November Is Here! Did Someone Say Thanksgiving?
Terry Passano, RDN, LDN, CLT – University Dietitian
As November arrives, my mind goes to one place. With a strong love for food, Thanksgiving is a holiday celebration I look forward to all year long! What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Is it the mashed potatoes? The green bean casserole? Stuffing? What about the turkey?
We all know that familiar feeling of being too full after a Thanksgiving meal. According to the Calorie Count Council, Americans consume approximately 3,000 to 4,500 calories at their yearly Thanksgiving celebrations. (Consumer Reports, 2018). That's a lot for the digestive system to process! Below are some tips that will assist in making digestion smoother!
Tips for Relieving Digestion on The Big Day
Taking a short group walk is a family tradition in my household after the big meal, with all the dogs of course! Now that you've "walked off" the meal, time for dessert!
As the evening winds down, stretching is a relaxing way to aid in the process of digestion. There is a particular stretch called the posterior stretch. This exercise is especially beneficial for the digestive system! See the infographic below and give this pose a try before bedtime to assist in relaxation, digestion, and getting a good night's sleep.
Seated Forward Bend Pose
- Sit on the floor
- Extend your legs straight without bending your knees
- Inhale & extend your hands straight upward
- Bend & tough your forehead to the knees
- Extend your hands and place them on the ground
- Stay in the position for 1 to 3 minutes
- Repeat the process 10 to 12 times
Foods to Ease Your Belly
Incorporate functional foods such as papaya, flaxseed or prunes to aid a smooth digestive process. Functional foods tend to be minimally processed, whole foods, but also include fortified and enriched food items. Functional foods have their own set of superpowers by potentially providing a beneficial impact on health and well-being. For example, papaya contains an active digestive enzyme called papain. Papain assists the body in breaking down protein, which speeds up digestion. One medium-sized papaya provides almost 20% of the recommended daily fiber intake, providing even more digestive support.
Have a cup of herbal tea after dinner! Several herbs aid in a smooth digestive process, such as rosemary, chamomile, peppermint, ginger, anise and oregano (just to name a few). Herbs can be purchased online from reputable sources at local apothecaries and natural pharmacies. Let steep for three-five minutes!
- Prune - Is one of the most popular herbs for constipation relief
- Flax - Improves stool structure, making bowl movements smoother
- Anise - Speeds up bowl movements making them more frequent
- Ginger - Has anti-histamine properties that prevent nausea
- Rosemary - Has been found to help digestion up to two weeks after ingestion
- Chamomile - Root has mild laxative properties that help relive constipation
- Oregano - Has carminative properties, which reduce gas, bloating, and cramps
- Papaya - Helps speed up digestion
Thanksgiving Round 2: Recipes for Leftovers
After the big yearly feast comes to an end, leftovers crowd the refrigerator. Don't forget about food safety. Reheating food items to an internal temperature of 165°F is always a must. Refrigerated leftovers are safe for up to three-four days.
- Leftover turkey? Endless possibilities! Soups, classic sandwiches, salads, frittatas and quiches, pot pies. Check out this recipe: Turkey Soup with homemade broth option
- Use leftover mashed potatoes for shepherd's pie or potato cakes (sweet potato casserole could also work here)!
- Irish Potato Cakes
- Shepherd’s Pie recipe and entertaining video
- Lots of cranberry sauce? Combine cranberry sauce and barbecue sauce (bottled or homemade) and toss with a protein of choice. Cranberry sauce also makes a great addition to baked goods, such as muffins.
- Cranberry Sauce14 Delicious Things to Do with Leftover
Jack-O-Lantern: Pumpkins Aren't Just for Carving!
Many desserts prepared on Thanksgiving contain pumpkin and are usually loaded with calories. However, pumpkin is not the source of the high calories. Most calories come from the fat and the sugar used to make the dessert taste so good! One cup of pumpkin has only 49 calories, with 12 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber (keeping you fuller for longer), and it is free of both sodium and fat (supporting a healthy heart). Pumpkin makes for a great low-calorie and nutrient-dense food choice, meaning it's high in both vitamins and minerals but low in carbohydrates. When consuming pumpkin, you do not have to spend as many calories to get a wide variety of health benefits!
Immunity Support: It's Orange!
Carotenoids are pigments found most abundantly in orange-colored fruits and vegetables (this includes pumpkins!). The consumption of carotenoids has been associated with various health benefits, including a reduced risk of some cancers and coronary heart disease (Eggersdorfer, Wyss, 2018). Beta carotene is converted into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for preserving eyesight, supporting a healthy immune system and bone health, reducing the risk of acne, and promoting healthy growth and reproduction (Sawyer, 2020). So, what other superpowers does pumpkin have? A serving of pumpkin provides 19% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an immune booster that helps reduce cell damage from free radicals. Pumpkin also packs an immune-supporting punch with antioxidants, including vitamin A, vitamin E, and iron (Cleveland Clinic, 2022).
Nutritious Pumpkin Recipes to Incorporate into Your Family Feast!
- African Style Pumpkin and Peanut Stew - Try this vegetarian stew over cooked rice or quinoa.
- Healthy Pumpkin Pie Dip - Serve as an appetizer or dessert. Dip with sliced apples, pears or salty whole-grain pretzels.
- Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars - Each serving (one bar) has almost half a day's worth of immune-boosting vitamin A!
- Air Fryer Pumpkin Fries - Don't forget the maple-chipotle dipping sauce. You won't be sorry!
We hope all who celebrate enjoy your Thanksgiving meal with all its trimmings, whether it’s traditional or not.