What an Early Thanksgiving Dinner Means for Your Digestion

Go ahead, eat at 3 p.m. Just make sure you do it right.


Photo via istock.com/mediaphotos

Every Turkey Day, families gather ’round the table to dig into a Thanksgiving feast. Days of food preparation culminate in one seriously indulgent dinner—which often takes place at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Why do we eat Thanksgiving so early, and what is that doing to our bodies? Marci Anderson Evans, a Cambridge-based registered dietitian, says one reason is that we often forego other meals to save room for the main event.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if part of the reason we eat our Thanksgiving meal so early is partially due to the fact that no one is eating breakfast or lunch and we feel starving,” Evans says.

This starve-then-binge style can leave you feeling sick, Evans says, and it’s not great for the digestive system, either. Eating tons of food on an empty stomach can lead to indigestion, gas, and bloating. Evans says a healthier method is eating something light before dinner, even if you want to save as much room as possible.

“I recommend eating a balanced breakfast and a healthful snack prior to the Thanksgiving meal. Then enjoy your Thanksgiving meal without stuffing yourself silly,” Evans says. “You may want to consider stashing your second helping in a Tupperware to enjoy later. It helps stave off the ‘all or nothing’ mentality that often leads to overeating.”

One good thing about eating early in the day, Evans says, it that it allows time for the body to process everything before going horizontal.

“The most helpful strategy for supporting digestion is being active,” she says. “Toss the football around or take a walk. It’s not about burning calories; it’s about helping your body process your meal so you can feel energized.”

Evans says that you only need to jump-start digestion with a few minutes of activity, so you can still catch that post-Thanksgiving nap or plop on the couch for football and parade re-plays.

Now that’s something to be thankful for.