Gratitude, Connection, and Plant-Powered Thanksgiving: Nourishing Body and Soul

November 20, 2023

As Thanksgiving approaches, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the reasons we gather.  Often, the Holiday season is filled with parties and big feasts which often means overindulging in one way or another.  It’s hard to resist all of the good food and treats.  I would like to share a few tips to get through the holidays with the right mindset.  

This year, let’s celebrate Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season with a twist, emphasizing gratitude, human connection, and mindful choices that align with our health goals.

Gratitude: The Heart of Thanksgiving

While often much of the focus is on the meal, at the core of Thanksgiving, lies the beautiful practice of gratitude. It’s a time to reflect on the blessings in our lives, from the people we hold dear to the experiences that have shaped us. Gratitude is a powerful force that can enhance our overall well-being, reduce stress, and foster positive relationships.

As we gather around the table, it’s the perfect time to reflect and express our gratitude with those we love. It’s a simple act that can deepen our connections and create lasting memories.

The Benefits of Gratitude: Backed by Science

Gratitude is not just a heartwarming sentiment; it’s a practice that comes with remarkable health benefits, supported by scientific research. When we practice gratitude, we’re also investing in our well-being:

  1. Improved Mental Well-Being: Numerous studies have shown that expressing gratitude can lead to increased happiness and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. It promotes a positive mindset and a greater sense of overall well-being.
  2. Stress Reduction: Gratitude has been linked to reduced stress levels. It can lower cortisol, the stress hormone, and help us cope better with life’s challenges.
  3. Better Sleep: Practicing gratitude before bedtime has been shown to improve sleep quality and duration. A peaceful night’s sleep is a gift we can offer ourselves, especially during the holiday season.
  4. Stronger Relationships: Expressing gratitude fosters closer and more meaningful connections with others. It enhances empathy and strengthens our bonds with family and friends.
  5. Physical Health: Gratitude may have a positive impact on physical health as well. Some studies suggest that grateful individuals may have better heart health and immune function.

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance. Ekhart Tolle

The Power of Human Connection: A Blue Zones Lesson

In Blue Zones, where people live longer and healthier lives, strong social connections are a common thread. This Thanksgiving, let’s draw inspiration from these communities and focus on strengthening our bonds with family and friends.

Engage in meaningful conversations, play games, or embark on a communal project. Last winter my family and I worked on puzzles. It was a fun challenge to tackle together.  We also love the friendly (and not so friendly) competition when playing board games. Remember, it’s not just about the food on the table but the connections we nurture that truly nourish our souls.

Mushroom Wellington

Mindful Eating: Savoring Each Bite

As we indulge in the Thanksgiving meal, let’s practice mindful eating. Slow down and savor each bite, appreciating the flavors and textures. This approach not only enhances the dining experience but also helps us recognize our body’s signals of fullness.

Making Vegetables the Star of the Meal

While Thanksgiving often revolves around a bountiful turkey, we can embrace a healthier approach without sacrificing flavor or tradition. Fill your plate with vegetables and make the turkey the side dish instead; make vegetables the star of the show this year.

Consider swapping out some traditional ingredients with plant-based alternatives. Even better, consider swapping your traditional turkey for a fun plant based alternative. Instead of a traditional turkey, why not try lentil loaf or Mushroom Wellington.  Both dishes have been favorites of my non vegan guests over the years. This is a great Mushroom Wellington recipe.

This Mushroom Wellington bursts with flavor and is sure to impress your guests. It’s a hearty, plant-based alternative that aligns perfectly with your health goals.

This Thanksgiving, let’s be grateful for the connections we cherish, the moments we create, and the nourishing choices we make. May your holiday be filled with love, gratitude, and a feast that feeds not only your body but also your soul.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I am a pediatric intensive care physician and lifestyle medicine specialist.

As an intensive care physician I was seeing younger and younger patients with adult type diseases. Hypertension, type 2 diabetes and obesity were becoming more common and my patients were suffering sequelae as a result. Many times the entire family was suffering.

I realized that things had to change. I realized that in order to help my patients, I would have to help the entire family. Empowering individuals and families to take control of their health through lifestyle change is my passion.