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Thanksgiving. It’s the season known for giving thanks, being grateful for what you have, and of course, eating! From the deep fried turkeys, to the sugar-bomb called “cranberry sauce”, it’s one of those holidays that can destroy your fitness goals in the blink of an eye.

However, if you take a broad look at what is actually served at a typical Thanksgiving dinner; you could see it as the healthiest meal all year – turkey, green beans, cranberries, and sweet potatoes. How in the world have we taken some of the healthiest foods in the world, and turned them into diet disasters?

Most people have taken these healthy foods and turned them into nightmares by deep frying them, adding pounds of butter or inflammatory oils, and dumping on the sugar. If we just take a minute to review the cooking stage of your Thanksgiving dinner, you can make TINY changes that will help you in the weight department.


Take these tips when looking to cook your Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Use fat-free and low-sodium stock to baste the turkey/make gravy
  • Use fruit purees in place of oil when making baked goods
  • Lower the total amount of oil and butter used when you can
  • Bake your turkey instead of deep frying it
  • Use stevia in place of sugar in your cranberry sauce/baked goods
  • Use coconut milk in place of cream in your casserole


I know some of you have no control over how the meal is made that day. Those are just some tips if by any chance, you are making Thanksgiving dinner, or your family lets you put in your two cents when it comes to cooking. In most cases, including mine, you probably don’t have a say – so making do with what you get is crucial during the holiday.

Take these general eating tips to help you get through the dinner with as little fitness damage as possible:

  • Start the meal with a salad or veggies to help fill you up
  • “The dose makes the poison” or in other words, eat what you like, just eat less of it
  • Instead of having two plates of food, save it for leftovers or as a snack
  • Choose the white meat of a turkey and make sure not to eat the skin due to the high fat content
  • Be conservative when using gravy
  • Take a walk before and after your meal to burn some extra calories
  • Prior to eating, take 10 deep breaths white expanding your stomach; this will increase your digestive power and your metabolism
  • Eat slow so that you are aware of how much you are consuming
  • Put the fork down in between bites
  • Chew your food as much as you can
  • Savor every bite!


We have all heard of it before, the tryptophan in the turkey is why your relative is passed out in the Barcalounger in the living room, but is this really true? Even though there are studies which show that tryptophan causes people to feel drowsy, let’s look at the more obvious reason we are becoming tired at Thanksgiving…

WE ARE OVEREATING! I mean, come on, we should know this by now, three plates of turkey, two helpings of stuffing, three spoonful’s of yams, and a bowl of cranberry sauce isn’t going to make you feel like running a marathon. The reason why we are feeling tired is because blood is being diverted away from the brain and going to the stomach.

On average, people have between 6L and 7L of blood in their circulatory system. When you consume such a large meal, your body will divert up to 3L of blood to your digestive tract in order to process the food into energy. This diversion of blood from your brain to your gut will make you feel drowsy due to the utilization of a lot of energy. Additionally, when you are relaxed during this time and consuming alcohol in the middle of the day, this will definitely contribute to the sleepiness.


Okay, it’s not much of a challenge but more of an opportunity to gain bragging rights until the next family holiday. Since all of you will be eating a bunch of comfort food, enjoying the wild conversations, and laughing it up during dinner, why don’t you add a little family competition to the mix?

This year, try something different by having a post-meal exercise competition! Give your body at least an hour and a half to digest; then make some athletically- balanced teams.

As a way to “bet” on the challenge, the losing teams should have to pick up the dishes, wash them, put them away, wrap up leftovers, or even make the winners a “to-go” plate. However you want to work it!

The challenge is as follows:

  • Wall Sits – Team that holds the longest wins
  • Planks – Team that holds the longest wins
  • Half Pushups – Hold halfway, team that holds the longest wins
  • Squats – Team with most repetitions wins
  • Full Pushups – Team with most repetitions wins
  • Sit Ups – Team with most repetitions wins

If you make this into an annual event, you never know who will sweat it out all year just to claim the Thanksgiving Day Challenge Trophy next year!

In all seriousness, Thanksgiving is an event to cherish the time socializing with friends, family, and loved ones. Even though you might not make the best nutrition choices that day, just remember to get back on track as soon as you can.

I hope that you have the best holiday possible.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Dr. Jack Kunkel offers alternative medical services that provides custom and effective solutions for your body and mind by using a three-step strategic approach based on key pillars such as nutrition, exercise, and herbs & whole food supplements.