What’s On My Thanksgiving Menu

With just over a week away from Thanksgiving, it is time to start planning the menu for the big day. This is my first Thanksgiving on a whole foods plant-based diet. It’s about to get interesting. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is centered around processed meats, lots of fat and butter, and sugar-laden desserts. Any vegetable on the table is typically baked into a casserole with cheese or butter. The only semi-healthy item is the salad (which wasn’t a common option on Thanksgiving in my family for what I can remember) but any health aspect was negated by the cheese and fatty dressing poured on top.

And then the stomach ache and drowsiness would set in.

Ever wonder why you get so tired after a big meal? On Thanksgiving, many blame the turkey because it contains tryptophan. However, this myth was dispelled over a decade ago by a study done at MIT. Turkey only contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid, in small quantities. What happens is that tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids for transport across the blood-brain barrier into the brain. Since it is found in animal proteins in a smaller ratio, it is typically last in line for transport. So if anything, consuming turkey actually lowers tryptophan levels. When tryptophan is consumed as part of an animal protein meal, serum tryptophan levels rise while brain tryptophan levels decline.

Lower tryptophan levels are associated with depression so being able to have it cross the blood-brain barrier is key. On Thanksgiving day, what’s more likely happening is the refined carbohydrates and fat are increasing the release of insulin, which causes the muscles to take up the non-tryptophan amino acids as fuel and allows the tryptophan to be first in line for brain access. Once in the brain, this leads to an increased production of serotonin–the “happy hormone” and some of it gets converted to melatonin, a chemical associated with helping sleep.

The reason you feel so much sleepier than usual on Thanksgiving is because of the sheer amount of calories you’re consuming–>not only does that surge of serotonin production lead to melatonin, but your body has to use so much energy just to digest all of that food. Also, being dehydrated can exacerbate your lethargy, so make sure to drink plenty of water!

An alternative is to eat a plant-based meal that will not cause the sugar high and subsequent crash. Whole plant foods are nutrient dense and fill you up sooner with less calories. It is REALLY HARD to over eat on a whole foods plant-based diet. And those complex carbs break down slower which means a more gradual release of insulin rather than a spike.


And when consuming foods with a high tryptophan-to-total protein ratio such as pumpkin seeds, pistachios, or roasted soy beans, tryptophan levels in the brain increase. This may be why studies show that those eating plant-based diets have superior mood states. You heard that right–I’m happier than you omnivores!


This is what they meant by better mood, right?

This year Daniel and I are hosting my family for Thanksgiving so I have been getting pumped up to plan the menu. There will be a total of 6 people. Although I am trying to stay as close to whole foods as possible, it is a holiday which calls for some rules to be broken. Don’t worry, I’m not eating animal products. But I’m okay with adding some processed foods to mix against what I just blabbed on about. You’re welcome. (Dr. Michael Gregor said what you eat on holidays and special occasions won’t affect your long term health sooo…..)


The Menu:

And here’s a teaser photo of those sprouts:

maple glazed brussels sprouts

You haven’t lived until you’ve had maple glazed Brussels sprouts. Even a picky eater would gobble these up.

I hope you’ve found some inspiration for your own Thanksgiving meal from my menu. The turkeys will thank you! xoxo


Day Six ~ Vegan Challenge

Day 6
Eat Drink
Wake Up 8 oz of water
Breakfast Oatmeal with a variety of toppings OR 2 pieces of whole wheat toast topped with a nut butter of your choosing and a side of fruit (apple orange or banana) 8 oz of water
Morning 8 oz of water before lunch (I always keep a water bottle handy)
Lunch Spinach salad (what you had for dinner last night); or left over Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers if you have any; or Mock Tuna Salad 8 oz of water
Afternoon If you're hungry any time throughout the day have an apple or celery with 2 Tbsp of nut butter or a Larabar 8 oz of water before dinner
Dinner Quinoa Pesto with Vegetables from My Whole Food Life. Feel free to just use quinoa instead of quinoa pasta or whole grain pasta 8 oz of water
Exercise At least 16 oz of water after exercise to rehydrate

For breakfast I had oatmeal with cinnamon, banana slices and pecans. Yummy!

For lunch I went with both a small spinach salad, and a veggie burger. It was a delicious combination.

The pesto and vegetables turned out pretty good for dinner. I ended up heating the tomatoes too with the broccoli and spinach. If you’re a non-vegan, a little parmesan would probably be tasty with it.

pesto pasta and vegetables

For my exercise I did the final fifth day of the Five Day Workout Plan. Now after the fifth day, take a rest day or two and then start all over again.

Day 5 Five Day Workout Plan

This one will give you abs of steel. But first it will make your abs sore! I need a nice ab stretch sesh afterwards. Feel free to add some cardio as well!

So classes have resumed today for the semester. I can’t believe I’m onto my second semester of grad school already! But don’t worry, I’m making an effort to time manage so I don’t fall short blogging again. Hopefully!

It’s A Double Rainbow All The Way

Yesterday was a busy day working on those said chairs that Daniel and I are re-staining and reupholstering. We tried to get a lot done so we could finally have two chairs complete! We decided for easier moving we’re not going to put all the chairs back together until they’re in our new place. However, I could not wait that long to see the final result so we pieced one together real quick. Here it is next to the last chair that we need to work on.

Chair old and new

Major transformation! It’s doesn’t even look like they came from the same set! I’m so happy with how the stain turned out. I wish I would have taken some pictures when we used the horrific 2-in-1 Polyshade. It literally just looked like chocolate paint. So we sanded THREE times! That’s right. The initial sand, then after the Polyshade, and then again after some stain when we realized not all of the Polyshade was off so some of the stain wasn’t absorbing.  But it was all worth it! Check out that contrast! (Ignore Daniel’s white legs, they’re not part of the contrast).

Chairs old and new stain

And that fabric upgrade?! Totally worth the $4.50/yard. Score!

Fabric old and new

The rest of the after pictures will have to come once we move.

So here’s my meals from yesterday:

Meal Food Calories
Breakfast Cereal 100
Almond milk 30
Snack Protein Shake 120
Dinner 5 Tacos with salsa 552
Drinks Double Rainbow, Tarantula, Lemonade & gin 409
Total 1211

We were so busy in the afternoon working on the chairs that we didn’t really have a lunch. I was stuffed after those tacos though.  By the time we did finally eat dinner I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture of it but they were tasty as usual. Every thursday at Porter’s, a local bar and deli, they serve 50 cent tacos. They’re simple but delicious and you can’t go wrong with the price. After consuming half my calories in tacos, Daniel and I preceded to hang out with our friends and have a few drinks. Now, tarantulas and gin lemonades are nothing to get excited about but have you ever had a DOUBLE RAINBOW?! No? Well I feel sorry for you. Look at it’s beauty.

Double Rainbow

It’s one of the bartender’s specialties. He takes fruit juices and Kool-aides and freezes them in ice cubes trays. Then he adds two of each color to the glass (hence the name Double Rainbow). He then pours the equivalent of typical long island liquors with some club soda over it. It’s the best drink I’ve ever had. So fruity-licious!

Double Rainbow

You can enjoy this delight at Auntie Mae’s Parlor. It’s not available until after 10pm when this particular bartender arrives. And it may only be on thursdays. But you should check it out. Or make your own at home!

As for my exercise yesterday, Daniel and I went on a run in the rain. It was that 2.5 mile route again. This time we ran it faster than usual since it was less hot. I was proud and tired. We’ve decided we’d like to run and marathon someday. Ok, Daniel wants to do that, I’d just be happy making it through a half marathon. I think we’ll start smaller though with a 10K and then work our way up to longer distances. Any suggestions on how to train for these races? I assume just slowly try to increase mileage but I wonder if there’s other techniques for faster times. Let me know if you have any advice!