4 Tips To Improve Digestion And Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s 6pm after Thanksgiving dinner…how do you feel?

Stuffed? Bloated? Uncomfortable? Sick?

It’s all too common to eat too much, too quickly on this much anticipated meal. The result is that infamous Thanksgiving “food coma” that we all blame on the rich food.

But is it really the food itself, or is it how we eat it?

So much of how we feel after a meal has to do with what happens after we eat.

With these tips,  you’ll be able to walk away from Thanksgiving dinner feeling comfortable and satisfied.

Here are Molly’s 4 top tips to improve your digestion to enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner.

Tip #1: Chew Your Food. We know this sounds silly as you’re probably thinking “well, of course I chew my food”. But we mean REALLY chew your food. Ideally, your food should be almost liquid before swallowing.

Why it works: The first step of digestion is in your mouth. Not only do you physically break down your food by chewing, but the digestive enzymes in your saliva begin to chemically break down carbohydrates and proteins. The more you chew, the more you mix these enzymes with your food and kick start the digestive process.

Tip #2: Put your fork down between bites. Similar to tip #1, the idea is to slow down. While we all know that slowing down to eat is a good habit, it can be hard to put into practice (especially when we’re hungry or it’s a special meal like Thanksgiving) Getting into the habit of putting down your fork in between bites and allowing yourself to chew and swallow before picking up the fork again will help you eat slower and more mindfully.

Why it works: According the psychology of eating, slower eating means a faster metabolism. When we eat too fast, the body isn’t able to fire up digestion, absorb nutrients or correctly moderate hunger hormones to signal fullness.

Tip #3: Start with something sour or bitter. If there is any food that is naturally sour or bitter (think citrus vinaigrette, bitter greens like arugula or vegetable stalks) eat those first. Alternatively, you can create the same effect by taking 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar before eating.

Why it works: The human digestive system is triggered by sour and bitter flavors. This is because we evolved eating the bitter flavors found in nature, such as greens, barks and herbs. However, the standard palette of sweet and salty can leave the digestive system behind. Jump starting your digestive enzymes (from the stomach, pancreas and gallbladder) to help increase the effectiveness and comfort of your digestion.

Tip #4: Move a little. While you don’t want to go for a run or even a walk right after eating, a leisurely walk 30-60 minutes after a big meal has been shown to improve digestion.

Why it Works: When we eat, our blood sugar increases. This spike in blood sugar is taxing on the body’s systems. In other words, the body doesn’t like high blood sugar and has to work hard to bring it back down. One way to help use the excess blood sugars is by moving. This will allow the body to spend it’s energy on other tasks, like digesting your food.

Pick one or more of these tips to practice at your Thanksgiving table and see how much it improves your digestion during and after your meal.  Which one will you be trying? We’d love to hear! Share by making a comment in the section below.

5 “Eat This – Not That” Ideas for Thanksgiving

1600 Calories? Let's Rethink This...
1600 Calories? Let's Rethink This...

I stumbled across this very scary infographic tonight that illustrates how much we tend to eat at Thanksgiving dinner and how long you will need to workout in the gym to burn off the calories. I generally like to live in ignorant bliss about such things but being told that the typical diner on Thanksgiving will eat more than 1600 calories is a bit sobering.  Although, historically my boyfriend and his brother have competed to make the most absurdly packed platter of food and then proceeded to lick the plate clean so really I shouldn’t be surprised.

I love pie, mashed potatoes, and turkey as much as the next girl but perhaps we might want to consider switching out a few of those classic dinner dishes with a slightly more healthy alternative?

A heaping bowl of cranberry sauce is a must-have for most people. I grew up eating the crazy stuff that comes out of a can and then graduated to making my own, but most homemade recipes call for at least a cup of sugar to balance out the tartness of the ruby red berries. This recipe for Raw Cranberry Sauce from Elena’s Pantry uses a blend of fresh orange, lemon, and dates to naturally sweeten the dish. Very intriguing!

I’m the very bad (or good depending upon how you look at it) guest who brings the super addictive cheese laden artichoke dip to all the holiday parties. But I think I may have to try this Edamame Guacamole and see if miss all of that feta and parmesan or not.

One of my favorite thanksgiving dishes is sweet potato casserole. It might as well be dessert though, what with all of the mini-marshmallows and brown sugar piled onto the poor vegetables. But I really love sweet potatoes. They’re an absolute must for me on holidays. Perhaps a roasted version with savory mushrooms and a sprinkling of pretty parsley would be a better option though?

Stuffing is yet another side dish that I can wax poetically about for paragraphs. Sure, there are vegetables in there but I have pretty vivid memories of helping my grandmother toast and cut loaves and loaves of bread into bite sized pieces back in the day. After all of these early bootcamp mornings I don’t really want to overdo it completely. So I might be persuaded to exchange my stuffing for a few scoops of this dazzlingly colored Red Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, and Pecans.

Confession time: I don’t even like pumpkin pie. There I said it. So this low-calorie Frozen Pumpkin Mousse kills two birds with one stone.

In reality, we will all probably eat and drink a little too much next Thursday, but I hope the above ideas inspire your cooking a bit and if you do have three slices of pie and half the turkey don’t worry — the new session of bootcamp starts the following Monday.