different than any other time of the year. In fact, I like to use this time of parties and family gatherings to educate and empower others to make more informed choices to reclaim their health.

One of my favorite stories is from a holiday party two years ago. I was talking with a gentleman who was complaining of joint pain. He recounted how he had been to top doctors and had state-of-the-art work done with CT scans and MRIs, only to be told it was simply inflammation and to take anti-inflammatory medications.

I suggested that he give up gluten for a month and see if he had improvement in his joint pain. I asked him to email me and let me know how it went. Being that this was a party in New Orleans and that this gentleman was born and raised in the South, I doubted he would take my recommendation. I was not surprised when I did not hear from him.

Last year, at the same party, the gentleman with the joint pain came running up to me saying he had been waiting all year to see me again. He had taken my advice and given up gluten the day after Thanksgiving, and within a week his joint pain had completely resolved. He was so appreciative of my advice, and he told everyone who would listen at the party about how going gluten-free had cured his joint pain.

For me, these experiences are so powerful. I love eating by example and using holidays as an opportunity for more people to see that it’s possible to reverse health issues with diet and that you can maintain an optimal diet even during the holidays.

Celebrate this holiday season with these 9 tips for a healthier Thanksgiving!

1. Avoid gluten.

You can use arrowroot starch, or if you tolerate grains, sweet rice flour to thicken your gravy instead of wheat flour. You can also make your own gluten-free stuffing or dinner rolls with almond meal or coconut flour.

2. Ditch the dairy.

Use full-fat coconut milk instead of cow’s milk for cream gravies or green bean casserole. You can also baste your turkey in coconut oil instead of butter.

3. Avoid alcohol.

Ditch the wine and beers. Sparkling water with a splash of cranberry and lime makes for a perfect holiday drink without the pain of a hangover.

4. Support local farmers.

Plan ahead this holiday season and purchase your produce and meat from local farmer’s markets to practice farm-to-table habits and sustain local businesses.

5. Make your own Thanksgiving classics.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, consider making your own gluten-free and dairy-free classics, like cranberry sauce with honey or maple syrup, and grain-free stuffing with almond or coconut flour. Try some of these gluten- and dairy-free recipes, and get creative!

6. Share your eating habits with friends.

If you aren’t hosting Thanksgiving dinner, then prepare a dish or two that you know will be safe for you to eat. This is a great opportunity to share your health journey with your friends!

7. Eat with purpose.

Don’t eat yourself into a coma this year! Arrive to your thanksgiving dinner with a plan. Eat your veggies first, then meat, then starches, and, finally if you have room, a bit of dessert.

8. Go green.

If you’re roasting a turkey, save the bones to make your own turkey broth. If you have leftover vegetable pieces to discard, save them for a vegetable broth instead. You can freeze your broth and use it as a base for future soups.

9. Relax.

Focus your attention on relationships and connections with loved ones rather than food.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. I am thankful for each and every one of you, and I appreciate your support in helping to spread the message of wellness and optimal health.