Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year when we get to see friends and family and take time to reflect on things that we are thankful for. It’s also an amazing time to pig out on some awesome food!
Some people who follow a clean diet (whether it is a Paleo Diet, Keto Diet, Mediterranean Diet, Vegan, Anti-Inflammatory Diet, or anything else that involves cutting out sugar) will sometimes feel unsure about what to do during holiday meals.
If you have been making good strides in your health by eating real foods and not eating in excess and do not want Thanksgiving to be a setback or make you susceptible to falling back into old habits, but you also are aware that Thanksgiving food is really good, plus you haven’t had this kind of food in a long time and you don’t want to offend the friends and family who took the time and effort to make it by not eating it – (excuse the run-on sentence) then this article is for you!
It’s ok to cheat on your diet every once in a while – especially when you are gathered with family and friends on an occasion like this. All the top nutrition experts agree on this! Thanksgiving is the ultimate cheat meal! And unless you have a medical reason that says you shouldn’t, it’s ok to pig out on Thanksgiving!
But for those who is still want to eat somewhat healthy during this holiday, we’re going to give you a few foods that it is okay to go all out on! Then eat the rest of the foods in moderation or avoid them altogether.
Our Criteria For Picking These Foods
On this list, you will see foods that have a low glycemic load (similar to the glycemic index). Glycemic load refers to a food’s ability to cause instability in your blood sugar levels. Foods that are higher in carbohydrates and sugars and lower in fiber, have higher glycemic loads. An example of this would be bread and pasta which have high glycemic loads. Chicken and broccoli on the other hand have very little carbohydrates and therefore have a very low glycemic load.
When we have unstable blood sugar levels, our bodies produce inflammation and turn the excess sugar into fat (1-2). This happens to everybody when we eat high sugar foods and is not just specific to people with diabetes. It’s no big deal when it happens occasionally, but when it happens on a regular basis, it can start producing some unwanted symptoms.
If we consistently eat a diet that spikes our blood sugar, our bodies start developing chronic inflammation which is involved in over 200 disease processes including higher pain intensities and frequencies. We even see chronic inflammation play a role in low back pain, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions.
Most of us feel the effects of inflammation after a higher glycemic meal in the form of brain fog (mental unclarity) and mid-day fatigue (3). So for those that want to eat somewhat healthy still during the holiday, we decided to come up with a short list of some of the most popular Thanksgiving day foods that are low on the glycemic scale. Therefore, you can choose to pig out on these foods and go easy on the other ones!
4 Low Glycemic Thanksgiving Foods
1. Green Beans – one serving of green beans has a glycemic load of 2.1. This means that if you got after it and ate 5 servings of green beans, the glycemic load would still be only 10.5 – much lower than the glycemic load of 1 dinner roll or a serving of stuffing.
We could have put basically any vegetable in this position but we chose this traditional Thanksgiving vegetable. If green beans are not your favorite Thanksgiving vegetable, then eat a lot of your favorite vegetable. The bottom line is that vegetables have a very low glycemic load and you can fill up on them without creating high inflammation!
2. Deviled Eggs – this is a tricky one. One hard-boiled egg has a glycemic load of 0. However, deviled eggs often have a lot of other ingredients added to them such as sugar that would raise its glycemic load. With that being said, eating a lot of deviled eggs is still going to be much better then stuffing your face full of stuffing.
3. Sweet Potatoes – a serving sweet potatoes typically land around 10-15, in the medium range of the glycemic load. Though sweet potatoes are higher than other foods listed on this list, they aren’t as high as most Thanksgiving foods and they are packed with nutrients. Not adding any sugar and boiling your sweet potatoes, keep the glycemic load closer to 10.
4. Turkey! – You can let out a big sigh of relief now that you know that turkey made our list! Turkey actually has a glycemic load of 0! As does other Thanksgiving meats including ham. So if you had to pig out on any food, turkey or ham would be as good as any of them! Just know that if there is stuffing, dressing, or sugar added to the turkey; that will cause the glycemic load to increase.
If you want to totally go all out during Thanksgiving and not follow any of the advice we just gave – that is totally fine! Just don’t eat like it’s Thanksgiving all year long! Make this a 1- or 2-day splurge where you allow yourself to eat whatever you want and then get right back to your healthy habits. Before Christmas comes…
We at St. Johns Chiropractic & Performance are very thankful for this community that is now near and dear to us! If you would like to see a nutrition specialist or functional medicine expert, please give us a call!