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Thanksgiving Survival Guide for Your Spine

The holiday season is here, and that means food, family, food, fun … and did we mention food? We all like to splurge a little over the holidays, but if you suffer from chronic back pain and inflammation, indulging yourself too much might just knock you off your feet. Add to that all those hours spent watching football from the couch, and you have a definite recipe for aches and pains. Here are a few simple tips to help you stay active and reduce your back pain while celebrating this Thanksgiving.

Make Healthy Substitutions

First, try replacing a few key ingredients in your holiday dinner with healthy alternatives:

  • Instead of lathering your bread with butter or margarine, think fruit puree or applesauce for ½ the fat content.
  • Try replacing each egg in your recipe with two egg whites or ¼ cup egg substitute.
  • Sub out whole milk, half-and-half or evaporated milk with evaporated or regular skim milk, 1% milk, fat-free half-and-half or plain soy milk with calcium.
  • Use nonfat or reduced fat sour cream instead of the full-fat variety, or use fat-free yogurt as garnish only.
  • Reduce your sugar by up to a third in baked goods and desserts. Replace it with cinnamon, vanilla and almond extract to give the impression of sweetness.
  • Substitute ½ of the all-purpose flour in your recipes with 100% whole wheat flour to increase fiber.

Moderate Your Meal

The next important strategy pertains to portion size. With all the delicious food on display, it’s no surprise that many of us tend to overeat on the holiday. Try the following to keep things under control:

  • Before loading up that big plate of food, use a smaller, 7-inch plate to moderate your portions.
  • Chew slowly, drink water during your meal and listen to your stomach. When it’s full, so are you.

Stay Active

  • Missing your regular workout might be inevitable over the holidays, but try to take a 10 – 20 minute walk or bike ride every so often, especially after a big meal. You’ll be amazed by how good you feel after moving around for a bit.
  • Just as important, whether you’re watching football on TV or just relaxing after the big meal, be aware of how much time you spend on that spot on the couch. Get up and move around every 20 minutes or so to get your blood flowing, and take advantage of the opportunity to perform a few neck, back and hamstring stretches to help avoid muscle strain or soreness.

Above all else, be sure to listen to your body this holiday. Know when you’ve had enough to eat, or when you need to rest or go for a walk. It is also important to practice proper bending, lifting and twisting techniques when you’re cooking, decorating or spending quality time with your little ones. If you need a refresher on these techniques, visit our Back to Basics videos on our site and check out our fun visual guide, “Avoiding Backfire: Making Good Choices About Spine Health.”

We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! If your back pain is preventing you from enjoying holiday festivities, call Dr.Chetan Patel at the Spine Health Institute to schedule a consultation.