Non-restrictive guide to keeping a healthy gut over the holidays.
The holiday season brings undoubtedly the best eats of the year. Parties and celebrations bring endless opportunities to indulge... and indulge you should.
Restriction gets you nowhere in the long-term, so I’ve written a non-restrictive guide to gut health over the holidays.
The holidays should be spent having fun with friends and loved ones, not worrying about restricting any foods you eat.
Nutrition and your digestive system
You’ll benefit from a basic understanding of how your gut health is affected by your food choices.
Wholesome nutrition is best for optimal digestion and gut health. Why? The foods we eat seeds our gut with bacteria and impacts overall cell function.
Your nutrition needs differ from mine. These differences depend on factors like food sensitivities, age, sex, body type and physical activity level.
When we consume food, our gut harvests this food for energy. This process breaks down food into molecules that help build and maintain every cell in our body.
Your cells then use these molecules to repair damage, make new cells and manage other bodily systems.
Our internal body systems are powered by the food we eat.
Not all holiday foods are "bad"
You’ll find many nutrient rich foods at holiday parties or family gatherings. Those dreaded brussels sprouts are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Sweet potatoes and pumpkin are fantastic for gut health and your immune system.
Turkey is a great source of protein and essential amino acids to maintain cell function.
My point is that you can focus on some of these foods if you wish or simply enjoy every food that comes this holiday season.
The most important thing is to not beat yourself up for your food choices.
Take time with your eating this holiday season. If you’re reading this, you most likely live in abundance and have access to delicious food.
A lot of the time we are eating aimlessly while talking or watching TV. Eating requires your full attention in order to maximize your gut health and issues like bloating.
Here are a few basics of mindful eating to get you started.
- Chew your food so well that you can taste all of the different flavors in each bite.
- Aim to chew 20-40 times per bite.
Why do this? Chewing properly ensures that the food we eat is broken down before it reaches our digestive system. This way, your gut can properly process the food into energy to keep you healthy.
Chewing also minimizes the amount of air you swallow with your food. Which is a major trigger for issues like heartburn, bloating and indigestion (1).
Hydrate to feel great
Drinking your recommended eight cups of water is the easiest way to ensure you are properly hydrated.
Simple hydration has incredible impacts on your health and wellness. Maintaining hydration is shown to:
- Assist in digestion
- Improve your sleep quality
- Optimize cellular function
- Improve your mood
- Improve athletic performance
- Prevent infection
- Improve circulation
The drinking strategy
Here are some basics if you are concerned about drinking over the holiday season.
- Eat before your drink
- Practice moderation
- Drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink
Alcohol is a touchy subject because it is awful for us, but most of us do it anyway.
The bigger question I would ask is why you are drinking. If it is to enjoy your company and to deepen your relationships, then there’s no issues. Simply enjoy and don’t be too hard on yourself for a great night of libations.
Also, there is nothing wrong with saying, “no, thank you.”
Plan for indulgence
There’s nothing wrong with indulgence. In some scenarios, you might benefit from some planning.
For example, if you know there will be a boozy christmas lunch or happy hour, then make sure you are properly hydrated and have eaten something beforehand.
Planning can be helpful if you have a loaded social calendar through the holidays.
I want you to make food choices that make you happy. You should not feel like you’re depriving yourself. Many of our favorite holiday foods are not available year round, so enjoy yourself!
I hope this quick guide helps you enjoy the holiday season without feeling overwhelmed or anxious about food.
Don’t forget, it’s a great time to stock up on any bone broth to optimize your gut health and improve your digestion amongst the holiday madness.