Enjoy A Happier, Healthier Thanksgiving
By Dr. James Palermo // November 22, 2012
(VIDEO by WMTWTV)
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA–When you sit down tomorrow evening to watch the Jets and the Patriots in the last NFL game of this year’s “Turkey Day,” what’s the chances of you, after consuming generous portions of the tryptophan laden bird, staying awake through the middle of the second quarter?
It is widely thought that the amino acid tryptophan is supposedly found at a high level in turkeys and is blamed for post-dinner drowsiness. However, “turkey contains about the same amount of tryptophan as chicken, beef and other meats,” writes Ferris Jabr in the Scientific American. In fact, it’s likely that the tipping point is actually the carbohydrate-rich side dishes, such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, and candied jams, that stimulate release of the hormone insulin, which increases the amount of tryptophan in the blood relative to other amino acids. That “means more tryptophan gets into the brain,” Jabr notes.
Busting Thanksgiving Myths
So, what are the other myths associated with the traditional Thanksgiving fare and our tendency to overindulge on the fourth Thursday of every November?
According to research from the Calorie Control Council, an organization representing the diet food industry and focused on healthy eating and exercising, the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories and up to 230 grams of fat from snacking and eating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings. That’s the equivalent of more than 2 1/4 times the average daily calorie intake and almost 3 1/2 times the fat.
However, a close dish-by-dish calorie count by Tara Parker-Pope, author of the New York Times‘ “Thanksgiving Help Line,” of what she describes as a “gluttonous Thanksgiving feast of traditional foods” finds that the number is likely closer to 2,500.
To determine the average calories in a heavy Thanksgiving meal Parker-Pope identified foods generally consumed during the feast, and used online calorie counters to estimate the overall calorie count:
- Four ounces of dark turkey meat with the skin (206 calories);
- Two ounces of white turkey meat with the skin (93 calories);
- Big spoonful of sausage stuffing (310 calories);
- Dinner roll with butter (310 calories);
- Cup of mashed sweet potatoes with butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows (300 calories);
- Half-cup of mashed potatoes with butter and gravy (140 calories);
- Two-thirds cup green bean casserole (110 calories);
- Dollop of cranberry sauce (15 calories);
- Spoonful of roasted Brussels sprouts (83 calories);
- Slice of pumpkin pie (316 calories);
- Slice of pecan pie (503 calories); and
- Two dollops of whipped cream on top (100 calories).
According to Parker-Pope, a full meal added up to 2,486 calories, but, with a few glasses of wine and breakfast, and, of course, the obligatory evening turkey sandwich, “it’s certainly possible to binge your way to 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day,” Parker-Pope writes.
How To Enjoy A Healthy Thanksgiving
The national day of giving thanks, or any holiday associated with a traditional feast certainly does not have to be associated with glutinous binges and unhealthy behavior.
- Stay active. Taking a walk or playing football can burn calories and become a new family tradition.
- Don’t skip breakfast. A good breakfast can help curb appetite later in the day. People who are not too hungry are less likely to overeat at mealtime.
- Modify recipes. Making small changes to traditional recipes to cut calories and fat can go a long way. Use less butter and oil when possible. Opt for fat-free chicken broth and fat-free yogurt instead of cream in dips, mashed potatoes and casseroles.
- Control portions. Avoid going back for seconds and limit portion size.
- Choose wisely. Only eat the foods that are unique to Thanksgiving and save ordinary foods for another day. Save some room for side dishes and dessert.
- Don’t rush. Eating slowly helps people enjoy their food and realize when they are full.
- Limit alcohol. Calories from alcohol add up quickly. Alcohol also triggers cravings for high-calorie comfort foods. It’s also a good idea to drink some water between alcoholic drinks.
- Change the focus. Rather than concentrating only on food, remember that Thanksgiving is a holiday about family and friends as well. Find ways to enjoy quality time together, such as playing games or socializing.
- Don’t overindulge. Thanksgiving is a special occasion, but try not to continue indulging throughout the entire holiday season.
- Be prepared. As holiday shopping kicks into high gear, remember to stock up on healthy snacks, such as trail mix and fruit, and drink plenty of water to avoid resorting to high-calorie fast foods.