Answers to Every Possible Thanksgiving Health Question, 2013

Also should I make them with orange juice instead of table sugar?

If you want them to taste like orange juice. I know that sounds glib, but that really is what I'd say. It would get you a little less fructose, yes. But how much cranberry sauce are you eating? One day a year? It's like the quinoa stuffing. The difference ends up being pretty much academic, and there are a million more important things for us to worry about.

My relatives make various Thanksgiving dishes weeks in advance and then, over dinner, chat about how long they've been in the freezer. It sort of ruins my appetite. Is there any actual evidence that long-frozen dishes have a lower nutritional value than freshly cooked ones? 

Maybe some evidence somewhere, but in general, freezing foods doesn't do much to diminish their value to us. Freezing is normal and healthy, and fresh is a marketing buzzword that implies health, probably unfairly.

Captain Nemo, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1929 (AP)

I was told to cook my turkey with the wings "akimbo." I just nodded, but I'm not sure what that means.

Tuck the tips of the wings under the shoulders, which spreads out the meat, so it's supposed to cook more evenly.

How much gravy is "too much"?

Unless you have heart failure, don't overthink it on the holiday. But then the fact that you're asking makes me wonder if you've had issues with gravy in the past?

What is Thanksgiving going to be like on Instagram?

This is actually Instagram's fourth Thanksgiving. Last year we were post-food-photos. The cycle has completed a revolution, though, and food Instagrams are cool again. Do it, Instagram everything. Start saying "pics or it didn't happen" again, and use the hashtags #blessed and #thisisthegoodlife and #gravy. I promise, it's cool.

What I plan to do, essentially, is make a bowl out of just turkey skin, and fill it with gravy. Then take it up to my old childhood bedroom and eat it alone. Then probably repeat that a couple times.

Ah don't do that. But we'd probably be good friends.

The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock?


Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday?


I live in New York City and want to volunteer on Thanksgiving.

Here are some last-minute options.

Is pumpkin the new bacon?

Yes, but we'll be mostly rid of pumpkin by March, and bacon is eternal. These are getting less like health questions. Well, I suppose that is a health question insofar as all of the pumpkin everywhere might be stressing us out. Like if you feel you can't escape it. Seasonal pumpkin-related anxiety.

What is in canned pumpkin?

Usually some other kind of squash that is different from what we consider pumpkin!

I am a pescetarian.

That's okay.

Is the Macy's parade going to be canceled?

The balloons can't take off if the wind is more than 34 miles per hour, and right now forecasts say 36.

I don't normally smoke, but hey, it's Thanksgiving, right?

Why are you putting me in this position?

I did the gravy bowl thing, and I have no regrets.


Does the USDA have a "meat and poultry hotline"?

Yes! 1-888-MPHotline

Why would I not just Google my question?

I don't know!

There is a Butterball hotline, too.


Yes, I know I was telling you. The people who run it are sharp. They told me where to find the neighbor boy who stole the pies. They also put the situation into perspective. Maybe he stole the pies because his family isn't able to feed him enough. I felt bad for jumping to indict him. But then when I did find him, he was in his Range Rover with three other children, eating my pies. I think they are doing some sort of bling ring, but with pies.

That's really terrible.

Do you need love to enjoy the holidays?

No, but if you have the opportunity and are on the fence about loving someone, do it. My mother says we are "post-love" as a society, but I don't think that's true.


This post is based on a version we originally published on November 28, 2012.

Presented by

James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He writes the health column for the monthly magazine and hosts the video series If Our Bodies Could Talk.

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