Newswise — MAYWOOD, Ill - “Food coma” is a term that comes to mind for many when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving. But with mindful eating, 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,” says 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 says, 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,” says Sasso of the popular myth. “Likely, the stressful hustle and bustle of the holiday, travel schedules, alcohol indulgence and cooking tasks 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 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 bounty of food at Thanksgiving:

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

• Mind what you eat. “Focus on eating your favorite once-a-year holiday foods and pass on other everyday dishes,” says Sasso. “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 says. “Or, skip the crust when eating pie or the 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 the fiber,” says Sasso. “Eating vegetables doused in cream sauce and butter is better than not eating any at all.”

According to the Food Research and Action Center, 68.5 percent of all adults are overweight or obese, and 34.9 percent are clinically obese. Since opening on July 10, 2012 at Loyola’s Maywood campus, a multidisciplinary team of bariatric-certified professionals including surgeons, psychologists, dieticians, exercise physiologists and physicians has cared for hundreds of morbidly obese men, women and children at the Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care. Surgical procedures offered by Loyola include laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy.

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