Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. People everywhere are looking forward to spending time with those they care about, revisiting their favorite holiday traditions, and, of course, sitting down for a large multi-course meal. But with large meals come large digestive responsibilities. The good news is you can enjoy a more health-conscious Thanksgiving dinner.
A Health-Conscious Thanksgiving Dinner
While it is easy to overindulge during Thanksgiving, Dr. Hassanein, a world-renowned liver specialist, founder of the Southern California Liver & GI Center, and digestive expert has devised a quick list of 5 easy tips for a health-conscious Thanksgiving dinner.
Here’s what to do:
1) Moderation is key
Overeating is common during the holidays, but not recommended. Overeating proteins that are particularly rich in certain amino acids, like tryptophan, can cause a sense of fatigue and sleepiness, particularly in individuals with liver disease. Animal fats and proteins are things that your body has trouble digesting – fruits and vegetables, have no limit.
2) Watch the Clock
The duration of eating is also important – events like Thanksgiving should be extended, and not rushed. People can sit and finish their plate in 10 minutes, or it can take an hour or so to get the entire meal.
Shoveling in animal fats is a lot of pressure on the stomach, and it will not digest all foods the same way.
3) Stay Awake
The stomach can take up to SIX hours to fully digest a meal, especially a hefty one like Thanksgiving. You want to give at least 5 hours between the meal and going to bed.
Dinner should start early, giving at least 4-6 hours minimum between eating and sleeping.
4) Stay on your schedule
The body has been customized to deal with food at certain times that your own routine has created. For example, if someone always eats around 5:00, then don’t make your Thanksgiving dinner at 7:00.
If possible, stay within the time that you typically have dinner, and it will keep everything on track. This should really help support a more health-conscious Thanksgiving dinner.
5) Mind the ratio
Make sure your plate is not leaning too hard on animal fats and proteins.
Vegetables and fruit have high fiber, which allows them to be digested easily. Turkey and related fats and proteins are what really give the body a challenge.
And remember…Don’t fall asleep on the couch!
About the Author
Tarek Hassanein, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF, FAASLD, is a board-certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Transplant Hepatology. Dr. Hassanein is the Director of Southern California Liver Centers and Medical Director of UCSD/Sharp Liver Transplant Outreach Program.