Gaining 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas may be an exaggeration (research shows that 5 pounds is more likely the weight an average American gains during the holidays), but “holiday heart syndrome” and Salmonella food poisoning are both real health hazards that affect people during this time of year.
As you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones, here are a few things to consider.
Avoid Health Hazards This Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is synonymous with a feast with family and friends. As you prepare a sumptuous meal for the entire clan, make sure your turkey is thawed and cooked safely to avoid bacterial contamination. Older adults, young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are particularly prone to bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, which cause diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Follow this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guide to treat your holiday turkey properly!
While good food and a few drinks may sound harmless, good moods sometimes can lead to excess. Traditional dishes of a Thanksgiving meal tend to be rich and heavy—even if you can resist the temptation of having seconds, consumption of fatty foods can cause a spike in blood sugar, indigestion and heartburn, and can even cause blood to clot more easily. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic warn that heart attack and stroke risks surge in December and January, particularly on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
People who are otherwise healthy are not immune either, as excessive alcohol consumption over the holiday season is known to cause “holiday heart syndrome”—an irregular heartbeat pattern that can increase the risk of heart attack. If you are traveling after a big meal, be aware of food fatigue that could make you dangerous behind the wheel.
Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes and Tips
Enjoy the Thanksgiving meal in moderation, or adjust the recipes to meet your health needs!
Diabetes-friendly Thanksgiving recipes
Reducing the amount of carbohydrates in the Thanksgiving meal will help your loved ones with diabetes. Replace sugar and carbohydrates with more fiber; for example, instead of serving mashed potatoes, go for mashed cauliflower. You could also incorporate more vegetables into stuffing. This Prevention article offers a variety of diabetes-friendly recipes for your reference.
Heart-healthy Thanksgiving recipes
Butter- and cream-ladened dishes may be delightful to your taste buds, but for the sake of your heart health, use applesauce, skim milk, citrus juices and vinegar as substitutes to add flavor to your food. This UPMC HealthBeat article will give you some good ideas.
Low-sodium Thanksgiving recipes
For people with high blood pressure and kidney disease, many Thanksgiving dishes are unfortunately high in sodium. Try to avoid processed food, and cook from scratch to limit the amount of sodium in your dishes. The low-sodium Thanksgiving guide on the Hacking Salt site provides great recipe inspirations.
If you are saving leftovers from the Thanksgiving meal, the best way to seal them is in airtight freezer containers or vacuum-sealed bags. You can keep them in the freezer for months. But if you are prepared to consume the leftovers in the days following the holiday meal, note that many of the Thanksgiving dishes will spoil in the fridge in a matter of days. To find out more about the shelf life of your Thanksgiving leftovers, this StillTasty article features a detailed chart on the shelf life of each food item.