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Digest This: Ayurveda’s Thanksgiving Survival Guide

thanksgiving yoga

As much as we associate the holidays with joy and togetherness, we also associate these joyous days with bad food choices.

During this time of year many of us indulge in apple pies, sugar cookies, and creamy mashed potatoes—food that makes us ignore our good dietary habits. If we sneak a little Ayurveda into the holidays, we will enter the new year feeling fantastic.

This Ayurveda Thanksgiving survival guide will help you survive the holiday season and thrive as the new year begins. Rather than restricting or eliminating our favorite foods altogether, we bring our focus to agni, or digestive fire.

Fire up the agni.

If your appetite is strong, you’ll be able to digest heavy holiday foods with no problems. However, if your appetite is weak, food won’t digest properly, turning into toxins.

Fire up your appetite with a ginger appetizer: peel and slice a 1-inch piece of ginger. Marinate the ginger in lime juice and a sprinkle of Himalayan salt for several hours, then enjoy a few slices before lunch or dinner.

Sip on digestive tea.

Keep your digestive fire burning by sipping on digestive tea throughout the day. A simple option is fresh ginger tea: mash a 2-inch chunk of ginger and simmer it in six cups of water for a few minutes.

If you want to get a little fancier, try simmering ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, and ½ teaspoon fennel seeds in six cups of water for several minutes.

Pass on cold drinks.

Cold foods and drinks put out the digestive fire, but thankfully, most holiday food is served steaming hot. However, many of us will have the desire to enjoy a drink or two. If you decide to enjoy a cocktail, try to choose a glass of red wine over an iced drink, and always choose warm water over cold.

Celebrate over lunch.

Just like the sun’s warmth, the digestive fire is strongest around midday. If you have any say in the timing of your holiday meals, gather everyone over for a Thanksgiving lunch instead of a dinner. Everyone will be able to eat more without feeling as full as they would at dinner.

Get moving.

Encourage good digestion by taking a 10-minute stroll after the big meal. Try to avoid napping, as this can result in your food turning into toxins. Instead, step outside with your friends and family for a stroll, fresh air, and good conversation.

In addition to your daily stroll, sneak in a few asanas here and there. The right moves will stimulate the abdominal organs and keep the agni strong. Sun Salutation are ideal, especially when followed by a pose that puts pressure on the abdomen such as Seated Forward Bend or Snake pose.

Incorporate the six tastes.

Ayurveda explains that a truly satiating meal includes all six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent.

Holiday food tends to be very sweet, even main dishes such as mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, squash, and buttermilk rolls can be loaded with sugar.

While something sweet is comforting and pleasing to the mind, it’s also very heavy and weighs you down if over eaten. This year, take a look at your holiday menu and see which tastes from our Thanksgiving survival guide are missing.

  • Sweet – You’ve probably got that covered with the help of cookies and cranberry sauce.
  • Sour – Squeeze a little lime or lemon juice into your sweet potatoes or squash.
  • Salty – Don’t go overboard, but a sprinkle of Himalayan salt is part of a balanced meal.
  • Pungent – Offer your guests a bit of ginger appetizer, cook meats with a few cloves of garlic, or add some pungent spices such as cinnamon and cloves to veggie dishes.
  • Bitter – Kale would go well with a holiday dinner as well as bitter greens, such as steamed collards, chard, or spinach.
  • Astringent – This can be easily incorporated into holiday foods by adding ¼ teaspoon turmeric during cooking. It won’t alter the taste of your dishes, but will make them more satiating.

Make the right amount of food.

Ayurveda recommends avoiding leftovers altogether. When cooked food sits around (even in the fridge), it becomes difficult to digest and lacks prana. Holiday leftovers tax digestion and have nothing to offer in terms of energy and vitality.

Rather than throwing away what doesn’t get eaten at your big holiday meals, try cooking smaller quantities. Knowing how much food it takes to feed a group is a skill that’s learned with practice, but before you know it you’ll be a pro.

julie bernier
Julie Bernier
Julie Bernier, a registered Ayurvedic Practitioner and Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist with the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA), offers holistic wellness solutions rooted in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of healing. Certified as a Massage Therapist, Julie specializes in restoring balance for women facing various health challenges such as hormonal imbalances, period problems, digestive troubles, skin conditions, anxiety, depression, and pre/postnatal care. Her expertise combines traditional teachings learned directly from the source in India with modern understanding gained through studies in the US. Julie's personalized approach to wellness empowers women to reclaim harmony in their bodies and lives through Ayurvedic principles and practices.