With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us are planning our menus for the big feast. And while we may have fewer people gathered around our tables this year, it doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to good company and great food on the holiday.
In this post, we will take a look at what causes inflammation, how what you eat affects it, and most importantly, how you can create a delicious Thanksgiving meal that will not leave you feeling guilty over what you ate.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is your immune system’s natural response to stimuli, and in small amounts, plays an essential role in keeping you healthy. Chronic inflammation, however, can lead to a myriad of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and more.
Foods that cause inflammation
- Fried foods
- Red meat
- Refined carbohydrates
- Processed meats
The food listed above may also contribute to weight gain, which can also contribute to inflammation.
Benefits of Eating Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Maintaining a healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods is one way to reduce chronic inflammation and pain. This means avoiding processed products incorporating more whole, nutrient-dense, and antioxidant-rich foods into your diet.
Cornerstones of an anti-inflammatory diet include:
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards)
- Nuts (almonds and walnuts)
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines)
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
- Olive oil
In addition to adopting a healthier diet, it is essential to remain active. Here at Active Chiropractic, we focus on helping our patients live well and active through chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, and various therapies, but also by making recommendations for nutrition supplements and other lifestyle changes.
Creating An Anti-Inflammatory Thanksgiving Meal
Traditional Thanksgiving food is delicious, rich, and typically filled with ingredients that cause inflammation and fatigue. If you are following an anti-inflammatory diet to manage pain, making some changes to your Thanksgiving menu can reduce your discomfort and take care of your body.
Let’s take a look at some Thanksgiving staples and some alternative dishes to include on your menu!
While turkey is often considered a lean protein, dousing it in gravy and eating it with the skin on may lead to inflammation. Luckily there are ways to still enjoy this Thanksgiving staple without sacrificing taste or quality.
- Roasted turkey breast – There are several ways to roast a turkey breast, and opting for just the breast cuts down on cooking time, calories, and the hassle of having to dress an entire bird. The breast meat has less fat than the thighs or wings, making it a healthier option all around.
- Go vegetarian or vegan – One of the most popular turkey alternatives is a tofurky, which offers you an excellent protein source!
- Skip the turkey altogether – While many equate Thanksgiving with turkey, skipping the bird frees up the oven — and room on your plate — for more sides (and dessert)!
Traditional gravy includes turkey giblets, butter, flour, broth, and quite a bit of sodium, contributing to inflammation.
- Go vegan or vegetarian – Instead of making gravy from the turkey, opt for a vegetarian or vegan gravy made with boneless broth, gluten-free flour, vegan butter or coconut oil, herbs, spices.
Another Thanksgiving staple, stuffing, is often made with white bread, which is an inflammation trigger for many people.
Luckily, it is relatively easy to make stuffing healthier — swap out the white break for whole-grain or gluten-free bread. Incorporating chopped vegetables and dried fruit into your stuffing a great way to add flavor and nutrition to your stuffing, while boosting its inflammation-fighting qualities.
Cranberries on their own contain antioxidants, but traditional cranberry sauce is often high in sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup.
- Opt for a cranberry relish instead – Creating a homemade cranberry relish is a surefire way to cut down on extra sugar while providing your table with a fresh, fruity, and antioxidant-rich side.
Green Bean Casserole
Like cranberries, green beans on their own are very nutritious. Still, when coupled with crunchy fried onions and canned cream of mushroom soup, it increases the amount of saturated fats, which can trigger inflammation.
- Roast, steam, or saute your green beans – Green beans are delicious a number of ways and pair well with other roasted vegetables or on their own with garlic, onion, and a little olive oil.
- Substitute in almonds – If you love the fried onions’ crunch, substitute in slivered or sliced almonds to keep the texture while boosting the dish’s fiber, unsaturated fats, and antioxidants.
- Make your own mushroom sauce – opting for making your own mushroom sauce with fresh ingredients will not only raise its nutritional value, but can help you create a decadent dish to compliment the rest of the meal.
Classic mashed potatoes are made with white potatoes, butter, and cream, and then smothered in gravy. While this is indeed delicious, it is also high in fat.
- Opt for roasted red potatoes – Roasting your spuds will cut down on the fat in the dish and allows you to experiment with various herbs and spices!
- Make cauliflower mashed “potatoes” – Cauliflower is having a moment. This versatile vegetable is used as a substitute in many dishes from cauliflower rice to cauliflower pizza crust. For your Thanksgiving meal, it offers a low-carb alternative to traditional mashed potatoes from cauliflower rice to cauliflower pizza crust.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potato casserole often walks the line between side and dessert. On its own, sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber and antioxidants, but the brown sugar, marshmallows, and butter that traditionally go into this casserole add extra fat and sugar to your meal.
- Swap out the casserole for roasted sweet potatoes – Roasted sweet potatoes dusted with nutmeg and cinnamon can give you the fix you are looking for without the calories and fat!
Traditional pumpkin pie filling is heaped in sugar, and its crust contains inflammatory ingredients such as eggs, evaporated milk, and shortening.
- Opt for gluten-free crust – Cutting out shortening and making a gluten-free crust will cut down on the refined carbs and trans fats.