This month many of us will be celebrating the biggest feast day of the year. The Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner and we want to share five ways you can bring Ayurveda to your table. We gather with friends and family, set our tables and prepare the season’s bounty with gratitude. Often the anticipation of this event can bring on feelings of anxiety and stress, while the modern recipes we bring forth often leave us feeling tired, heavy, bloated and with a general feeling of discomfort. By applying Ayurvedic principles to our holiday, we can avoid some of these side effects and have a more enjoyable experience.
Here are 5 Ayurvedic Strategies to bring balance to yourself and your table this Thanksgiving.
1. Pause and Bring Awareness
Many of us are aware of the benefits of mindfulness and they won’t escape you if you apply them to the moments of planning and potential stresses that might arise as you navigate Thanksgiving. When you plan, whether it is to cook, host or travel; do it with awareness.
Here are some ideas:
When you plan, whether it is to cook, host or travel; do it with awareness.
Brew a cup of tea, take a deep breath and inhale its sweet scent, exhale and relax. In this pause before active planning consider how you want things to go and write down how you plan to execute them. It could be the grocery list or how you plan to navigate your interactions with Uncle Joe. When our mind has a road map it is easier for us to be present and aware in stressful situations. Return to this cup of tea in your mind should you need a pause during the event itself. Close your eyes, take a breath, notice how you are feeling and give yourself grace.
If you are spending time in the kitchen cooking, do it with presence. Yoga teaches us that the only thing that is real is the present moment and our experience within it. We don’t live in the past or the future, only in the here and now. This is where we will find contentment and joy. To help with this you can create a mantra that you return to as you cook. For example, “I am present and preparing this food with love and gratitude”. Another option is to simply narrate exactly what you are doing as you do it, to yourself of course. As you cut the carrot repeating in your mind, “I am cutting this carrot”. We cannot stress about how the meal will turn out or if it will be ready on time if the mind is kept from wandering and we are wholly present in its preparation.
Lastly, practice gratitude. When things get challenging, taking a moment to remember the things we can be grateful for can help us shift our mindset. Gratitude has been shown to make us more resilient and content, and improve our relationships. After all, this is the holiday of giving thanks. Even if the whole day goes sideways, I imagine you can find at least one thing to be thankful for.
2. Look at Local Availability
Ayurveda is all about eating seasonally and the best way to do this is to buy as much as you can from local farmers. In many areas harvests in November might be scant but some farms may be using greenhouses that give them a little longer season. If you have a year round farmers market shop there first. If you are shopping at the grocery store do your best to buy what’s in season and organic if possible.
Here is a short list of typical fall foods in ayurveda, cook them with lots of healthy fat and warming spices.
- Squash such as butternut, acorn and pumpkin
- Sweet Potatoes
- Root Vegetables such as Carrots, Beets and Turnips
- Brussel Sprouts
- Leeks and Onions
- Cool Weather Greens such as Kale, Chard and Spinach
3. Include All Six Tastes
The ayurvedic system categorizes foods by taste and there are six of them. On most thanksgiving tables we find an abundance of sweet tastes with a bit of salt and a touch of sour. Often the table is missing the lighter tastes that come from the pungent, bitter and astringent categories, try to bring balance to the table and include a little bit of them all. Consider cooking with pungent spices such as ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne and even cardamom. Bring the bitterness with a dish of cooked greens or brussel sprouts. Set the table with a fresh pomegranate or include astringent spices. Turmeric doubles up here being astringent as well as pungent, but other spices to consider are bay leaf, caraway, dill, fennel, marjoram, oregano and nutmeg.
You could also try adding our Super Spice Blend to your roasted vegetables!
4. Eat Early With The Ayurvedic Clock
According to the Ayurvedic Clock our digestive fire is strongest between 11am and 2pm. This is the ideal window to plan to have your holiday feast. Eating during this time will help your meal digest with more ease and you will likely feel less of the sluggishness that often follows these meals.
5. Avoid Grazing and Listen to Your Body
Ayurveda is not a proponent of snacking but often at events like this there is a full spread of appetizers set out for guests to graze on before the meal. Snacking on too many appetizers increases the likelihood of overeating. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a little appetizer, just do it mindfully. Instead of mindlessly snacking on the spread, pick one or two appetizers you think you will really enjoy and appreciate, eat them with presence and make those two appetizers an experience of joy. As you continue to eat and move to the main meal, eat slowly and listen to your body, it will tell you when to stop.
If you are hosting this year consider skipping appetizers all together and offering tea or a digestive tonic instead. A beverage bar with warming chai or mocktails with herbal bitters will not only add to the holiday vibe but they will help support healthy digestion
After your holiday winds down, the table is cleared and the guests have gone, circle back to number one and pause. Take a few minutes to deeply appreciate everything that made this holiday wonderful. Give thanks for the season’s bounty bringing you nourishment from the earth and for the people who joined you in connection and community.
We are grateful for you and hope that you have a wonderful holiday filled with love, gratitude, and joy!