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Thanksgiving Tips: Avoid that Too-Full Feeling

Could this be the year you break your pattern of eating so much on Thanksgiving that you fear your belly may burst?

Don't worry: bellies rarely burst, even when we fill them way past their normal capacity of 1 to 2 cups of food. But you can avoid that worry, and a lot of discomfort and regret, by taking these tips from Joan Salge Blake, a professor of nutrition at Boston University.

"You need to learn to outsmart your stomach," Salge Blake says. Knowing a few facts can help you enjoy a meal that won't leave you feeling bloated:

  • Fat flummoxes digestive enzymes and makes food linger longer in the stomach.
  • Fiber, which the stomach can't digest, can help speed food through your system.
  • Liquid leaves the stomach more swiftly than solids.

So, Salge Blake says, trimming fat from the meal while adding fiber and liquid (to fill you up fast and speed digestion) can go a long way toward avoiding the "agita" you feel after a large meal. As she notes in today's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, serving your meal in courses can help. Start with a broth-based, vegetable-filled soup, then clear the table. Next up: a salad with low-fat dressing. By the time you clear that second course, everyone's bellies will have received signals from the brain (this takes 20 minutes) that they're already starting to feel satisfied, keeping folks from mindlessly devouring the rest of the meal.

More advice from Salge Blake on a healthier Thanksgiving that won't leave you loosening your belt:

  • Eat breakfast: Don't starve yourself during the day. Otherwise, you'll be so ravenous come turkey time you'll stuff yourself silly.
  • Move the mealtime: Eat at 1:00 instead of 4:00, Salge Blake recommends. Wait till it's late and you may find yourself saying, "It's a long time between breakfast and 4:00. I'm noshing!," she says. "The absolute worst that will happen," she says, "is that we may be hungry again at 6:00. So you pull it all out again then" to eat when your stomach is really ready for more.
  • Allocate alcohol: Nothing kills willpower like too much to drink. If alcohol is part of your celebration, sip wine with your meal; don't imbibe on an empty stomach.

Finally, Salge Blake says, "Remember, this is not the Last Supper. It's not the last time you'll ever see turkey and mashed potatoes. This is America. If you want to make turkey in July, make turkey in July!"

Have a terrific Thanksgiving, and enjoy every bite. But before you dig in, how about sharing your strategies for enjoying a satisfying meal without overdoing it?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  November 25, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
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Ok, so, here's my "this is what's wrong with the world" post: why is overdoing one meal a year deemed to be so horribly unacceptable that it merits multiple articles in Health section of The Washington Post? Must we be so obsessed with weight, with "perfect" everything, that we have to suck the joy out of one day of feasting? Why can't we celebrate without guilt, and eat in moderation the rest of the time?

I have two no-rules meals: Thanksgiving and Hanukkah (latkes, mmmmmmm). I do not WANT to start those meals with consomme or vegetable soup. I do not WANT to follow that up with field greens and low-fat dressing. Any calories I waste on soup and salad are calories I could have spent on the foods I love to enjoy, the flavors that make Thanksgiving so special to me. I want turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, and pie -- and crispy turkey skin, double yum. I will devote every inch of stomach space to those foods; I will savor them and enjoy them for all they're worth. And then the next day I will be back to salads (with turkey on top!) and treadmills. No biggie.

Posted by: laura33 | November 25, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

This goes against all our family's tradition- we do NOT do soup & salad on Thanksgiving. 1:00?? You must be kidding!
We always eat in moderation anyway and still have room for dessert. Enough of the unsolicited holiday "advice"!!

Posted by: jws3 | November 25, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

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