Avoid stuffing yourself like a turkey this Thanksgiving

Tips to making healthier choices this holiday.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and the anticipation of turkey and all the fixings might already be taunting your tastebuds, but have you ever considered the effects such a meal has on your body? I’m sure at some point, maybe every year, we’ve all succumb to the fact that we’ve eaten too much on Thanksgiving day- the bloating, heartburn, and gas all as evidence. On average during this meal (not including all the snacking before and after), Americans consume 3000-3400 calories in one sitting. The snacking surrounding the main meal can add up to another 1500 calories. Considering that the USDA recommends 1600-2000 calories per day depending on your gender and activity level, we’re nearly doubleing that on Thanksgiving. In addition to the shear number of calories, we consume roughly 2000-2600mg of sodium during the meal (2300mg being the recommended daily limit). These numbers also only reflect eating one serving of each typical Thanksgiving food. If you go back for seconds, you might be consuming over 4500 calories.

Not only does this type of mass consumption make us feel physically bad, it is also unhealthy for your body, That sleepy feeling you get after the meal has little to do with tryptophan in the turkey, and more to do with the fact that your stomach and other organs are working overtime to digest the abundance of food. If you had to work off all that you ate it would be equal to 4 hours of moderate running, five hours of swimming, or a 30 mile walk. There are ways to help reduce the caloric and sodium overload, without diminishing the authenticity of your family’s traditional holiday meal. Michigan State University Extension recommends trying the following this year for your meal:

  • Eat more slowly. It takes the body about 15 minutes to register food and indicate fullness levels. By eating quickly, it is possible to stuff more in your body than is needed, but the fullness won’t register until its too late. By slowing down, you can be better aware of how full you are and avoid overeating.
  • Take smaller servings. Start by filling your plate with a smaller amount of food than usual, and only go back for seconds if you still feel hungry.
  • Used reduced sodium products. There are many products on the market today that have less sodium than the standard product. For example, green beans for green bean casserole. Buying reduced sodium canned beans, or rinsing regular canned beans can significantly reduce the amount of sodium consumed. Look for lower sodium versions of gravy and stuffing as well.
  • Consider making healthier substitutions. Although often met with resistance when it comes to traditions, consider substituting one of the usual holiday dishes with a healthy upgrade. For example, a great alternative to stuffing is a wild rice and mushroom dish. Instead of pumpkin pie, try pumpkin spice frozen yogurt. Substitute white dinner rolls with whole grain rolls.
  • Practice light exercise after the meal. Getting outside for a short walk after eating will help your body digest the food more quickly, and will also prevent you from hanging around the leftovers or snacks.

Its hard to break tradition, but making small changes can reduce the adverse affects of Thanksgiving dinner on your body. Most likely no one will even notice the difference.

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