Eating Right During The Holidays

Eating Right During The Holidays hover background

Dec 01

Eating right during the holidays is a challenge with home cooked holiday meals tempting the taste buds and the smells of pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, turkey, ham, gravy, casseroles and pies wafting through the house. While you may have never heard of postprandial somnolence, you have probably heard of it’s more commonly referred to name: a food coma.

Ever experience one? Sure you have! Maybe even as recently as at Thanksgiving. So with more feast-worthy, festive holidays right around the corner, how do you practice eating right during the holidays?

While you may have the best of intentions in heaping healthy options on your plate, many of us take advantage of a good, home cooked holiday meal as a way to indulge. After all, the holidays are special, right? However, if your body isn’t used to the heavy meals associated with the holidays, you might not only experience an uncomfortably full belly, but also a sudden surge of lethargy after your favorite holiday meal.

These uncomfortable symptoms are signs that you not only over-stuffed your belly, but stuffed it with the wrong things. What happens to your body after the sudden influx of fat, carbs or sugar into your digestive system? It’s not just the tryptophan in the turkey making you sleepy, the science behind it shows us it’s more than that.

There are several things that can play into your holiday meal induced food coma, these include:


We have all heard before that the tryptophan in turkey is a major culprit of sleepiness after a meal, but the truth is that it is only one of several things that can cause sleepiness after your favorite holiday meal. Tryptophan is an amino acid that the brain converts into melatonin and serotonin — both sleep inducing chemicals in the body.


The parasympathetic nervous system, known as “rest and digest” is activated. This is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system reaction, also known as “fight or flight”. Your body makes this nervous system shift in preparation for the food coming through the system that is about to be digested.


White potatoes, breads, rice, pasta and many desserts have a high glycemic index. The rapid influx of added sugar into your bloodstream causes a spike in blood sugar, followed by an equally rapid drop which will likely also cause fatigue.


Cholecystokinin, or CCK, is a hormone your body releases during digestion. It not only is responsible for helping you feel satiated, but also triggers parts of the brain associated with sleep. Excessive amounts of CCK are released when you overeat — which is likely to happen during a holiday meal.

Eating Right During The Holidays — A Few Tips:

Now that you know many of the main culprits of postprandial somnolence (it’s not just the turkey), here are several ways you can practice eating right during the holidays.


As we learned, eating too much or eating too much of the wrong thing, can make you feel drowsy. Controlling your portions will help ward off an after meal sleep session. Remember, everything in moderation!


An overabundance of high-glycemic index foods will cause a sudden spike in blood sugar, followed by a downward energy crash, so balance out your meal with lean proteins, nutrient dense foods and other options that don’t contain carbs.


Many vegetables contain immense amounts of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to build and repair cells. Proper nutrition will help you feel fuller longer. Don’t forget these important building blocks on your holiday plate.

The holidays are often associated with added stress and eating right during the holidays will help you to be able to better deal with this stressful time of year. Also, staying active and physically fit throughout the holidays will help encourage you to make better food choices as well.

If you would like to do more to improve your health and have been held back by injury, illness or just don’t know where to start, our team of physical therapists at Above & Beyond Physical Therapy in Queen Creek and Phoenix are here to help. They can help you with implementing a home therapy program and plan back to wellness and health.

[Related article: Physical Therapy That Works For You]

Contact us for an evaluation today.


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