Answers to Every Possible Thanksgiving Health Question For 2014

Source: Fan favorites and responses from
James Hamblin at The Atlantic

This is going to be an okay Thanksgiving.
Here's what everyone is asking.

Does turkey really make you sleepy, or does that just happen because we're all fatties and eat too much at Thanksgiving dinner?Delaney Chambers, Washington, DC

Overeating and boredom and a paradoxical response to stress lead to sleep. The turkey-tryptophan story is one of the greatest lies ever in all of history.

What's all this about spatchcocking? Sam Wells, Flint, MI

It lets you cook a turkey in 45 minutes, and all you have to do is remove the spine. Why is anyone not doing this? Spatchcocking got really popular in 2012, but it's been around a lot longer.

What's a good recipe for pumpkin pie if I'm on the Paleo diet? Chet Woodhaul, Hammond, IN

None. You either eat like a real caveperson or you eat pumpkin pie, but you don't get to do both. Not this time.

How much turkey do I have to consume to absorb the drinks I need to survive Thanksgiving, and not get "too drunk"?Tanvi Misra, Washington, DC

The protein and fat in turkey will slow the absorption of alcohol more than carbs will. You could also just drink less and eat less? But then! It wouldn't be a holiday, now, would it. [Cackles]

If I eat my Thanksgiving meal over the course of two hours instead of 10 minutes, is that healthier? Will I gain less weight and have fewer heart attacks?Alana Semuels, New York, NY

Yes. If you eat more slowly you'll probably eat less. How many heart attacks are you having right now?

Has your stance on Tofurkey changed? I know the company sent you a big box of Tofurkey after you made fun of their name last year.Steve Perkiss, Hillsboro, KY

It's just such a terrible word. I really can't eat it without telling like 10 people "I had Tofurkey for lunch" and then laughing like a weirdo. Hearing that demon word come out of my own mouth just shakes my whole sense of who I am as a person, my sense of ease and safety in my own body. But it's actually not terrible stuff.

For purposes of plate balancing, pumpkin pie counts as a vegetable, right? Carl Johnson, Washington, DC

For purposes of plate balancing, yes.

Are there any health concerns I should be aware of when my children cover every one of their fingers with black olives?Alan Taylor, Boston, MA

Only the health concern of that being too adorable! And the possible development of another serious health condition I won't get into here.

If you accidentally forget to remove the plastic bag filled with giblets from inside your turkey, and cook the whole thing, will the toxic plastic fumes ruin the whole bird, or can a simple airing-out make things both palatable and healthy?Alan Taylor, Boston, MA

This one I looked up before: According to the FDA, if you forget to take out the bag of giblets, and it melts "or changes shape in any way," you shouldn't eat the turkey. I got a sort of similar question from Rose, too:

What is the relative risk of getting food poisoning from cooking stuffing inside the bird compared to the relative risk of having not-as-tasty stuffing when it's cooked outside the bird?Rose Eveleth, New York, NY

The CDC says you can cook it inside of the turkey, as long as you put a thermometer into the stuffing and make sure it gets to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the bacteria. Also, you guys know that the USDA has a "meat and poultry hotline"? 1-888-MPHotline. Who knew that poultry wasn't meat?

The best part of green bean casserole is the strange mini-onion-ring topping. How unhealthy is that part of the casserole, or is it balanced out (along with the cream of mushroom soup) by the massing of green beans? Also, what a weird dish, when you think about it.Alan Taylor, Boston, MA

Alan, I love your questions. Next year let's do the whole thing between you and me. You can do the answers, too. I'll just watch. Okay, so, the green beans in green bean casserole never did anything for anyone. If the topping is your favorite part, just make sure you sit close to the casserole and then scrape off a few big spoonfuls before you pass it.

If I run a Turkey Trot in the morning can I eat the turkey skin?Sophie Gilbert, Washington, DC

You know I am pro skin, even gravy-filled skin bowls. I thought my town was the only one with a Turkey Trot! I didn't know that was a thing. Yes, that's how exercise and food work.

Is it better to eat earlier in the day (say, 1:00 p.m. versus 5:00 p.m.) so that there's more time to burn off calories, or is that offset by the inevitable scrounging for leftovers around 7:00 p.m.?Libby Bawcombe, Washington, DC

Don't worry about calories, but, yes a later meal is better because anticipation is such a valuable thing.

People are always nervous their family members will say something embarrassing. Could anxiety be good for digestion?Derek Thompson, New York, NY

It's actually terrible for digestion. Your bowels are just an extension of your brain. Good luck!