A Thanksgiving You Don’t Have to Recuperate From

A Thanksgiving You Don’t Have to Recuperate From

Reduce Stress by Watching Grain, Sugar and Dairy Intake

by Ayelet Connell

The holidays are around the corner again, and that means family, friends and turkey. But for many, the holiday season can induce stress, whether because of more or less time with family, poor choices for food or too many responsibilities. Often we feel like we need to recuperate after the holidays. Here are some strategies that can help to reduce stress during the holidays, while maintaining a healthy balance.

If cooking your own Thanksgiving or other holiday meal, without worrying too much about alternatives, try to prepare foods that generally do not have gluten or refined sugars. Gluten is very inflammatory and can contribute to stress; the same is true of refinead sugars. Gravy can easily be thickened with corn starch or potato starch instead of wheat flour. Cook more roasted veggies like roasted sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts instead of vegetable dishes that have a lot of breading. Be adventurous and attempt gluten-free stuffing, or forgo the traditional stuffing and make a rice dish instead.

Instead of offering bottles of wine or champagne during the holidays, have bottles of sparkling cider on hand; it’s as an easy alternative for those that want to avoid alcohol. Alcohol breaks down in the body as a sugar and can create more stress during a time that potentially presents with enough stress as it is. Avoiding alcohol as much as possible during the holiday season will help to make us more tolerant to all the extra pressures that the holidays can bring.

Carve out some time for yourself during the holiday season. You can incorporate some exercise into your week or even just a walk outside for some fresh air every day. This simple action can create some movement in the body and help with releasing stress.

Lastly, it is helpful to remember that the holiday season is about being thankful and spending more time with the people we care about, whether family or friends. Stress may be inevitable, but we must remind ourselves that it’s okay, that we’re doing the best we can, that we faced challenges this past year and overcame them, that we’re wonderful and special and worthy. To be able to give our love to others, we need to love ourselves. During this holiday time, we can be patient with ourselves and enjoy.

Roasted Turkey Recipe

For many years, my husband and I served a “Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving” for friends and family that weren’t able to spend thanksgiving with us during the actual holiday. It was a special pot-luck meal that was gluten-free and dairy-free because so many of us at the time were sensitive to these foods. Surprisingly, the turkey process was relatively easy. The key to cooking a turkey is time and attention. This recipe is a favorite of mine that we created and have modified over the years.


Natural Turkey, with neck and giblets removed
3-4 lemons, sliced in quarters
4 onions, cut into quarters
6 large carrots
6 large celery stalks
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch thick stalks
Sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper
5 stalks of fresh thyme
5 stalks of fresh parsley
2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp paprika
Extra virgin olive oil
10-15 mixed color small potatoes, cut in half


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Layer carrots, celery stalks and parsnip stalks along bottom of roasting pan. Sprinkle with sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and rub stalks with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Pat outside and inside of turkey dry with paper towels and then lay turkey, breast side up, on vegetable stalks. Stuff turkey with lemon and onion wedges, fresh herbs, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Sprinkle turkey with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

In separate bowl, make rub by mixing mustard, lemon juice, paprika and 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, then rub on outside of turkey.

Place potato halves around turkey in roasting pan, along with remaining onion wedges.

Mix potato/onion mix with sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes per pound of turkey.

Be sure to check on turkey every 30 minutes to see if turkey is burning. If turkey is starting to burn in sections, you can cover those sections with small pieces of foil wrapped over the area.

Use meat thermometer in the thigh to determine doneness of turkey—turkey is ready when temperature is 165
degrees Fahrenheit.

Let the turkey rest for 20 to 40 minutes before carving. Enjoy!

Gravy Recipe

Sometimes, making gravy can seem like a complicated task. This very simple gravy recipe from Whole Foods Market is a good solution.


¼ cup pan drippings from turkey roasting pan
2 cups low sodium turkey broth, divided
3 Tbsp arrowroot starch
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper


Put pan drippings in medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisk 1 ½ cups of broth into sauce pan and bring just to boil.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together arrowroot and remaining ½ cup broth. Whisk mixture into saucepan just until smooth and mixture begins to thicken, then immediately remove from heat.

Stir in salt and pepper and serve.

The key is planning. Plan out your meals and also consider what you can bring to other gatherings that you may be contributing to. Think about how to create a holiday dessert that is free of refined sugars and sweetened naturally with honey, pure maple syrup or coconut sugar. There are a plethora of options available online through Pinterest and lots of natural blogs. Take the time in advance to plan and your holidays will be so much easier. No recovery needed!

Ayelet Connell, PhD, PT, IMT, C is President and owner of Integrative Wellness & Physical Therapy, in Bloomfield—a wellness center offering holistic physical therapy, Integrative Manual Therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture and nutritional wellness. A physical therapist and Certified Integrative Manual Therapist, Ayelet integrates a healthy lifestyle at home with her family in the Greater Hartford area. Connect with her at 860-519-1916 or See ad, page 8.

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