Healthy Thanksgiving Eating Tips

Does turkey really make you sleepy? What’s the healthiest kind of pie? Test your holiday nutrition savvy

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #164

Does turkey really make you sleepy? Is pumpkin pie more nutritious than other desserts? Can cranberries ward off infections? Since Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I thought I’d take a closer look at some of the nutritional lore that often surrounds the holidays.

Does Turkey Really Make You Drowsy?

True or false? Turkey makes you drowsy because it’s high in tryptophan.

False. Turkey does contain tryptophan, which is an amino acid—one of the building blocks that make up proteins. It’s a pretty common amino acid, found in everything from pumpkin seeds to parmesan cheese.

It’s also true that tryptophan can be converted into serotonin and other neurotransmitters that have a relaxing effect on the brain. But that only happens if there are no other amino acids present. Turkey, of course, contains lots of other amino acids in addition to tryptophan.

So, if you feel sluggish after Thanksgiving dinner, don’t blame the turkey. It’s probably just that you’ve had a big meal, maybe some wine. A nice walk is just the thing to aid digestion and wake you up a bit.

Is Pumpkin Pie a Healthy Dessert?

True or false? Pumpkin pie is good for you.

As desserts go, pumpkin pie has several things going for it. I mean, this is a dessert made out of vegetables…and you know how I feel about vegetables. Pumpkin is high in beta carotene and fiber and there’s enough pumpkin in a piece of pie to count as about half a serving of vegetables.

Secondly, while many pies have both a top and a bottom crust, pumpkin pie usually only has a bottom crust. The crust accounts for a big proportion of the calories in pie—so having just one limits the damage.

The crust accounts for a big propoprtion of the calories in pie--so having just one limits the damage.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.