Does the Thanksgiving Menu Stress You Out?

Happy Thanksgiving card with menu list of typical foods served at Thanksgiving dinner. Various retro fonts with tan background

When you are suffering from chronic sinusitis, mold sensitivity, Candida, or autoimmune disease, Thanksgiving dinner can be an anxiety-inducing event.  The good news is that with a little planning and help, you can enjoy yourself and the spirit of Thanksgiving with less health and medical issues plaguing your day.

I cannot speak to all the familial challenges that are brought to light when families get together, that is a different topic entirely, but I can speak to not derailing your road to wellness during this holiday. Because mold triggers an inflammatory immune response, and overindulging in rich and sugary holiday foods can also contribute to gastrointestinal stress and inflammation, many mold sufferers dread the holiday when it comes to the food.  While some celebrators unbuckle their belts and consume more than double their daily caloric intake without too much health fallout, mold sensitive individuals who take this approach can experience an immune system inflammation “hangover” if they indulge too much.

General discomfort, fatigue, bloating, brain fog, nausea and heartburn can all put and end to holiday enjoyment.  My intention isn’t to provide strict rules about the meal.  You are the director of your diet and should know what you can and cannot eat.  My intention is to take away some stress going into the Thanksgiving meal in order that you may approach the holiday with the spirit that is intended.

It is unlikely that you will be able to easily construct a meal that is completely low fat and healthy.  But, you can avoid ultra-caloric fatty foods and inflammation-promoting foods to the best of your ability.  The goal here is to enjoy the meal with your family and/or friends without a food-induced health crisis and to recognize that the anxiety leading to the meal is often much worse than the meal itself.  Further, the stress hormones released (cortisol, adrenaline) from this kind of stress and anxiety take their toll on our immune systems indirectly.

Here are my tips to a more healthful and less-stressful Thanksgiving feast:

(Note: Obviously, if you are on a strict diet prescribed by your physician, you should adhere to their instructions.)

 1. Let the Turkey Be the Star of the Meal

The staple of any Thanksgiving dinner, turkey breast is an excellent protein choice.  You can feel comfortable filling up on turkey.   It is high in tryptophan which is a precursor to the mood-boosting neurotransmitter, serotonin. Turkey is also rich in DHA omega-3 acids which have been shown to boost brain function, improve mood and turn off fat genes, preventing fat cells from growing in size.  While dark meat cannot be considered a lean protein source, it is a good source of iron, zinc and vitamin B12, a nutrient that aids muscle growth. The most important thing to reduce inflammation is how the turkey is cooked. Stay away from fried turkey or from using partially hydrogenated canola or soybean oils. Roasting a turkey with organic butter, olive oil or avocado oil will yield a flavorful, juicy bird without the negative health effects.

If you enjoy either gravy and cranberry sauce, meat gravy is the lesser of the two evils.  Cranberry sauce is often loaded with sugar, which feeds fungus and alters the structure of fungi to contribute to growth.  Just remember that moderation is key with either choice.

2. The Co-Stars

Vegetable Side Dishes 

If there is a salad or raw vegetable relish tray, feel free to indulge.  Roasted vegetables are also a good choice. Once vegetables cross over into the “casserole sides,” all bets are off.

Casserole dishes loaded with butter, cream, sugar, etc., and often made with canned vegetables take the nutritional edge away and are packed with calories and processed foods. If these are favorites of yours, enjoy in moderation.


Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows, Butter, and Brown Sugar.

Sweet potatoes on their own are a good source of fiber and inflammation-fighting antioxidants.  Take advantage of sweet potato mash or roasted sweet potatoes, if available.

Scalloped potatoes made with butter, cream, and cheese

Sweet Potato Casserole can be filled with butter, brown sugar, marshmallows, etc. that pretty much negate the nutritional value. Regular mashed potatoes are also okay to eat in moderation if they are your favorites.



3. The Extras


Thanksgiving may not be complete to you without dessert.  Sugar remains something to avoid; however, you might be able indulge in a small slice of pie, if your meal is balanced otherwise.  You may want to avoid toppings such as ice cream and whipped cream if you can. Pumpkin Pie is the healthiest of the alternatives. It is followed by fruit pies and pecan pie last.  Dessert for a holiday meal should be an acceptable inclusion, especially if the meal is balanced with a good protein source and healthier sides.


I won’t spend too much effort on Alcohol. Beer and wine are fermented and loaded with empty calories and sugars.  Alcohol in moderation is a personal decision you must make for yourself. If you partake, be aware of how your body reacts to each sip.  This is important, because the kidneys and liver are our body’s detoxifiers. When we consume alcohol on top of having any sort of toxic exposure, like mold, our detoxification systems are working overtime. When there is an overload, you may feel the effects days and even weeks afterwards as your body processes toxins from your system. Some mold patients even report being highly sensitive to alcohol, where even a small glass of wine produces an extreme hangover the next day. We all know that we have to live with the consequences.

Hopefully, this article provided you with some ideas or strategies to enjoy what you can during the holiday meal.  By recognizing the bad actors and either avoiding them or eating those things in moderation, you can avoid any major negative effects to your health and recovery.  The goal here is to avoid anxiety associated with such a meal.  Holidays are meant to be enjoyed.  Happy Thanksgiving!