Protect Your Digestion Throughout the Holidays with These Effective Tips + 3 Healthy Holiday Recipes
The winter holidays are fast approaching, and no matter what you celebrate, food is always a central part of our gatherings. But along with delicious meals and laughter around the dinner table comes the tendency to indulge just a little too much. It’s totally understandable; we often look forward to these meals all year, and with so many traditional, comforting dishes around, it’s hard to resist that urge for one more bite.
But no one looks forward to feeling like a ton of bricks after overindulging in a heavy meal—so here are some ways you can prevent that feeling, as well as a few rescue remedies if you (or someone else at your table) still needs a little help with their digestion after the meal.
If all else fails, tell yourself to save room for dessert!
Preventative Care: How to Digest Food Better Before You Even Take a Bite
There are plenty of steps you can take before and during the meal to ensure better digestion all around. Here are our top tips:
Tip #1: Eat Real Food (and Cook it Yourself)
This step is absolutely foundational! In order for our bodies to process nutrients the way they are supposed to, we have to be feeding ourselves real foods: non-GMO and organic if possible, always well washed, and appropriately cooked.
There are actually good reasons that the foods we cook ourselves tend to be better for our digestion: one, the way we cook food at home (baking, sauteing, or boiling) makes it easier to digest than the food we tend to eat when we go out (often fried). We are also less likely to overeat because while restaurant meals can be oversized, we tend to have better portion control at home.
Maybe that means that you actually cook, simmer and reduce that cranberry sauce yourself this year, or bake a delicious gluten-free pumpkin pie. Go all out! You and your body deserve it.
When we cook food ourselves, it tends to be healthier and easier to digest than when we go out to eat.
Tip #2: Slow. Down.
When it comes to how we eat, too many of us run on overdrive. It’s a casualty of our fast-paced modern life; we eat in the car while driving, while working, in front of the TV or our phones—and it’s definitely affecting our digestion negatively.
When we sit down to eat, we want to be relaxed and happy, which prepares our bodies to perform the complicated process of digesting food—mobilizing stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and muscular contractions that move our food along the digestive system. When we’re stressed, we tend to chew and swallow quickly, creating more work for our system to complete to break down that food. Then we feel tired (and bloated) because the burden on the system is too heavy.
To avoid that uncomfortable feeling, take a few deep breaths before the meal and remember to keep breathing deeply and slowly while you eat as well. Aim to chew each bite at least 15-20 times. This may sound like a lot if you’re used to eating fast, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. And of course, savor the taste of your food! Just putting these slow eating steps into practice will set you up for much happier digestion.
Paying attention to our food and savoring the taste actually promotes better digestion!
Tip #3: Enjoy Yourself and Practice Mindfulness
Enjoy time with loved ones, even though you may be having a smaller gathering this year. Practice gratitude for the meal, the people around you, and the people who couldn’t be with you this year. Stay present to the flavors, the conversation, and the love around the table. In short, relax and enjoy yourself!
Practicing mindfulness and enjoying our meal also promotes the “rest and digest” state. While we may have become accustomed to multitasking—watching TV or scrolling on our phones as we eat—our bodies perceive these distractions as stress. And stress tells your body not to digest because for all it knows, you might be running away from a predator. It can’t distinguish the “threat” from an really dangerous situation, only what it’s response should be.
We can actively destress our bodies in preparation to digest our food by practicing mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness means we focus on the flavors and textures of the food, how much we are enjoying the process of eating, and even pondering the beneficial nutrients we are consuming. You might even set up your plate so that it looks pleasing to you, whether that’s in neatly separated sections or a mix of the different dishes. Make your meal an enjoyable and restful experience, and your digestion will follow suit.
Mindfulness promotes the “rest and digest” state.
Beat Bloating and Discomfort: How to Digest Food Faster After Overeating
On the other hand, maybe you or one of your guests has already overindulged. Don’t beat yourself up about it! It’s already in the past, and fortunately now there are steps you can take to feel better. Here are a few tips to get the discomfort under control and get yourself back to enjoying the celebration.
Tip #4: STOP!
You might think this goes without saying, but plenty of us have continued eating even after we know we’ve already indulged too much. When we’re wining and dining and enjoying time with loved ones, sometimes we’re more clued into the experience than the signals our body is giving us.
“But it tastes so good!” your monkey mind will say. Tell that voice to pipe down and tap into your intuition to know that, okay—the meal was delicious, but it’s time to stop now. There will probably be leftovers anyway!
Pay attention to your body’s signals and stop when you’re full.
Tip #5: Sip on herbal tea
There are plenty of herbal teas that can help your system break down all of that delicious food and make you feel better in the process. You can try grabbing some ginger tea (or very thinly sliced ginger root), which is well known to stimulate digestion and calm any nausea and bloating.
If you prefer a more “cooling” sensation and taste, reach for peppermint tea. Peppermint tea may relax the stomach and promote better bile flow as well, helping you digest more quickly. It also quickly reduces bloating and discomfort.
Lastly, if you don’t have any tea on hand, you can squeeze some lemon in a mug of warm water, and that might do the trick just as well. Lemon promotes stomach acidity, which helps break down your food and reduce bloating. Just remember to take small sips and deep breaths to help your system rest and digest.
Ginger tea, peppermint tea, and warm lemon water can all help boost digestion after a big meal.
Tip #6: Get out for a walk
Once you’ve had a little time to recover (maybe 20-30 minutes), throw on that winter coat and your shoes for a quick stroll.
Walking not only aids digestion, it also simply gets our mind off of the discomfort. Enjoy the company of family and friends while you walk, or go solo and reflect on what you’re grateful for in this moment. By the time you return you’ll feel re-energized and renewed.
Feeling like you need a little extra detox around the holidays? We can help! Give us a call at 262-395-4023.
3 Easy and Healthy Holiday Recipes
Now for the fun part! Try out any or all of these delicious and healthy holiday dishes at your table this year—and make sure to savor them mindfully!
#1: Sweet Potato Casserole
This is a sweet yet healthy alternative (or addition!) to the heavier mashed or baked potatoes often featured in our holiday meals. This simple recipe from whole foods-focused blog Downshiftology is easy to make for a crowd or a small gathering and makes for delicious reheatable leftovers in the days ahead. Here’s what you need:
3 large sweet potatoes, (about 3 pounds)
1/4 cup milk, non-dairy milk also works
1/4 cup butter, or ghee, melted, non-dairy butter also works
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pepitas, roughly chopped
4 dates, pitted and diced
1/4 cup almond flour
2 tablespoon butter or ghee
Peel and dice the potatoes and boil in a large pot of water for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Drain the potatoes and mash using a potato masher or electric beater. Add the rest of the “Sweet Potatoes” ingredients and mix until well combined.
Moving on to the topping, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and roughly chop the pecans, pepitas and dates. Add them to a mixing bowl, add the almond flour and butter, and mix with your hands until combined.
Spread the sweet potato mixture into a 9x13 glass baking dish using a rubber spatula and sprinkle the crumble on top. Bake 25-30 minutes until the crumble is golden brown. Cut into squares and serve!
#2: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan & Bacon
Deliciously roasted, carmelized brussels sprouts are one of the best vegetable dishes ever, and a sprinkle of parmesan and bacon crumbles over top adds an extra special touch for the holiday. See whether even the pickiest vegetable eaters can resist these nuggets of flavor. You need:
1 1/2 lbs brussels sprouts
1/2 cup grated raw parmesan (fresh is best!)
One package bacon
Olive or avocado oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add bacon strips. They can overlap slightly if you don’t have enough room. Set aside.
Wash, trim, and halve 1 1/2 pounds of brussels sprouts (or as many as you can fit on one baking tray). Spread sprouts evenly over a baking tray, drizzle generously with olive or avocado oil, and mix to coat each sprout. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Add both trays to the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. At this point you can check the bacon and flip and continue cooking if you want more crispy pieces (just watch to make sure it doesn’t burn!). Mix the sprouts to prevent them from sticking to the pan and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. When the bacon is done, (it should come out before the sprouts) transfer to a plate, blot dry with a paper towel and allow it to cool. After a few minutes, crumble it into pieces into a small bowl. If you have fresh parmesan, you can also use this time to grate about half a cup and add it to the bowl as well.
Remove sprouts from the oven, transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle parmesan and bacon bits on top, mix with a tongs and serve!
#3 Chocolate-dipped clementine slices
This super easy, no-bake, only 4-ingredient dessert is fun for all ages. These little slices of happiness will quickly become part of your holiday dessert traditions.
One 3lb. bag of clementine's
10 oz. dark chocolate (dairy-free if you prefer)
One teaspoon coconut oil
Sea salt (optional)
Peel and divide a bag of clementine's into two-segment pieces. Two segments per slice tend to be the perfect bite size. This is a great part to get kids involved!
Heat a small pot of water over the stove and set a glass bowl to the top to create a double boiler. Add chocolate and coconut oil and stir continuously until melted. Remove from the heat. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate and coconut oil in 20 second intervals in the microwave, stirring frequently.
Dip the clementine slices half way into the chocolate and set on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt on each slice (optional). Once all slices have been dipped and salted, set in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to firm. Transfer to a plate or dish and serve!
However you celebrate, we hope you have delicious, health-forward meals with loved ones around. And if your family is unable to gather this year, still remember to take time to call and wish them happy holidays—we promise you’ll feel better when you do.
From our BHW family to yours, have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!
If you’re dealing with a challenging illness or mysterious symptoms that you can’t figure out, we are here to help. Reach out to our energy medicine clinic today!