6 tips for a healthy Thanksgiving

You are reading our weekly Well+Being newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Thursday.

Happy Tuesday! We’re sending the newsletter a little early this week because we’ve packed it with advice for your Thanksgiving celebration. But before that …

This week’s must-reads:

  • Golden retrievers are wonderful dogs. Now they’re teaching us about cancer.
  • The fridge hack that can slash your food waste.
  • A rift over ‘profound autism’ reveals a community’s deeper divide.
  • Our best advice for Thanksgiving travel.

Some last-minute tips for a healthy Thanksgiving

We’ve got lots of advice this week for making your Thanksgiving better.

1. Consider a morning workout or “turkey trot.” An intense workout on Thanksgiving morning may make it easier to skip a second helping of stuffing or pie. Findings from recent research show that strenuous exercise dulls hunger, at least for a few hours. If you want to avoid overindulging on Thanksgiving, think about a morning workout or even running a Thanksgiving Day race, often called a “turkey trot.” Read more.

2. Don’t forget the “thanks” part of the day. Giving thanks is good for the person giving it as well as the one receiving it. So why don’t we express gratitude more often? Research suggests that many people don’t realize how much a simple gesture of thanks can mean. In one 2018 study published in Psychological Science, over 300 participants were asked to write a letter of gratitude to someone who positively impacted them — their parents, friends, coaches or teachers from long ago. The letter writers consistently underestimated how much the recipients appreciated being appreciated. Read more.

3. Be ready to change the subject. You’re having seconds? How’s school going? What are your college plans? When are you two going to give me a grandchild? The list of things not to talk about at Thanksgiving table is a long one. Here’s our guide for what not to say and how you can be prepared to change the subject when someone needs rescuing. Read more.

4. Here’s another reason the sides are the best part of the meal. On Thanksgiving and every day, it’s good to start with fiber-rich vegetables. Studies show that starting meals with these instead of high-glycemic carbs that spike blood sugar levels tends to slow down the digestive process. It reduces the speed at which food leaves your stomach and enters your small intestine, a process known as gastric emptying, which makes you feel fuller longer. Read more.

5. Why you always find room for dessert. One theory for why we crave sweets, even when we’re full, is called sensory specific satiety. It’s why we can stuff ourselves with turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy but suddenly feel hungry when the pumpkin pie arrives. Read more.

6. The empty seat at the table. Grief doesn’t take a holiday. Our columnist Steven Petrow writes about the series of “firsts” that happen when a loved one dies, including a first Thanksgiving without his sister Julie. Read more.

Why does kale upset my stomach?

Q: I’ve heard kale has a lot of health benefits. But every time I eat it, I feel sick to my stomach. What’s going on? Is there a way to fix this?

A: Kale is a rock star, nutrient-dense food containing magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, C and K, to name a few. But it’s not for everybody. Raw kale can wreak havoc on our guts. And people on certain blood thinners need to avoid eating too much kale.

To learn more, read our latest Ask a Doctor column. Our columnist is Trisha S. Pasricha, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. And she’s ready to answer your questions! Use our Ask a Doctor form to submit a question, and we may answer it in a future column.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Well+Being team. Here are a few things that brought us joy this week.

  • A stranger asked me to take her photograph. It saved my life.
  • Iowa teen grew 7,000 pounds of veggies, then gave them all away.
  • 10 cranberry sauce recipes for every Thanksgiving table.
  • Do you talk more like a millennial or a boomer at work? Take this quiz to find out.

Want to know more about “joy” snacks? Our Brain Matters columnist Richard Sima explains. You can also read this story as a comic.

Please let us know how we are doing. Email me at [email protected]. You can also find us on TikTok.