Digestive Health for the Holidays

The holidays can be a difficult time for the digestive system! I have always loved the holidays but I used to get really stressed out about them because I wasn’t sure what I would be able to eat, whether my stomach would react to something, and whether I would end up missing out on an important party because I was feeling sick. Over the years, I have figured out some helpful ways to keep my digestive system in check over the holidays and I’m going to share them with you!

Don’t eat the food that triggers you! Even though the holidays are a magical time of year, they unfortunately don’t magically cure your allergies and intolerances! I completely understand that avoiding these foods can be really hard to do when it means not being able to eat your favourite holiday meals and baked treats! It might take a bit of extra work to prepare meals that fit your needs but it will be totally worth it in the end when you’re able to feel great throughout the holidays! It has taken years of testing different recipes to build a solid repertoire of gluten free holiday food but now I never feel like I am missing out by avoiding gluten! If you’re looking for some inspiration, Against All Grain has tons of great holiday recipes on her blog and in her new Celebrations cookbook that I would highly recommend checking out! To be able to effectively avoid your triggers, you also really need to plan ahead. Talk to the people who are hosting your holiday parties and see what they are making. If it is okay with them, ask if you can bring a dish that will work for your allergies. Most hosts/hostesses will be thrilled to have you bring something you can eat so that they don’t have the added stress of making food that works for you. It is a win-win for both of you!

Keep your blood sugar balanced and don’t starve yourself during the day. Do you ever not eat all day just so you have lots of room left in your stomach for the big holiday meal? Avoiding your triggers and cravings will be a lot easier if you don’t leave yourself starving. You’ll also avoid the light-headed, zoned out, and grumpy mood you get into when your blood sugar is low. Instead of starving yourself all day, make sure to have multiple healthy snacks throughout the day. Make sure they consist of complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein so that they keep you satiated and keep your blood sugar balanced. If your holiday meals consist mostly of meat, potatoes, and sweets, make sure you’re getting your vegetables earlier in the day!

Aid your digestion. The holidays might be a good time for you to try adding some digestive enzymes or digestive bitters before you eat your big meals. This will give your digestive system the extra boost it needs. If you think you’re sensitive to gluten or dairy but you know it will be impossible for you to avoid them, try taking an enzyme that helps you digest these. If you aren’t comfortable trying enzymes or botanicals, try a simple bitter like some apple cider vinegar or even a small bitter salad before you start eating. Your body just needs the bitter flavour to kick start those digestive juices!

Soothe your digestive system. After you’ve eaten a huge meal, help your digestive system do its job by drinking a soothing tea at the end of the meal. Try herbs like ginger, peppermint, fennel, chamomile, or lemon balm. Traditional Medicinals is my favourite brand of teas with great herbal combinations and I absolutely love their digestive tea. Drink a cup of this after each of your holiday dinners and I bet you’ll feel way better!

Chew your food. This can be very difficult at holiday parties because you are often eating while talking to others around you. Chewing your food adequately is so important because the saliva in your mouth contains some enzymes that will start breaking down your food before you swallow and this will make it easier on the rest of your digestive tract. Swallowing huge chunks of food will obviously be more of a struggle for you to digest properly.

Relax! Again, this is hard to do at holiday parties because you are often surrounded by tons of people but you have to be in a relaxed state while eating! If you’re running around, shouting across the room, or telling exciting stories in the middle of eating, your body will kick itself into its “fight or flight” state. Do you know what happens in this state? Your body starts diverting attention and energy away from your digestive system because it is programmed to help you “fight or flight” and digestion isn’t important for either of these things. Obviously, you can’t be in a completely zen state when you’re eating at a holiday party, but try to at least find a place to sit down (or if you have to stand, find one place you can stand still throughout your meal) and then take 3 deep breaths before you start eating. The act of taking slow, deep breaths will trick your body into thinking you are relaxed and will help improve your digestion.

Finally, just to prove it is possible, here is a recipe for a delicious and easy holiday themed treat that is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, and nut free!

Strawberry Santa Hats

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack of strawberries (This isn’t the easiest time of year to be buying delicious strawberries but you can usually still find them at any Santa Hat 5grocery store)
  • For the chocolate bottoms:
    • 1 cup chocolate chips (I use the Enjoy Life ones because they are allergy friendly!)
    • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • For the frosting:
    • 2 cups icing sugar
    • 2 tbsp butter or dairy free margarine, softened
    • ½ tsp vanilla
    • 1 tbsp milk (dairy, rice, coconut, or almond)

Chocolate Dip

  1. Wash the strawberries, cut off the tops, and dry them thoroughly. Santa Hat 4You don’t want any water left on them when you dip them in the chocolate or the chocolate won’t stick properly.
  2. Melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat. Make sure to stir continuously so you don’t burn the chocolate. Once the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat.
  3. Cover a cookie sheet in parchment paper.
  4. Dip the flat part of the strawberry in the chocolate (leaving the tip free of chocolate – this will be Santa’s hat!) and place it on the parchment paper.
  5. Once you have dipped all the strawberries, place the cookie sheet in the fridge and let them cool for 20-30minutes.

Frosting Hat (Adapted from the following recipe – but you can use your favourite icing recipe for this part!) http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/vanilla-buttercream-frosting/39107a19-be94-4571-9031-f1fc5bd1d606Santa Hat 2

  1. Use an electric mixer to combine the icing sugar, butter/margarine, vanilla, and milk. This will make more icing than you need but you can refrigerate it in a small airtight container and save it for later!
  2. Place the icing into a bag for piping. If you’re like me and you don’t
    have cake decorating tools, you can use a small Ziploc bag and cut the corner off. Just make sure you cut the corner very very small so you don’t have too much icing coming out.
  3. Fill the bag with icing and then pipe it around the top of the chocolate. Add one dollop on the tip of the strawberry. You are using the icing to make it look like a hat 🙂
  4. Work quickly so the chocolate doesn’t start to melt in your hands. The icing will also start to drip if you leave it out for too long. You will likely need to ice half of them, refrigerate them for a bit and then ice the other half.
  5. Once you have finished, refrigerate them again to make sure the icing hardens.*
  6. ENJOY!

*You’ll need to keep these refrigerated as much as possible and only put them out when they are ready to serve because the chocolate will melt and they will become quite messy.

The best part about all of this is that these strawberry Santa hats go PERFECTLY with my new festive bowl!

Santa Hat 1

Wishing all of you a happy and healthy holiday season!!

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