As Thanksgiving approaches, I want to help you make a conscious effort to avoid the whole post-feasting exhaustion and "long winter's nap" comes from a carb and grain overload. All I want for my tribe is to avoid spiking and plunging our collective blood sugar on Thanksgiving. May we ignite joy, not inflammation!
Every bite of food, whether it’s part of a Thanksgiving meal or a weekday lunch, travels on its own beautiful journey through the body, setting off a dance party release of hormones, chemicals and digestive fluids. Our system converts food into a broad range of nutrients that give us the energy and mojo we need to be our sexy, vibrant selves.
If we aren’t digesting our food properly, these nutrients aren’t absorbed and that’s where the problems begin. If we’re chronically stressed, we’re likely to suffer a suppressed immune system and we can be overrun with pathogens. This increases gut inflammation and permeability of the intestinal lining—and that can result in Leaky Gut. Stress also releases cortisol, which activates the sympathetic nervous system and fires of a “flight or fight” response that suppresses metabolic processes that are not required for immediate survival—including digestion. So you can see that stress and eating have a direct biological correlation with one another.
When we are in a relaxed state, the parasympathetic nervous system is active, which prepares the body for resting and digesting. Stomach acid production increases and the blood supply is drawn into the digestive organs. Our body gets ready to receive food and kick off the slow, natural process of absorption so we maximize the nutritional benefit we get from fork and spoonful of food we eat. Being mindful and giving thanks at mealtime puts our mind in that relaxed state and can be one of the most important things we can do to improve our digestion and nutritional status. As you sit at the Thanksgiving table, before you take that very first bite, feel that “in your gut” sensation of gratefulness and thanks, not only for the amazing way your body works, but of the love and friendship of everyone sitting around you.
If you’re feeling stressed when you’re about to eat, take a few deep breaths. Focus on a soothing word. Put an image in your mind of your favorite place or the most tranquil spot you can imagine. Say a prayer. Do whatever you can to move to a calm, relaxing state—then take your first bite. Your body will thank you and you’ll make the most of that delicious meal in front of you.
Ways to increase your parasympathetic nervous system and not overeat
- Eat a protein/fat/fiber rich breakfast so your blood sugar is stable
- Stay hydrated all day
- Write down 10 reasons you are grateful for the people and occasion ahead
- Meditate in the car and take deep, relaxed breaths before you arrive and throughout the gathering
- Engage, but do not react
- Eat slowly and chew lots (remind yourself why you are grateful while you chew)
- Make every cocktail or mocktail last at least 45 minutes and have a glass of water lasting just as long between every class of wine, beer or cocktail
- Contribute to the dinnertime conversation. The more you talk, the less you’ll eat.
If you overindulge, forgive yourself. Beating yourself up only leads to a downward spiral. If you fall off, climb back on.
I love to take traditional favorite recipes and tweak them to be mindful of the way our tribe eats: grain, dairy, and sugar free. Allow yourself to be creative and use the ingredients you
love. Be brave and never be beholden to a recipe. My rough menu below accommodates the autoimmune paleo crew who avoid gluten, eggs and dairy and nuts. Use it as an inspiration, not rigid list of “must dos.” The joy in cooking for health shines through when you make food your own, so give everything you make your unique stamp of taste and love—and enjoy.
Repurposed Recipes for Detox Friendly Black Friday
- Turkey (organic, free range, and pastured on lush grass and sunshine)
- Portobello Mushroom Gravy (I roast the mushrooms in rosemary and substitute arrowroot for flour or cornstarch. Creamy and vegan goodness.)
- Cranberry Sauce (I always omit sugar and keep it tart ‘n smart. I add ginger, lemon or orange zest, and fresh mint.)
- Brussels Sprouts (Roast ‘em. Even kids like these veggies.)
- Mashed potatoes (I always use sweet potatoes and coconut milk and put in some shredded unsweetened coconut.)
- Green salad (I like to have a crisp bright green arugula salad on the plate. Perfect for color and texture and working in more greens. Add a cranberry vinaigrette and scatter some pomegranate seeds and sweet potato croutons.)
- Grain free stuffing
- Butternut squash soup with sage grain free croutons (vegan and dairy free). Squash makes a lovely creamy soup with any broth or liquid of your choice and doesn’t require any dairy to make it velvety smooth.)
- A lovely pie from the equally lovely friend Sarah Ballantyne (ThePaleoMom.com)
Here are some unique ways to reuse all those leftovers and extra ingredients sitting on your countertop and in the refrigerator.
Cleansing Cranberry Smoothie
Full of antioxidants and a good way to use up those extra cranberries.
1 cup kale, fresh
1 cup parsley, fresh
1 cup water (or more if needed)
1 cup cranberries (frozen to make it cold and frosty)
1 tbps. flaxseed
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tbsp. coconut oil
2 tsp. ginger, fresh peeled.
2 scoops Dr. Sara Shake mix (or other non gluten/non dairy protein powder)
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Because of of the cranberries, your smoothie may turn out "purple-ish" so enjoy the beautiful color!
Brussel Sprout and Kale Super Salad
For the dressing:
1 tbsp. minced shallots
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
For the salad:
4 cups finely ribbon shredded Lacinato (loosely packed)
4 cups finely shredded Brussels sprouts (loosely packed)
1 apple, cubed
½ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup nutritional yeast (optional)
Make the dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk together the shallots, mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest and honey. Stream in olive oil while whisking continuously until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (You can add more lemon juice a drop of stevia to adjust the acidity or sweetness to your personal taste.)
Assemble the salad:
In a large bowl, toss together the shredded kale, shredded Brussels sprouts apple and sunflower seeds. Add as much dressing as desired, tossing to combine, then add nutritional yeast if using. Serve immediately.
In a hurry? You can use a Cuisinart, but the handmade ribbon cuts in the kale do look prettier.
Turkey Vegetable Miso Soup
A bowl of protein and probiotic and greens soothes and detoxes. The idea is to take the remnants from the Thanksgiving table and combine them seamlessly into a delicious, healthful soup.
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 medium stalks celery, cleaned and chopped
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Water, to cover or make turkey stock (click here for a recipe)
1-2 tbsp. miso (any kind)
Leftover turkey meat, shredded
2 cups leftover cooked vegetables
2 cups greens (spinach, bok choy, whatever is on hand!)
½ cup parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. fresh ginger juice
- In a large soup pot, heat some olive oil on medium high heat.
- Add chopped carrots, onions, and celery and sea salt. Cook until the onions are softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add a couple cloves of garlic, chopped, and cook for a minute more, until the garlic is fragrant.
- Add the water and miso to the pot. Blend.
- Add in remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until all vegetables are all fork tender.
- Remove bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper.
You can also make this recipe with tofu instead of turkey.