Recipe for a Healthy Thanksgiving

By November 19, 2012Aging in Place
Kelley Richard, LCSW, MSW, CMC

Thanksgiving dinner is undoubtedly one of the best meals of the year. However, the average Thanksgiving meal has around 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat. Additionally, almost 200 grams of carbohydrates and 2,000 milligrams of sodium can be found in Thanksgiving dinner. So, what does that mean for seniors?


Senior Health Concerns


While it may sound like a good idea to splurge on Thanksgiving dinner, hospitals around the country report a spike in heart attacks during the holiday. High fat and carb intakes will increase cholesterol, while the high amount of sodium elevates blood pressure. For seniors who travel and deal with family stresses associated with the holiday, there are additional stresses on the heart, which can increase the likelihood of a stroke. When seniors overeat Thanksgiving dinner, huge amounts of gastric acid must be produced in order to digest the large load of food. This can lead to acid reflux problems. In addition, the high carbs found in many Thanksgiving meals are extremely dangerous for seniors who suffer from diabetes.


Sleepy Seniors


Even for seniors who do not have serious medical conditions or concerns, eating a tasty Thanksgiving meal generally leaves everyone in need of a nap. What causes this? It takes an enormous amount of body energy to digest a huge meal. As seniors’ stomachs burn energy to digest that food, blood is pulled away from other vital organs for up to six hours. This can leave the heart and the brain deprived of that much needed blood supply, causing that well-known sleepy feeling associated with a post-Thanksgiving meal.


So, what can seniors do to ensure a healthy Thanksgiving meal? Follow these steps to stay alert, happy and thankful while still enjoying the traditional foods of thanksgiving.


  • Eat a small breakfast the morning of Thanksgiving
  • Seniors should always chew slowly and thoroughly
  • Be choosy about foods, seniors do not have to try every single dish
  • Remember portion control! There will be leftovers, so seniors do not have to overeat.
  • Most importantly, seniors should stop eating once full. Thanksgiving is not an eating competition.

Enjoy both the food and the valuable time spent with loved ones. Give thanks!


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