Brain Healthy Dishes To Try During Thanksgiving

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

We live in a culture where we celebrate with food. It’s ironic that most of the food we choose to celebrate is actually hurting us, and is therefore nothing to celebrate. So what are our options? In this episode, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen give you some suggestions for healthy (and delicious!) dishes you can bring to the next family gathering to help set an example of wellness for your loved ones.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by brainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Welcome back. We are talking about gratitude versus gluttony through the holidays. Which one are you going to show? Do you want to be healthy, or do you want to feel miserable through the holidays? Christmas Day, number one day of the year for heart attacks, and there's a reason for that. It's because of all that we give into, all the bad habits that we have established as a society, the culture that we live through with the holidays. So before we-
Dr Daniel Amen: And we try not to do that.
Tana Amen: We try not to do that.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because love ourselves.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's about love, using Thanksgiving or the birth of Jesus or holiday parties as a reason to hurt other people. Brain warriors, it just doesn't make sense to us at all.
Tana Amen: And one thing that's really interesting, we aren't perfect. It's not like we wake up, and we're like, "Oh, everything we do is going to be perfect today." No, it's a conscious choice. We have days where we don't want to do it. We have days where maybe we have a bump in the road and we make a mistake, but we consciously are aware and using these same strategies we're giving you to be healthy.
Dr Daniel Amen: So Olympic athletes are pretty perfect. And I want people to think you don't have to even do the 5%. It just depends on where your at. Initially people go, "Oh, I do it right 80% of the time." Or if you remember Bill Phillips' book, Body For Life, there was cheat days, right?
Tana Amen: I'm not a fan of cheat days at all.
Dr Daniel Amen: There was six days, and then Sunday gorge and do anything you want.
Tana Amen: I don't like that plan.
Dr Daniel Amen: And yeah, no, I'm not a fan of that. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has situations, but the more you do the right things, the better you're going to feel.
So I have a podcast review that's actually very interesting. "Good morning. I listened to your talk about our skulls being too small. I am faculty in the animal science department at a community college just north of Boston. For years, a condition called syringomyelia has plagued Cavalier King Charles Spaniels."
Tana Amen: Your favorite.
Dr Daniel Amen: One of my favorite. Well no, White Shepherds are my favorite, but I bought a King Charles Cavalier for my parents and they just adore Vinny.
"It is the issue where the skull is too small, due to selective breeding and the brain does not fit. The ramification for these dogs are excessive scratching at the neck, pain and seizures. And as soon as I heard your podcast, I had to comment. I thoroughly enjoy your podcasts. I participated in your weekly webcast several years ago, on Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. Getting rid of the ants has been a game changer for me. Thank you both. Carol W. Lynn from Massachusetts."
Tana Amen: Love that. You know, I've heard about this for a long time with dog breeding. I believe that's one of the problems with Dobermans, too, because we had Dobermans when I was growing up. We had Dobermans and Shepherds. And I love them, and two of them were amazing, and two of them were just completely psychotic. And no training, no love. They were never beaten. They just went a little crazy. And I had heard that that was a problem with Dobermans, too, for certain breeding lines. So, yeah, it's an issue.
Dr Daniel Amen: That is so interesting. And wait, when we get to Brain In The News, next podcast, there is something that's just going to blow your mind, very much like the small skulls causing lots of emotional problems.
Okay. We're back to the holidays. We're coming in to Thanksgiving, and we are thankful for all of you who listen or watch. And we're really grateful for our brain warrior community. And brain warriors don't celebrate with food that hurts other people. It just amazes me how people just don't think about that at all.
Tana Amen: Right. And one of the strategies that I want to give you for this podcast, we told you we going to give you tips. So what I started doing, when I first really got into changing how we eat in our home, it's not easy when you come from especially a Middle Eastern family or a Hispanic family or many different cultures. They celebrate with food.
Dr Daniel Amen: Italian families.
Tana Amen: Right. They celebrate with food, right? We know that.
Dr Daniel Amen: Southern families.
Tana Amen: So pretty much most families. So I knew it was going to be challenging at the holidays, and so I started trying to figure out what I was going to do. Because when we go to those places... Now, interestingly enough, there's plenty of food now when we go, because several of your siblings now, like your sister grows her own produce. Beautiful, beautiful salads that she brings and fruit plates and gluten free stuff. It's gorgeous.
But that wasn't the case when we started, and so I started bringing my own because it does two things. I started bringing two or three things, two or three dishes that were gluten free, dairy free, low-glycemic, and they were healthy and they were tasty. And it did a couple of things. Number one, it gave me, us, something to eat. Number two, it served as an example that healthy food doesn't have to be miserable, that eating healthy at the holidays can still be beautiful. It can be tasty, and I'm going to set that example. It starts with you.
So you beating other people over the head doesn't generally work. You living as an example and bringing food to them and giving this as a gift, giving health as a gift is generally a lot more effective.
Dr Daniel Amen: So you have to live it. If you don't live it, you can't give it. And when we did the Daniel Plan, I came up with this phrase, get it, get the information by listening to the podcast, reading The Brain Warrior's Way book, getting the cookbook. Get this information. And then you have to give it away. Why? Because it's in the act of giving that you get to keep it. Because by creating your own support group makes it more likely you're going to stay on the program forever, and so-
Tana Amen: Right. And sometimes you find yourself in precarious positions. So I ended up hosting a party, a birthday party for an 18 year old. And this group of people had never been exposed to the way we eat. And it wasn't really the time for me to, at an 18 year old's birthday party, the time for me to lecture everyone and do everything my way.
So what I did instead, because you find yourself in those positions and you're like, "Well, I'm just too awkward, and I'm not going to make it miserable for the person I'm throwing the party for." So here's what I did instead. We still live our message. I made burgers, but I made grass fed burgers. And then I had the option of the bun or lettuce wraps. And the person who was in charge of bringing desserts, of course brought cupcakes. But we had a gluten free, dairy free low-glycemic brownies, which are in the cookbook. So as an option. So my point is, is if you can't make it perfect, do the next best thing. You still be the example, and you have options.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, let's talk about healthy foods. So you can cut up that cheese or get a veggie tray. You can have guacamole.
Tana Amen: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Salsa.
Dr Daniel Amen: Salsa.
Tana Amen: Hummus.
Dr Daniel Amen: That people like these things.
Tana Amen: I have a recipe fort
Dr Daniel Amen: You can have cut up, low-glycemic fruit. You make an amazing Turkey. I mean your turkey is-
Tana Amen: On the cover is cupcakes. There's cupcakes. There's brownies, there's-
Dr Daniel Amen: Right, but still, even with those, you don't want them to be the staple. You want the vegetables-
Tana Amen: No, but literally there's less. Do you know there's less sugar? Those are lower glycemic than the salads because of the tomatoes.
Dr Daniel Amen: Oh, how interesting.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: Tomatoes are actually-
Tana Amen: They're higher glycemic.
Dr Daniel Amen: They're not high glycemic.
Tana Amen: But they're higher glycemic than the desserts in this book. So my point being, it's not impossible to do. There's a recipe in there for one of my favorites, is the basil pesto. There's so many things you can do that make it tasty and doable and just really healthy. You can do spa water with watermelon and mint and blueberries for parties. That's what we do.
Dr Daniel Amen: The spa water's really popular.
Tana Amen: Yeah, tastes good and it's beautiful.
Dr Daniel Amen: And there's no calories.
Tana Amen: One of the things that makes it work just the aesthetics. Whenever something is really pretty, for whatever reason people associate it with tasting good. So right there, people, they're interested. They're attracted to it.
Dr Daniel Amen: So there are all sorts of different flavored sparkling waters, and sometimes just adding a little bit of liquid Stevia can help it. So again, no calories.
I just want you to think. You can get well quickly with this one simple tip. You just need to find 20 foods you love that love you back. And so I love guacamole. And I mean, you can't have a ton, because it's fairly calorie dense, but it's good for you. It tastes good. And yes, you could do it with potato chips. That's not good for you. Tastes good, not good for you, or you can do it with celery. Or you could do it with carrots. Or you can do it with cauliflower. Or you could do it with broccoli. Or you could do it with orange, yellow, red, green bell peppers.
Tana Amen: Or you can make kale chips. It literally takes very little time to make kale chips
Dr Daniel Amen: And again, loving food that loves you back is just so important.
Tana Amen: Love it.
So we would love to hear from you if any of these tips have helped you, which tip you liked the best. If you have tips for us, also leave that. Leave us your questions and comments. You can go to Apple podcast. You can go to and leave us a question or a comment. We want to hear from you, and we will enter you into a raffle to win the cookbook, the one we've been talking about with all the great recipes for the holidays.
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