When Thanksgiving comes to mind, most of us get excited about our favorite fall dishes all being on one table. From the main event, the turkey (of course!), to stuffing, sweet potato casserole, roasted veggies, and obviously the dessert table, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, being grateful, and is all about the food. However, this indulgence is usually met with some uncomfortable symptoms: feeling bloated, overly full, uncomfortable, and in need of a quick power nap.
While all of this food is meant to be enjoyed with family and friends, the post-meal symptoms are oftentimes hard to ignore. When food is the focal point of the day, we’re eating more frequently throughout the day, and it’s more than likely that the dishes aren’t what we’re used to eating day to day. Instead, the higher sodium and sugar contents, along with one or two drinks, create a perfect storm for our bellies to feel not-so-great.
Keep reading on to learn our tips and tricks to master Thanksgiving – before, during, and after – to keep digestion on track.
Get Grateful: Whether we’re excited or anxious for the holiday season, Thanksgiving gives us the time to slow down and reflect.It’s the perfect time to give thanks for everything that’s happened in the last year and all of the people, places, and things that we are grateful for. Focusing on mindfulness by meditating or journaling the morning of can help our bodies tap into our rest and digest system, making it easier for our brains and digestion to function optimally throughout the day. Start the day with 10 minutes of deep breathing, grab a gratitude journal, or even do a walking meditation to get some steps in pre-feast. Your brain and body will thank you for showing up and caring for them before digging into all the food.
Eat A Small Meal: It may seem counterintuitive to eat before, well, eating. However, when we restrict our bodies from food, we only want it more. It’s important to remember the psychological component of eating: food should be enjoyable, taste good, and make us feel good. When we put our bodies into fasting mode, our brains prepare for a binge later on. In other words, we’re giving ourselves permission to overindulge when we (finally) do eat, since our body functions as it’s making up for lost energy through food. Letting ourselves get so hungry that we’ll eat just about anything also affects our blood sugar levels: when our levels aren’t steady, we’re compelled to reach for the first thing in sight. Low blood sugar levels will lead us to crave sugar; hello, several slices of pumpkin pie!
The same goes on Thanksgiving, even though there will be plenty of food at the table. After waking, have a normal breakfast, aiming for carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Breakfast could be a Greek yogurt bowl with granola, avocado toast with eggs, or oatmeal with peanut butter and fruit. Eating regularly, even on a holiday, keeps our body from becoming overly hungry and helps us to manage eating appropriate portions later on, preventing discomfort in the digestion area.
Stay Hydrated: Just like any other day, adequately hydrating is essential for keeping our cognition, mood, concentration, and digestion working at their best. Drinking water can help us tune into our body’s hunger systems more accurately; mild dehydration can actually feel like hunger, when our body really just needs fluids. The foods we eat on Thanksgiving are loaded with sodium, which can cause us to feel bloated and puffy. This is not to say that all the food can’t be enjoyed; however, being mindful of drinking enough water before, during, and after the meal can aid in our digestion, ridding us of uncomfortable belly symptoms and allowing us to still enjoy the day.
Fill Up on Fiber: With so many food options on the table, it can be difficult to know where to start! Fiber keeps us full, and is essential to get our digestion up and running at its best. Our plates should be at least half full of fiber-rich vegetables, like sweet potatoes, green beans, and salad, in addition to all the other delicious foods (like mac n’ cheese!). By allocating half of our plate to veggies, we’re giving our body nourishment and aiding in digestion, without having to sacrifice the foods we love. Navigating Thanksgiving is all about finding balance and making room to eat our comfort foods in moderation without neglecting our digestion.
Chew Slowly: By the time the table is ready, most of us are excited to jump right into tasting the foods that only come around on Thanksgiving. However, if we’ve eaten breakfast (like we’ve recommended above), we’re hopefully not ravenous enough to eat whatever we see first. Creating a balanced plate comes first, and then being aware of how we’re eating comes next. It’s important to chew slowly, savoring each bite, and putting our fork down between bites in order to prevent us from overeating and feeling too full. Chewing food thoroughly helps break it down, which, in turn, helps our stomach to digest it. It takes about twenty minutes for our brain to register fullness, and when we eat slowly, our brains are signaled to begin the digestion process accordingly. Eating slowly and mindfully allows us to pay attention to our fullness cues, preventing us from overeating and not leaving room for dessert.
Choose Alcohol Wisely: It’s likely that on Thanksgiving, the alcohol will be flowing from breakfast mimosas to nightcaps right before sleep. However, Thanksgiving is a full-day feast, and alcohol can easily make our digestion less than optimal. When drinking, choose clear liquids and sugar-free mixers, like tequila/vodka sodas with lime or a G&T. It’s a good idea to alternate any drinks or a glass of wine (or two…or three) with two glasses of water in order to prevent dehydration and stay sociable. Keep in mind that alcohol can irritate the digestive system, so make sure to drink slowly and carefully throughout the day.
Bloat is Our BFF: Now that the day is done, and seconds (and thirds) have been had, we might be feeling full, uncomfortable, and bloated. This is normal; after all, Thanksgiving revolves around eating and drinking. But no worries, Bloat to the rescue. Designed to tackle bloat wherever, whenever,Bloatis our belly’s BFF. Bloat is a combination of 5 herbs and a digestive enzyme, designed to help break down food and speed up digestion. These ingredients have different, synergistic actions that work together to eliminate any tummy troubles. No matter if we’ve indulged in extra slices of pumpkin pie or one-too-many drinks, Bloat gives us the freedom to eat what we want, without any uncomfortable side effects.
Take a Post-Meal HGW: Walking does wonders for our brain and body, especially after the long and chaotic day that is Thanksgiving. Walking after a meal helps our digestive system, regulates blood sugar, and aids in overall blood circulation. Our intestinal muscles might need some extra TLC, and walking helps to contract these muscles, aiding in fast and efficient digestion while keeping bloat to a minimum. Walking, additionally, helps prevent us from napping away our food baby, which can actually make our digestion worse. By getting in some turkey day steps, we’re helping our body to break down and eliminate food, so we wake up the next morning feeling our debloated best.
Avoid Laying Down: We know, the best part of Thanksgiving arguably may be the post-meal nap. With our bellies full and drinks had, curling up on the couch for a quick power nap may sound too good to pass up. However, avoid laying down for at three three hours after the meal to avoid acid reflux and other abdominal discomfort. Being able to fully digest the meal before turning in for the night is key in helping our digestive system work properly, allowing us to steer clear of next-day bloat. A brisk walk helps us stay awake and gain some energy, while helping our body do its thing in the digestive system.
With that, Thanksgiving is almost here! Following these steps ensures we all enjoy the holiday, while still caring for our digestion. And remember, our body knows how to get back on track, even after a food-filled day.
“7 Digestion-Saving Tips to Help You Navigate Thanksgiving Dinner like a Gastroenterologist.”Well+Good, 5 Nov. 2022,https://www.wellandgood.com/what-helps-indigestion-holidays/.
Migala, Jessica, et al. “Thanksgiving Food Coma? 8 Expert Tips to Help You Feel Your Best.”EverydayHealth.com,https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/thanksgiving-meal-sos-tips-to-prevent-and-recover-from-overeating/