Thanksgiving is a holiday that definitely focuses on food. Your mouth may already be watering in anticipation of sinking your teeth into some of your favorites.
Will you go for the traditional turkey, ham, or vegan option? Pile up the sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, or mashed potatoes and gravy?
Whatever your preference, we wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays! Meanwhile, if you’re concerned you’ll be fighting breakouts, inflammation, dryness, or other skin problems after that big meal, you may want to consider that some Thanksgiving foods can actually be good for your skin, while others can wreak havoc with just one serving.
Worst Thanksgiving Foods for Skin—and How to Make them Better
Fun as Thanksgiving can be, it’s probably not the best holiday for your skin. First, you may be exposed to some excess stress as you try to prepare that perfect meal and get your house and table ready for guests. Stress creates inflammation in the skin, and that inflammation can encourage breakouts and premature aging.
Then you have the overeating. That creates a stressful reaction in your body, too, as when your stomach is extended and your body is trying to digest all that extra food, stress hormones are released until the body feels normal again.
You can solve both of these problems by preparing ahead of time to reduce your stress, and eating smaller servings. But then we have the actual food. Some dishes are likely to negatively affect your skin, particularly if you eat a lot of them.
- Stuffing: Yes, it’s often a favorite because it rarely shows up on the dinner table until Thanksgiving, but it’s also full of fat and calories. It’s because of all that bread, salt, and bacon (sometimes) or other meat pieces. That means inflammation, puffy eyes, and possible breakouts. You can make it healthier by cooking it outside the turkey.
- Turkey or ham: The problem with these two is the salt, which can cause water retention. Hello puffy eyelids. You can reduce the sodium in your turkey by purchasing it from a whole foods store or local farm, so it’s not as heavily processed, and use unsalted butter rubs or a salt-free vegetable broth to brine. Be sure to remove the skin before eating. If you prepare it with less sodium, it can actually be good for your skin, as it’s rich in zinc, which promotes collagen production, and protein, which provides structure to the skin.
- Mashed potatoes: These usually spell doom for acne-prone skin, because they are prepared to be high in fat and salt. To make them healthier, use low-fat milk and chicken stock instead of cream and butter when mixing.
- Alcohol: No matter whether you’re enjoying wine, cocktails, or beer, alcohol can cause blood vessels to dilate in your skin, and also dries out the skin. Keep your intake at a moderate level, and be sure to drink water between each drink to keep yourself hydrated.
- Sweet potatoes: On their own sweet potatoes are a very healthy food. They’re rich in vitamin A, potassium, and vitamin C, all nutrients that can make your skin glow. The problem is that at Thanksgiving, they’re usually drowning in brown sugar and marshmallows, and that high sugar hit encourages skin aging. To make them better for your skin, go lighter on the sweet toppings, or include them as an option on the side and then skip them entirely.
- Cornbread: It’s high in the glycemic index, which means it breaks down fast in your body, spiking blood sugar levels and triggering a flood of insulin. These processes can increase oil production and damage collagen.
- Cranberry sauce: What you get from the store is typically high in added sugars—which means more skin aging. All that sugar makes this one higher in calories, too. To make this one healthier, simply use organic dried cranberries in your salad or side dish, or make your own sauce without all the added sugar. Cranberries on their own are full of healthy antioxidants that can protect your skin.
Best Thanksgiving Foods for Skin
You can still enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner without stressing your skin. Choose these foods more often, as they’ll not only reduce your risk of skin problems, they may even benefit your skin.
- Cooked spinach: It’s low in calories and rich in nutrients like protein, vitamins A and E, and beta-carotene. All these are good for your body as a whole, and will help your skin fend off free-radical damage.
- Brussels sprouts: These are also low in calories but high in vitamin K and vitamin C, which helps skin protect itself from damaging UV Rays.
- Green bean casserole: Even with that creamy mushroom soup and crispy onions, this casserole still comes in as a lighter pick than sweet potato casserole, because the green beans are so low in calories to start. Green beans are also a good source of vitamin B, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation.
- Corn: it’s got antioxidants that defend you from the sun’s damaging rays.
- Pumpkin pie: Okay, it’s still go the fat and calories that any pie has, but the pumpkin gives you nutrients called carotenoids that help neutralize damaging free-radicals. Even as is, it’s typically got fewer calories than the apple pie (as long as you go without the added whipped cream). You can make it even healthier by eating just the filling and leaving most of the crust behind.
- Roasted carrots: Even glazed with a sugary sauce, these are still extra good for your skin. They’re low in fat, but high in potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin B, which help skin protect and regenerate itself.
- Squash: Whatever kind of squash it is, it’s usually packed with nutrients that are good for your skin. As long as you go easy on the butter, you can pile this one up on your plate without worry.
What are your favorite foods on Thanksgiving?