Last Updated on February 13, 2021 by
Why Food Can Set the Emotional Tone for Holiday Gatherings
Much of the excitement around Thanksgiving is brought about by the planning of the big meal (and subsequent leftovers). There may be family traditions around food: certain stuffing recipes, the way a turkey is seasoned, marinated or baked that people put a lot of credence in and look forward to ear round. Though there’s another aspect of food that can play a big role in the way we feel at Thanksgiving and how we interact with others.
For millions of people around the globe suffering from mental health symptoms like anxiety or depressive conditions, or emotional distress due to past traumas, a healthy diet can go a long way in making the day more bearable. In fact, family can be a source for emotional triggers and the onset of drug or alcohol relapse.
Top Ten Healthy Thanksgiving Food Ideas to Support Positive Interactions
Even in the most emotionally balanced families, stress plays a part in Thanksgiving. Much of our stress is often a combination of unaddressed issues from the past or certain expectation we place on ourselves or others as part of the holiday season. The best of intentions may not remove all of the stress but these food-related tips could help minimize potential negativity.
Top Ten Healthy Thanksgiving Food Ideas
- Don’t Deep Fry the Turkey! – Before you look to bacon wrap, deep fry, or stuff your turkey with other birds, consider the price you will pay come the New Year. Is a deep-fried turkey worth the extra 100 miles it will take to run it off at the gym? When you cook your holiday bird, maybe consider a healthier way, grill, roast, or bake it! If you need some inspiration check out this healthy holiday turkey recipe.
- Replace the Instant Stuffing – Instant stuffing seems harmless and usually contains just bread and spices in most versions, but for someone on a healthy organic diet, making instant stuffing could turn Thanksgiving into a genetically modified catastrophe. Rather than trying to cut corners on the stuffing by increasing your intake of preservatives, go Organic, and try a recipe for DIY organic stuffing.
- Make Your Own Cranberry Sauce! – The typical store-bought cranberry sauce is not a very healthy option. According to EWG’s Food Scores, most store-bought cranberry sauce scores between a 4-6 out of 10. What does this mean? Food coloring, toxic additives, preservatives, and genetically modified ingredients won’t do you or your guests well. Try making your own organic cranberry sauce at home.
- Portion Control – On turkey day, it is even more important to control your portions. It’s easy to get caught up in the mouth-watering aromas of your favorite foods but consider what tomorrow may bring once you’ve overindulged. It’s okay to have a cheat day, from time to time, but Thanksgiving is known to cause food coma, and it is wise to be responsible, especially for those who are driving home from dinner. For an example of a healthy portion size to use this holiday, here is a cool video.
- Drink Less Alcohol – It is wise to minimize alcohol consumption on Thanksgiving. Not only are police and law enforcement out, and expecting drunk drivers, but alcohol combined with large quantities of food can cause additional medical problems. It is always best to enjoy the holiday time with family and friends as sober as possible, but for those who do indulge this Thanksgiving, be sure you don’t end up like this!
- Choose Your Gravy Wisely! – For many, Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without the gravy drizzled on turkey, dabbled on mashed potatoes or drowning the entire plate. When gravy is made in a simple and healthy way, overindulging may be ok, but when using processed or canned gravy from a can, or GMO ingredients, over use of gravy could contribute to your food coma. The better option is home cooked, organic, non- GMO, non-processed foods.
- Consider Non Dairy Items – Dairy used at Thanksgiving is typically not the healthiest. Processed foods like macaroni and cheese, butters, or even holiday deserts will typically include some low-grade dairy ingredients. While you could buy products made with organic dairy, there is also the option to go dairy free. How about replacing the milk in the mashed potatoes with an almond milk? Here are some ways to get creative with a dairy free Thanksgiving.
- Gluten Free – Most gluten contains genetically modified ingredients. Many people are becoming aware of the negative effect’s gluten has on their gut, as well as their moods. For this reason, if you are having a Thanksgiving gathering, making gluten free options will help to ensure all your guests nutrition challenges are accounted for. Especially for those with celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance, processed ingredients put them at risk due to potential exposure to gluten in the processing plants. Again, the wisest choice, is always to make your own homemade meals, so you know exactly what is going into the meal. At a minimum, buying products labeled gluten free and organic can ensure that this Thanksgiving meal is healthy for all the guests.
- Avoid Using the Microwave – Using a microwave can not only cause the food to be unevenly cooked, but most microwaveable foods are loaded with unhealthy ingredients. According to the global healing center, “Many microwavable foods are processed and in packaging that contains an assortment of chemicals. Chemicals found in many of these containers include benzene, toluene, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), xylene, and dioxins (known carcinogens). At high temperatures, it is likely that chemicals can absorb into the food, and intake of these chemicals presents a high health risk. What’s more, the chemicals in the food themselves are also a cause for concern. Perhaps one of the most dangerous contaminants in microwavable food is BPA.”
- Eat Raw Veggies! – Let’s face it, most holiday meals are full of cooked meats, candied starches, and breads. If there is a vegetable on the table, it’s likely to be cooked and covered in butter or a gravy. But part of having a healthy diet is making sure we get the proper nutrients. Raw veggies hold far more nutrients than cooked veggies. Carrot sticks, cucumber, and celery will help the body process the other foods more effectively while keeping brain chemistry in tact.
Healthy Eating Helps People Look Good on the Inside Too
Eating healthy is not just about maintaining a healthy weight or appearance. It’s about ensuring that the body and brain have the nutrients needed to live a prosperous and energetic life.
At Alternative to Meds Center, we teach our residents and their family ways to identify unhealthy processed foods, how to spot a GMO ingredient, and how to read product labels. This helps provide the support needed to stick to a healthy dietary plan for life. Our licensed inpatient center works to help residents eliminate neurotoxins from one’s lifestyle and environment. For those seeking an alternative to meds, living a mindful and healthy lifestyle will help improve symptoms of anxiety, fear, or depression.
Diane is an avid supporter and researcher of natural mental health strategies. Diane received her medical writing and science communication certification through Stanford University and has published over 3 million words on the topics of holistic health, addiction, recovery, and alternative medicine. She has proudly worked with the Alternative to Meds Center since its inception and is grateful for the opportunity to help the founding members develop this world-class center that has helped so many thousands regain natural mental health.