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Natural Awakenings South Central Pennsylvania

Make Thanksgiving Dinner a Healthier Treat

Oct 28, 2021 12:33PM ● By Sarah Glunz
The gut is a dynamic environment with direct connections to the brain. Eat a poor diet or ignore digestive issues and not only can the gut suffer, but so can our mental health. Research shows that taking steps like eliminating foods that are troublesome for the gut, adding a variety of fibrous foods, avoiding added sugar and refined carbohydrates, and incorporating a quality probiotic into a supplement regimen can make a difference with depression, anxiety and general cognition.
Unfortunately, those steps can feel impossible for someone already struggling with a health concern like depression. Addressing dietary changes can happen slowly, and while the small steps may not feel important, they add up to a significant difference in the health of our bodies and minds.
The same is true for holiday meals like Thanksgiving. Including dishes that we grew up with or just love because they taste good can also be important for our mental health, and balancing those favorite dishes with those that promote health, like fruits and veggies, is one example of a small step in the right direction. Some fruits and veggies, like apples, firm bananas, garlic, onions, leeks and asparagus, contain prebiotics, a form of dietary fiber that provides fuel for probiotics, our healthy gut bacteria.
Increasing consumption of produce can also decrease systemic inflammation, another potential cause of mental health disorders. For those struggling with irritable bowel syndrome, it may be necessary to first follow the low-fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAP) elimination diet to determine which foods with prebiotics are tolerated. After discovering which foods work best, adding them to holiday meals like Thanksgiving can be enjoyable —potato leek soup as a starter, roasted asparagus as a side dish and baked apples as dessert.
Easy Baked Apples
6-8 apples, washed and sliced (any apple variety will do)
3 Tbsp butter, ghee, plant-based butter, or coconut oil, melted
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 tsp cinnamon (or more if you love it)
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp honey
¼ cup chopped walnuts (or any chopped nut)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a nine-by-13-inch  glass baking dish. Place sliced apples in dish. Make sure they are cut into similar thickness so they cook evenly.
Combine melted butter or oil, oats, cinnamon, salt, and honey. Pour over apples. Sprinkle more cinnamon on top. Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes.
Uncover, stir, and cook for another 30 minutes or until apples are done to your likeness.
Serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt or a splash of your favorite milk.



Sarah Glunz, MS, CNS, LDN, is the nutritionist at Natural Paths to Wellness, in Camp Hill. She is available for individual nutrition consultations and weight loss support. For more information about her Whole Body Reset, 6-Week Weight Loss and Rejuvenation Program, call 717-494-4500 or visit