It’s Thanksgiving week…is the panic setting in? That familiar anxiety that the stress-spiking, diet-busting, cortisol-pumping, alcohol-soaking holidays are now in full swing, filling you with fear that your wellness is doomed until February? Relax! These five Thanksgiving wellness tips will serve you well—and keep you whole—all season long.
Start with a strong gut
It’s never more important than this time of year to keep gut-friendly foods on hand to promote healthy digestion. Here are a few all-stars:
Yogurt’s probiotic powers “help populate our guts with ‘good’ bacteria that help us treat or prevent many intestinal illnesses,” says Pauline Hackney Nanjari, RD, clinical nutrition manager at Westchester Medical Center.
Sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods have similar benefits, containing a diverse array of beneficial bacteria strains that help support healthy gut and immune function—a bonus in the midst of flu season!
Whole, high-fiber fruit—not fruit juice—such as raspberries, pears, and apples should be a go-to snack. The fiber provides an exceptional digestive workout for the intestines and provides healthy sustenance for your good gut bacteria.
“A healthy microbiome … is very important not just for intestinal health, but overall general health and wellbeing.”
Bone broth is high in collagen, which is as good for your digestion as your skin! High concentrations of the amino acids glutamine and glycine help keep the gut barrier strong and improve antioxidant levels, according to registered dietitian Nour Zibdeh, RD. Vegans can make this recipe for soothing miso “bone” broth that provides all the digestive benefits without the animal stock.
Start the day with your favorite exercise
Whether you’re hosting the whole family, or hitting up a casual friendsgiving, starting the day with a workout you enjoy—enjoyment being key here—will put you in the positive, mindful mood you want on a day named after gratitude. Plus, you’ll get the added bonus of kickstarting your digestion and a more consistent fat burn throughout the day.
So go for a hike with the cousins you never see, take the dog out for a run, or drag the whole family to a charity turkey trot. You’ll reap rewards inside and out and get more from the big meal!
Do not—we repeat: do not—skip breakfast!
We know it’s tempting to hold out for that big meal, whether to save room for more stuffing or out of sheer lack of time. Don’t do it!! “Fasting is not a smart option,” explains Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Kristen Tinker. “It translates into chemical changes, including an increase in cortisol levels, a subsequent increase in blood sugar levels, and muscle wasting.”
“Deliberate eating throughout the day is critical, and it starts with breakfast.”
Eat a morning meal rich in proteins, healthy fats, and fiber to stabilize your blood sugar and ward off pre-dinner cravings. We know time is limited, so make this Slow-Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal the night before, or enjoy a delicious, protein-packed Butternut Breakfast Taco with one hand while you check off your to-do list with the other.
Stay hydrated…but still have fun
Ample hydration is essential to health, and during the holidays it’s non-negotiable. “Juice, alcohol, champagne, and flavored coffees increase blood sugar levels and start the cascade of cravings and poor choices,” says Tinker. If plain water seems unbearably bland when you could be drinking wine, add some lemon, which has the added alkalizing and liver-supporting benefits.
But we’re not here to ruin a good time! Rather than depriving yourself, enthusiastic tipplers should just keep the bevs virginesque. This Sherry-Tonic Punch doesn’t sacrifice sophistication for a lower-octane profile, or you can kick up the flavors with a playfully festive Crimson & Clover Sparkler. Here are some more health-minded cocktails that you can savor fully…with a little less guilt.
Give your digestion an extra leg-up
Did you know massage has powerful benefits for digestion? Abdominal massage helps fight bloat and reduce stomach discomfort. A full-body Swedish massage aids digestion by (among other things) activating the parasympathetic nervous system and stimulating the intestines. So go ahead, book yourself a pre- or post-holiday massage!