Don't blame the turkey this Thanksgiving

MAYWOOD, Ill.  – “Food coma” is a term that comes to mind for many when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving. But with mindful practices, the harvest holiday doesn’t have to be the husky holiday.

“Turkey doesn’t make you sleepy; eating very large quantities of turkey, stuffing, potatoes and pie makes you sleepy,” said Kim Sasso, a registered and licensed dietitian at Loyola University Health System. “Turkey does contain tryptophan, but so do yogurt, eggs, fish, cheese and other meats.” Soybeans, she said, actually contain more tryptophan than turkey.

“Because of transport and breakdown, not enough tryptophan will reach the brain to cause sleepiness after a holiday meal,” Sasso said about the popular myth. “Instead, the stressful hustle and bustle of the holiday, travel schedules, alcohol indulgence and cooking will contribute more to fatigue than a few slices of turkey.”

L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid, a protein-building block. The body does not produce amino acids and therefore it is obtained from food.

Sasso regularly breaks down the effects of certain foods as she counsels clinically obese patients in the Chicago area. The Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care is designated as a Level 1 facility under the Bariatric Surgery Center Network (BSCN) Accreditation Program of the American College of Surgeons (ACS).  To achieve this accreditation, Loyola had to meet a number of rigorous institutional performance measures.

Here are Sasso’s top tips for navigating the horn of plenty at Thanksgiving:

Don’t skip meals. “Eat breakfast and lunch so you avoid overeating during the traditional Thanksgiving dinner,” Sasso said. “If you save your appetite for the big meal, you will likely eat more and experience the ‘food coma’ many complain about.”

Think about what you eat. “Focus on eating your favorite once-a-year holiday foods and pass on other everyday dishes,” Sasso said. “Don’t eat your weight in appetizers if you really are looking forward to the main meal.”

Quality, not quantity. “Three slices of dessert will not taste as good or be as appreciated as three small sampling portions,” she said. “And feel free to skip the crust when eating pie or big dollop of ice cream or whipped topping to save calories.”

Load up on vegetables and fruits. “Produce is loaded with vitamins and minerals and you will benefit from hunger-filling fiber,” Sasso said. “Eating vegetables doused in cream sauce and butter is better than not eating any at all.”

According to the Food Research & Action Center, 68.5 percent of all adults are overweight or obese and 34.9 percent are clinically obese.

Since the center’s opening in 2012, a multidisciplinary team of bariatric-certified professionals including surgeons, psychologists, dietitians, exercise physiologists  and physicians has cared for hundreds of obese men, women and children.

Surgical procedures offered by Loyola include laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy.

Free informational sessions and more can be found at or by calling (800) 355-0416.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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