Common Thanksgiving Foods that Weaken the Immune System, and How to Avoid Them

Common Thanksgiving Foods that Weaken the Immune System, and How to Avoid Them

| By RB Schiff Vitamins

Thanksgiving is a time to be with your closest loved ones and give thanks for the things that mean the most to you. While the Thanksgiving meal is, for many, the best part of the day, the excessive eating can have a negative effect on our bodies, especially the immune system. Many of the classic Thanksgiving dishes contain high levels of sugar which can contribute to weakening the immune system cells that attack bacteria (Web MD, 2017).

To keep your immune system in the best possible condition, you will need to be eating healthily and enjoying an active lifestyle. Airborne® vitamins can also help to support your immune system, with a crafted blend of vitamins, minerals and herbs*.

We’ve taken a look at some of the Thanksgiving foods that weaken the immune system and found some easy adjustments you can make to turn them into foods to boost immunity.

Homemade gravy

Nutrition facts: 25 calories, 4 carbs, 0g fiber, 1g protein, 1g fat

Serving size: ¼ cup

Gravy is usually made with the fat from your cooked turkey, guaranteeing that it is going to a high calorie sauce with very few nutrients. The calorie intake can quickly rise too as most of us don’t measure out our portions.

Try making your gravy without any of the fat drippings for a quick cut in the calorie intake and be aware of your portion sizes.


Nutrition facts: 155 calories, 13g carbs, 0g fiber, 2g protein, 0g fat

Serving size: 12oz

Beer often contains hidden calories and the fizziness can lead to bloating. Although the occasional beer may have health benefits, (Men’s Health, 2015) an increase in alcohol consumption can be dangerous, and could contribute to issues such as liver cancer, cirrhosis, alcoholism and obesity (Web MD, 2014).

While its most likely safe to have a few beers on Thanksgiving, remember not to go overboard with your drinking and focus more on drinking water to keep your body hydrated.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Nutrition facts: 461 calories, 49g carbs, 2g fiber, 19g protein, 20g fat

Serving size: 1 cup

Mac ‘n’ cheese is a firm favourite, but it’s also a heavy dish full of fats from all the cream, cheese and butter (Food Network, 2009).

Instead of writing this off from your Thanksgiving dinner altogether, try switching the cream sauce for something less heavy. Many recipes suggest using butternut squash and cauliflower to create the sauce, or adding spinach or broccoli to the mix to sneak in a few extra vitamins.

Store Bought Cranberry Sauce

Nutrition facts: 150 calories, 37g carbs, 0g fiber, 0g protein, 0g fat

Serving size: 100 g

Cranberry sauce is a popular accompaniment to a slice of turkey, but if you are buying premade cranberry sauce from the store, you will often find that the reason it tastes so good is because it is packed full of sugars. With a whopping 31g of sugar in just one 100g serving (USDA, 2016).

Why not try making your own this year? Simply boil cranberries and orange zest in sugared water, simmer then leave for a day or two to let the flavours mingle. And if you make too much cranberry sauce, you can always save it for another day – perfect with turkey sandwiches.

Mashed Potatoes

Nutrition facts: 250 calories, 35g carbs, 3g fiber, 6g protein, 10g fat

Serving size: 1 cup

Although mashed potatoes are naturally pretty healthy, the additional ingredients we use often make this staple dish heavy and calorific. Once you’ve added butter, milk, cream and maybe even cheese, mashed potatoes become a high fat food. Instead of adding these extras in, try to enjoy it in its classic way – packed full of vitamins without all that fat.

Green Bean Casserole

Nutrition facts: 142 calories, 14g carbs, 3g fiber, 3g protein, 9g fat

Serving size: 1 serving

Green beans and onions are healthy, but deep frying the onions and then coating the dish in fatty cream and whole milk can quickly add unnecessary fats to this side dish. Just one cup of green bean casserole has three times the amount of fat and calories as plain green beans (Core Performance, 2012).

Green beans are perfectly fine on their own, but if you are desperate to add something to them try using wholemeal breadcrumbs instead. Check out this recipe which will cut 160 calories out of your green beans and still taste amazing.

Apple Pie

Nutrition facts: 411 calories, 58g carbs, 0g fiber, 4g protein, 19g fat

Serving size: 1/8 pie

Is it even Thanksgiving if there isn’t any apple pie?

While apples are brilliant for our health, packed with vitamins, minerals and other plant compounds (Health Line, 2014), they aren’t nearly as healthy when they are part of an apple pie. After being smothered with butter, flour and sugar, the calorie count quickly rises, and it increases again if you are serving your pie with a big dollop of cream or ice cream.

Apples are pretty sweet by themselves, so cut down the amount of sugar you are adding and serve with a light frozen yoghurt instead of full fat ice cream.

Bread Pudding

Nutrition facts: 306 calories, 47g carbs, 2g fiber, 11g protein, 10g fat

Serving size: 1 cup

You wouldn’t need to be a genius to guess that bread pudding is quite fatty. Although the cinnamon can help reduce inflammation and control blood sugar levels, (Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 2010) it’s not enough to make up for the layers of butter and cream in between. Try switching your usual bread pudding for a healthier version by using whole wheat bread and flour, low fat milk, extra raisins and no cream.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Nutrition facts: 250 calories, 33g carb, 1g fiber, 3g protein, 12g fat

Serving size: ½ cup

Unsurprisingly, coating your vegetables in sugar, marshmallows and butter can transform a deliciously healthy food into a sugar-loaded dish. Sweet potatoes are delightful on their own, but if you want to add to them try switching the sugar and marshmallow topping for pecans – they’ll be deliciously crunchy once baked and add a nutty flavour to the dish.

Pecan Pie

Nutrition facts: 503 calories, 64g carbs, 1g fiber, 6g protein, 27g fat

Serving size: 1/8 pie

If you’re looking for a source of healthy fats, fiber and lots of vitamins (Stylecraze, 2017), then you can do a lot worse than pecans. However, put these in a pie packed with sugar, refined carbohydrates and butter, and you’ll quickly outweigh the healthy element of the dish. Just one slice of pecan pie can be close to 500 calories.

Replace the sugar in the recipe for honey. It also contains a significant number of calories, however, because it is sweeter, you’ll need less honey then sugar to get your desired sweetness (Healthline, 2016). You can also switch the butter in the pastry mix for coconut oil to instantly shave off a lot of the calories.

If you look after your immune system, your immune system will take care of you. Why not try some Airborne® Zesty Orange Effervescent Tablets to provide immune support today? High in antioxidants and an excellent source of Zinc, Selenium and Manganese*. Just drop one tablet in 4-6oz of water, dissolve and drink!                                               

All nutritional information sourced from



Core Performance (2012) 25 best and worst foods for Thanksgiving

Food Network (2009) Macaroni & Cheese, lightened up

Health Line (2014) Apples 101: Nutrition facts and health benefits

Health Line (2016) Honey vs. sugar: Which sweetener should I use?

Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology (2010) Cinnamon: Potential role in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes

Men’s Health (2015) 10 reasons to have a beer right now

Stylecraze (2017) 15 amazing health benefits of pecans for skin, hair and health

USDA (2016) Basis report: Cranberry sauce, canned, sweetened

Web MD (2014) The truth about beer

Web MD (2017) 6 immune system busters and boosters