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Thanksgiving Tips & Tricks

As an Ayurvedic Health Coach, I see lots of uses for food as medicine, but we've also all experienced it's opposite affect. That heavy sense of dullness after we eat too much ice cream? Not very medicinal. That overly full feeling after Thanksgiving? Doesn't feel very healing.

Thankfully, food as medicine, and lifestyle practices from Ayurveda, can help us have a great tasting meal and a healthy digestive experience, without the sense of feeling dull or uncomfortably over-full. Try these today and see how you feel!

  • Sip on ginger tea this morning to wake up your agni (your digestion)

  • Get some movement in this morning.

  • Try not to stress as you prep! The point of Thanksgiving is to gather and give thanks. The food will all come together and it's important that you don't lose sight of the big picture if you're hosting. Be a joyful delegator - enlist the help of your crowd.

  • 30 min before your Thanksgiving meal, eat a slice of fresh ginger. You can sprinkle it with lemon or lime juice and/or add a tiny pinch of salt to make it an Indian-style pickle as opposed to just a slice of ginger.

  • Add some spice to your heavier dishes - black pepper, cumin, and ginger all boost agni (our digestive fire). Cumin is a great addition to sweet potatoes, and black pepper or mustard powder can help us digest dairy-heavy foods which are typically considered cold and damp, even when served warm.

  • Keep some or your sides on the lighter, simpler side. I'll share one of my favorite side dishes with you below.

  • Avoid the salad. Thanksgiving falls in the Vata season which is already light, cool, and dry, just like salad. Cooked foods help us stay grounded and are easier to digest.

  • Eat early. Give yourself a few hours between the end of your meal (including any snacking and final bites of pie) and when you go to bed. Our digestion is strongest in the Pitta hours of the day - between 10am and 2pm. While 10 am is pretty early for turkey, stuffing, etc, having Thanksgiving lunch somewhere between noon and 4pm is going to feel better than eating that big meal between 6 and 9 pm.

  • Don't drink too much of anything during your meal. Small sips of warm water or tea are ideal. Huge glasses of anything, especially cold drinks, are going to load you up with liquid and dampen your agni.

  • Take your time eating, talking, enjoying the people at your table. Eating together is a wonderfully healing social experience if we slow down enough to fully enjoy it.

  • Take a mild walk after your meal, or in the pause before dessert.

Agni is our digestive fire. If it's burning too low or too high, we can't process foods completely or fully assimilate the nutrition from what we eat. Most spices help boost our agni, and ginger is one of my favorite digestives. I grate fresh ginger into my cranberry relish and add dry ginger to my apple pies. And if you're feeling chilled, a cup of hot ginger tea will warm your right up!

Madjur Jaffrey's Swiss Chard with Cumin and Ginger

Originally appeared: Food & Wine January 2012


  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 2 jalapeños, minced

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

  • 3 pounds Swiss chard—rinsed, stems cut into 1/2-inch pieces, leaves cut into 1-inch ribbons

  • Salt

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the cumin and cook over moderately high heat until slightly darkened, 10 seconds. Add the jalapeños and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in the chard leaves and stems with the water that clings to the leaves and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring, until the chard is tender, 12 minutes. Uncover and cook over high heat until most of the liquid has evaporated, 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, season the chard with salt and serve.

Jewel's notes:

  • This is great with any mixed cold weather greens - kale, chard, spinach, etc

  • I use ghee (1st choice) or avocado oil for sauteeing these days, and might add a drizzle of olive oil after cooking for extra health benefits

  • I use 1/2 - 1 serrano pepper because that's what I grow, and add a few grinds of black pepper. If you don't have fresh chile, use a sprinkle of red chili flakes instead.

Be well this Thanksgiving, and balance your Self!


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