Skip The Thanksgiving Bloat

November 19, 2012
Categories: Holidays

Thanksgiving is a time for family, to celebrate what we are thankful for, and of course….to EAT!!   Many people throw caution to the wind, and eat with abandon on Thanksgiving – after all, it only comes one day a year, right?  I certainly do not believe that Thanksgiving is a time to be worried about dieting – but going to the other extreme might not be ideal either.  Overindulging can not only make us very uncomfortable (if you forgot your stretchy elastic waistband pants, or your digestive enzymes), it can also set us up for a pattern of overeating and holiday weight gain. One other very important thing to consider is that studies have found that particularly heavy meals also can quadruple the risk of a heart attack, especially those with existing risk factors.

The average American consumes approximately 5,000 calories by the end of Turkey day, with the main meal alone being around 3,000 calories. It is no wonder people can end up on the couch in a “food coma”!

Here are some tips to help you make your Thanksgiving a little healthier and keep you from feeling like the stuffed turkey at the end of the day.

7 Tips to Skip the Thanksgiving Bloat:

1. Hit the road!

Starting the day with a walk or a turkey trot is a great way to get the metabolism going before the feast. Studies suggest that exercising within 12 hours before a meal can prevent one of the most damaging effects—a post-meal spike in a type of fat called triglycerides. Walk for an hour and you can create a deficit of approx. 230 calories.  Go for a run, and you could burn 500 calories.  If you can’t do a morning outing, fitting a walk in between dinner and dessert is also great – it will also help boost digestion.  If you can’t get out for a walk after the meal – at least get up and do dishes. Not only will your hosts appreciate it, your will burn some calories (60 calories per half and hour), and it also aids digestion. Research shows that the person who does the dishes in the house tends to be less likely to gain weight.  Anything is better for your digestion than laying on the couch!

2. Don’t starve yourself for the big meal.
People often skip breakfast to “save up” for the big meal.  But this can backfire, because by the time the appetizers come out- you can be so famished that you fill up on heavy appetizers, and then when Thanksgiving dinner and desserts come out – you top off an already full belly of appetizers.  Starting the day with some breakfast is smart – to ward off that extreme hunger.  Eggs are a good choice – because they are high in protein, so they will fill you up, and won’t cause the spikes and drops in blood sugar which cause us to be so hungry. Another great choice for breakfast is chia pudding.  Chia seeds are filling, low in calories, high in protein, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids.  They will stick with you all morning, boost your energy and mood, and will even slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream later.  See this recipe for chia pudding.


3. Have some digestive enzymes on hand.
Digestive EnzymesEating a big meal can make us uncomfortable afterwards (especially if we forgot to wear our stretchy waistband pants)!  Eating more food than usual, heavier food, or combining proteins and carbs together – all can wreak havoc on our digestion.  Taking a digestive enzyme supplement just before the big meal, or right afterwards can help to breakdown the proteins, fats and carbs you consumed.  Our bodies produce enzymes to help us digest our foods, and by eating raw plant based foods, we also boost our digestive enzymes.  But as we get older, and the more processed our diet is, the fewer natural enzymes our body has for digestion.   Good digestion is extremely important to a healthy metabolism and weight.  I like to carry digestive enzymes in my purse – just in case I eat a meal that I know I will not digest very well.  They are especially important for those times when we eat something a little heavier or combine foods together that work against each other, such as on Thanksgiving.


4. Lighten up on the appetizers:
Thanksgiving appetizers can really send us off the deep end before we even sit down to the meal.  Here are some healthy appetizer suggestions:
  • Serve a crudite platter – with veggies and a healthy greek yogurt dip.  Serving some fresh veggies for appetizers will help to prime our digestion.  The probiotics in the greek yogurt also will help our digestion.
  • Give you spinach and artichoke dip a boost – add some pureed white beans to your traditional spinach dip – yummy, hot & delicious like regular spinach dip, but the beans help to fill you up more, and offer more protein and less fat.
  • Serve your appetizers with Mary’s Gone Crackers – they are gluten-free and have superfoods like chia seeds in them – a significantly better cracker option.
5. Improve your side dishes: 
  • Swap the canned cranberry for homemade – you can add less sugar, or substitute a natural alternative like maple syrup, dates, stevia or honey.  And canned cranberry just does not look so pretty on the table!
  • Try this recipe for cranberry sauce:  Put all of the following into a medium saucepan: 1 bag of fresh cranberries, 2/3 cup of water, the zest and juice of 1 orange, 1/2 cup of your choice of natural sweetener (use more or less depending on your preference, or add/substitute some stevia liquid), 1 cinnamon stick, pinch of sea salt.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 30 minutes or until most of the liquid is gone.   Allow to cool before serving, remove cinnamon stick before serving.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
  • Instead of traditional mashed potatoes, serve mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower – your guests won’t even know it is in there, and you will be lowering the blood sugar impact, and sneaking another veggie in there – which boosts the fiber and nutrient content, and will fill you up more.
6. Improve upon some traditional Thanksgiving desserts:
Even if you didn’t go overboard on dinner, Thanksgiving dessert can really send you off the deep end.  Fats from nuts, commonly considered healthier sources of nutrients, don’t appear to cause the same spike in triglycerides as other kinds of fats, and may even help bring down triglyceride levels. But although it has nuts in it – pecan pie is perhaps the worst of all Thanksgiving finales – just 1 slice has almost 500 calories, 9 teaspoons of added sugars, and 21 grams of fat.
These healthier options have some healthy fats, are lower in sugar, and they also happen to be gluten free – which more and more people are avoiding!
  • Replace Pumpkin Pie with this yummy looking Grain free and Vegan Pumpkin Pie – from the Spunky Coconut – it looks delicious and is more nutritious than the regular one – no dairy and contains healthier fats!
  • Replace Pecan Pie with this Dark Chocolate Pecan Tart – it has tons of flavor, no Karo syrup, is grain and gluten free and also has dark chocolate – which is good for our hearts and our brains!  This won’t spike your blood sugar like traditional pecan pie will.

7.  Avoid conflicts at dinner.

It might be easier said than done for some families to leave conflicts at the door.  But according to Ayurveda – which originated in India thousands of years ago – imbalances of the digestive system and mind creates ailments.  Ayurveda says that our state of mind affects our digestion and well-being.

So in the Ayurvedic tradition – lets all make our Thanksgiving dinners with love, enjoy the meal fully/without guilt, leave our conflicts and worries at the door, and celebrate with family all that we are thankful for (and have those digestive enzymes on hand – just in case)!

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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