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In addition to trying new nutrient-dense whole food recipes this Thanksgiving, why not also try some experiments in strategic food combining to see how your family responds physically, mentally, and emotionally? You may find that you actually enjoy the change in custom given the positive health changes you note during the day, and you just may start a new tradition!

Step 1: Eat Pumpkin Pie for Breakfast.

Yes, that’s right. You get to have pie for breakfast!

Try baking a crustless pie if you are sensitive to gluten, nuts, or seeds, or make a chopped spiced pumpkin seed crust to make use of the whole food. Enjoy it topped with whipped raw cream or homemade crème fraiche if you can tolerate dairy. Coconut cream whipped until frothy with a bit of cinnamon also makes a tasty pie topping. There’s likely some sugar in the pie, but also lots of fiber and fat to slow the digestion of the carbohydrates and help moderate the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. Pumpkin is rich in beta carotene, a potent antioxidant and precursor to making Vitamin A in the body, so be sure to eat your pie with fat to ensure best assimilation of this fat-soluble nutrient.

Also sip a fresh grated ginger tea to aid digestion, stimulate metabolism, and create warmth in the body.

Step 2: Play.

Take a walk in the park, play on the swings, have a game of catch, whatever you enjoy. Just be active and play!

Step 3: Eat Starches Together with Quality Fats.

Traditional Thanksgiving dinners include lots of starchy carbohydrates that can cause large swings in blood sugar and insulin. Eat moderate quantities and be sure to fully chew each bite to enjoy their savory flavor and ensure you are activating salivary amylase for optimal carbohydrate digestion. Adding healthy fats helps regulate the glucose effect of these starches, promotes assimilation of the beta carotenes, and contributes to the satiation of the dish despite smaller portions.

Sip a small cup of warmed bone broth with this portion of the meal to provide some additional amino acids and fatty acids for nutrient balance, but without putting the strain of flesh protein digestion on the digestive system.

Here are some specific recommendations for different starches:

  • Yams and Sweet Potatoes: Experiment with fresh savory herbs like rosemary and thyme, or add ginger and allspice with a squeeze of fresh orange for a new take on this traditional side dish. Roast them tossed in coconut oil and sea salt. Serve with an added healthy fat like butter/ghee or coconut oil. No marshmallows or added sugar please, that’s an insult to the yam.
  • Mashed potatoes and flourless gravy: A reduction sauce made with the turkey drippings, wine or vinegar, and a little broth, has so much more flavor than the typical flour gravy! Just say no to lumps. Add small amounts of finely diced cooked turkey organ meats to provide a bit of protein but not too much to compromise digestion while enjoying the starches.
  • Stuffing: You could skip this side dish this year since you’ll already be enjoying the potato starches, but if you just can’t live without stuffing or are avoiding nightshades like potatoes, make a stuffing that could be a meal in itself. Try a wild rice, millet, or quinoa stuffing which incorporates a few nuts or seeds, some fresh or dried fruit, and lots of fresh herbs and spices. Serve it with the reduction sauce mentioned above. There are so many great recipes out there beyond the typical bread crumb style that Grandma/Mom/Auntie always makes every year; it’s a shame we don’t step outside this box more often. If you’re gluten-sensitive, your non-bloated stomach and clear-headed brain will thank you for making this switch.
  • Bone broth: Use a chicken or beef broth you’ve made previously, or perhaps a mineral-rich vegetable stock made with added sea vegetables. Keep the broth warmed on the stove or in a crock pot, with a ladle for ease of serving. Serve in tall mugs with a sprig of rosemary as a garnish.

Step 4: Play Again!

Now don’t just sit around and watch football. Play a game with your family and guests. If it’s too cold for touch football, play charades, take turns around a table telling jokes or funny stories, play cards or a board game, put together a puzzle, or play music. Activate your minds and exercise with laughter!

Step 5: Take a Nap.

Cuddle with the baby, your beloved, your pets, or your pillow. It’s a holiday; enjoy the time to rest and relax a bit! How often do you indulge yourself with a nap on a Thursday afternoon?

Step 6: Dinner Time!

Set a beautiful table, darken the dining room, light the beeswax candle, turn off the football game in the background, and give thanks for the meal and your time together.

Since you already ate your pumpkin pie and starches earlier today, the focus of dinner will be on proteins and low-glycemic, non-starchy vegetables. Why? When combined with a slower to digest flesh protein like turkey, starchy carbohydrates ferment quickly in the stomach causing gas, bloating, flatulence and fatigue. Avoid your brother’s foul smelling antics by removing the starches from the dinner meal.

  • Turkey: Turkey is an excellent source of complete protein and is widely known as a food high in tryptophan, the amino acid precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin (which regulates appetite, sleep patterns, and elevated mood). Turkey is also a very good source of immune-supportive selenium and zinc, heart-healthy niacin and vitamin B6, energy-enhancing phosphorus, and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Start the meal with organic apple cider vinegar in lukewarm water to stimulate protein digestion, and make sure to chew thoroughly.
  • Greens: Try green beans, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, healthfully prepared with herbs, spices, and a quality fat or oil. The phytonutrients in green vegetables provide antioxidants and alkalizing buffers against the more acidic byproducts of turkey digestion. Pair these low-glycemic, non-starchy, green vegetables with the flesh protein of turkey (and perhaps some bacon in those Brussels sprouts), and you will avoid the sluggish digestion and sleepiness typically attributed to the turkey (and the tryptophan).
  • Green salad with homemade dressing: Add some more color, nutrition, and crunch to the salad with other vegetables in the non-starchy category, and perhaps some soaked nuts or seeds. Make your own dressing from healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil, hemp oil, pumpkin seed oil, or a combination of the above. Add a fig flavored vinegar for a seasonal addition, and use fresh herbs and spices to round out the flavors to suit your palate. Salad dressing mastery is easy: start with a basic vinaigrette recipe and just keep experimenting with additional flavors you like. Dressings are a great place to ‘hide’ supplemental essential fatty acids including cod liver oil. It takes just minutes to whisk together a great salad dressing. Just be sure to use oils that are fresh and have not turned rancid (i.e. have been stored away from light and heat).
  • Beverages: Sip herbal or green tea, a glass of organic red wine, or warm water with ginger and lemon. Avoid sparkling ciders, sodas, or champagne despite how festive they might appear as your digestion will be better off without the sugar and carbonation.

Step 7: Clean Up & Relax.

Clean up the dishes, take a stroll around the neighborhood in the cool evening air, and return home to read a book aloud, watch a great movie, or finish the puzzle. You should be satiated, contentedly full (but not stuffed!), and thankfully relaxed. You started the day with dessert, which is special enough, but if you must have more pie, wait two hours for your stomach to fully empty. By then, you’ll likely forget about that second piece of pie anyway…until breakfast Friday morning!

From everyone at the Nutritional Therapy Association, we wish you a happy, healthy, nutrient-dense Thanksgiving Holiday!

Cathy Eason, BS, LMT, NTP, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition® lives, plays and relishes creating delicious meals at her home in Portland, Oregon. Owner and primary practitioner of Abundant Health LLC, she has over 20 years of clinical experience providing holistic nutrition counseling, therapeutic bodywork, exercise program development, and lifestyle education to a wide range of clients. Cathy is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified Healing Foods Specialist, Certified GAPS Practitioner, Certified Food & Spirit Practitioner as well as Licensed Massage Therapist, public lecturer, mentor and aspiring author. She is co-founder of the Blue Light Institute™PA offering mentoring and advanced training programs to holistic health practitioners across the globe. A passionate educator and life-long student herself, Cathy has been a Lead Instructor for the NTA since 2006 and enjoys sharing her knowledge with students as they explore the intricate workings of our amazing bodies and how employing simple holistic nutrition and mind/body concepts can really help each of us thrive… with Abundant Health.