I can almost feel my mouth watering now thinking about Thanksgiving dinner! So many delicious dishes all on one day, it’s hard not to indulge and end up eating far too much. If we give in to extremes, however, we end up spending the rest of the day bloated and uncomfortable. Then there’s the worry of growth hormones in the turkey or BPA in the canned cranberry. Is there anyway to enjoy a large meal without having to ingest unwanted chemicals-or deal with indigestion afterwards?
1. Buy organic! Smooth digestion starts with healthy foods. Go for organic turkey to avoid the growth hormones, organic fruits and veggies to cut back on pesticides, and pumpkin pie instead of apple-it’s easier on your stomach!
2. Take a probiotic supplement in the morning. Probiotics are natural, beneficial bacteria that help support healthy digestion.
3. Skip the canned food. Breast Cancer Action recently co-released with the Breast Cancer Fund a report studying BPA in Thanksgiving canned foods. All the samples, including canned gravy, evaporated milk, veggies, pumpkin and soup, had some level of BPA contamination. BPA has been linked to breast cancer and prostate cancer, and may have adverse effects on childhood development. Choose fresh or frozen over canned whenever possible.
4. Tone down the sugar. Sugars are naturally more difficult to digest (as are fats), and can increase your risk of bloat. Even the sugars in some dairy products (lactose) can cause maldigestion, so go easy on milk, creams, and other dairy-based foods, as well as candies and sugary drinks.
5. Drink more water. Water hydrates your bowel and helps increase the ease of digestion. Drink between meals, however-not so much during the meal, as that can actually hinder digestion.
6. Skip the starches. Cabbage, white potatoes, pasta, and wheat all contain starches that can lead to intestinal gas. You don’t have to avoid them completely, but dole out smaller servings to stay more comfortable.
7. Take some enzymes with your dinner. Cooking foods often destroys the enzymes, which can make some foods harder to digest. Supplemental enzymes can help break down these foods to make it easier on the stomach.
8. Combine foods carefully. Did you know that certain foods in combination are more likely to cause indigestion? On the whole, denser and less liquid foods take longer to digest, so you want to save them for last, so they don’t jam up the system. Start with salad, then proceed with protein and combine with cooked veggies. Indigestion happens when we combine carbs (like bread, rolls, squash, potatoes, and rice) with proteins (like turkey, beans, and dairy). On this holiday, however, you might not be able to help that. Just know you want the least amount of starches with your turkey if you can. Skip fruit altogether on this meal and have it first thing in the morning. My friends at LYT in NYC have some great advice on combining foods for the best digestion here.
9. Take your time eating and chew thoroughly. Eating fast overwhelms your digestive system. Snack on some veggies and hummus, yogurt or nuts before dinner to keep yourself from getting overly hungry, as that’s when you’re likely to inhale everything without chewing. Then savor each bite and enjoy some conversation between courses.
10. Try some ginger tea after your meal. Ginger, peppermint, and fennel help reduce gas. Try them as herbal teas or sprinkle a little ginger on your sweet potatoes or squash.
By the way, if you’re going through cancer treatments and nothing sounds good this holiday, check out this cookbook. It may just have something that sounds good to you.
Do you have some tips to help avoid holiday bloat? Please share!
Picture courtesy Aaron Joll via Flickr.com.