Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unifying Theory of Holiday Dinners

You've probably attended a family holiday dinner like this: the dinner is served a few hours late, the adults are slumped in front of the TV, and the kids run around the house screaming. What can account for these different behaviors?

It could be what I've heard called sugar hangover, and when I say sugar, I mean carbohydrates in general. Consider a typical Thanksgiving Day: breakfast is some combination of cereal, juice, toast, jam, fruit, waffles, granola bars, pastries, yogurt, smoothies, and so on. It's all high carb food. Four hours later, everyone's blood sugar has crashed. For most adults, this means feeling tired and hungry. They won't snack because they don't want to ruin their appetite for dinner. For kids, though, some research has shown that they get a big adrenaline rush when their blood sugar crashes. Adrenaline is the fight-or-flight hormone--the one that sends them screaming around the house while their parents are too tired to send them outside to play.

As for the dinner being late, putting on a big dinner takes prep work, timing, planning, and skill, and it's a project that most people do once a year at most. Getting the dinner on the table on time when you're focused, energetic and organized isn't easy; doing it when you're tired and foggy headed from falling blood sugar is a tall order.

How to have a happier Thanksgiving: do as much prep work as possible the day before. On the big day, have a light breakfast of eggs, cheese, or a slice of ham--just enough so you're not hungry. Find something to occupy the kids or send them outside to play. At dinner, take a little more meat, olives and green beans, and a little less potato, stuffing and cranberries. Have a sliver of pie and some coffee or chai tea with heavy cream, or skip the pie altogether. Your mood, stomach, and waistline will be the better for it.

"Health: New Data on Sugar and Child Behavior," by Jane E. Brody, New York Times, May 10, 1990.

"Study Sees a Sugar-Adrenaline Link in Children," by Jane E. Brody, New York Times, March 15, 1995.


Exceptionally Brash said...

Enjoy your holiday. I'm off to the store one last time. More coffee and fresh berries. Hopefully this stuff won't slump us over.

Lori Miller said...

Happy Thanksgiving! I'll be eating a lot of duck this weekend.