The 2018 holidays are upon us and this festive season is definitely the most delicious season of all! It’s a time when holiday food comes out to play in many delectable costumes.
But, let’s be honest, yummy holiday food often comes with a price. And, even though going meatless may seem like the healthy option (especially this time of the year), here’s the truth: even traditional vegetarian (and vegan) dishes are still loaded with sugars and starches. And indulging in those dishes can leave you feeling bloated, gassy, and uncomfortable.
But with the right information, enjoying holiday food doesn’t have to be painful. Sometimes, it’s as simple as rejigging those traditional dishes into healthy dishes, while still keeping all the flavor.
It’s time to face the 2018 holiday season with a new plan!
Top Tips For Helping Your Digestion over the 2018 Holidays
Take back some control: Even if you’re not hosting the holiday meal in 2018, you can still have a little control over the menu. Why not offer to make a dish or two to take along to help out your host? That way, you’ll know there’s something that you can eat that works for your diet — and is gut-friendly, too.
Think Drinks: Make sure to plan ahead regarding healthy beverages, so you won’t overdo it on sugar-drenched sodas, wines, or cocktails. Everything in moderation! Make sure to drink plenty of water between each sugary or alcoholic drink you try and be aware of your limits.
Know your body: If you know what foods trigger your digestive distress, then continue to avoid them – even during the holidays. There are plenty of equally scrumptious alternatives to traditional dishes, so seek out alternatives whenever you need to — and feel free to say “no thanks, I’m full.”
Eat more fiber: So many holiday foods are low in fiber and high in fat – the perfect storm for constipation.1 Fill up on fiber-rich fruits and veggies to help you stay regular during this rather “irregular” period.
Exercise: Regular exercise helps your digestive system run smoothly, so try to keep up your regular exercise routine during the holidays.2 If you feel like you’ve overdone it at dinner, don’t lie down – go for a leisurely walk instead.
Slow Down: Pace yourself during holiday meals. Eating slowly and mindfully will give your brain enough time to tell your stomach that you’re full, aiding digestion. Need a trick? Try to set your fork down between bites.
Minimize Stress: The holidays can be fun. But they’re also very stressful for some people. And stress can trigger heartburn and digestive issues.3 Try to ensure you get a little bit of time to yourself each day to relax – away from family and friends.
Healthy Dish Alternatives to Traditional Holiday Food
If you need a few ideas for healthy food alternatives to some of the traditional dishes to better serve your digestion, try a few of these delicious swaps…
1. Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potato casserole sounds like a healthy dish, but it’s usually made with loads of sugar (not to mention smothered in marshmallow topping – even more sugar). Yet sweet potatoes have plenty of sweetness all by themselves. If you’ve ever baked a whole sweet potato, you’ve likely seen all the natural sugars oozing out of them.
Instead of sweet potato casserole, focus on simple, delicious baked sweet potatoes. Thinly slice sweet potatoes and arrange them in a baking dish. Then sprinkle with a little olive oil, a touch of sea salt, and plenty of cinnamon. Yum!
2. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes may be the ultimate comfort food. But made traditionally, with all that butter and cream, they’re often not vegan or gut-friendly. Even without the additives, the starch in baked potatoes makes them a high glycemic food, meaning they can raise your blood sugar very quickly. 4
If you’re looking for a great substitute for mashed potatoes, give cauliflower mash a try. It’s 2018, and the cauliflower is king! Cauliflower is just as nutritious as any green veggie on the table, and with its chameleon-like nature, it’s often not even recognizable as cauliflower. In this mash, cauliflower takes on the very same texture as mashed potatoes. Mash your cauliflower with coconut or almond milk and a bit of olive oil, then top your cauli mash with chopped chives and roasted garlic.
3. Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole is a staple holiday food that sounds healthy. But alas, it’s not. You see, over the years, green bean casserole has warped into a high-calorie extravaganza. And it’s often not fit for vegans, with all the cream and butter it contains. It’s also high in sodium from the mushroom soup mix, and it’s often topped with deep-fried onions.
Need a tasty alternative to green bean casserole? Say hello to your little friends, the Brussels sprouts. Not only are Brussels sprouts a delicious alternative to green beans, they’re also packed with plenty of vitamins and minerals. When roasted, they take on a wonderfully nutty, caramelized flavor.
Roast Brussels sprouts at 400 F with equal amounts of extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. Add a dash of salt and pepper, and sprinkle with thinly sliced almonds before serving.
4. Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is the perfect accompaniment to traditional dishes. And while store-bought cranberry sauce is a convenient choice, it’s also a preservative, sugar-laden choice. So plan ahead, get creative, and learn how to make your own! Guests love knowing that dishes are homemade, and you’ll personally know that it’s gut healthy.
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine 6 cups of fresh cranberries with ½ cup water. Cook until the cranberries burst (about 10 minutes). Stir in the zest of one orange and a pinch of salt.
Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool completely. To sweeten, you can use your favorite sugar substitute – liquid stevia works best here – to taste.
5. Pumpkin Pie
During the holidays, everyone wants to have their pie and eat it too. But even vegan pumpkin pies can be full of sugar and refined carbs.
For a twist on your traditional vegan recipe, make a “naked” pumpkin pie. Pour the pumpkin filling straight into a pie tin, and bake it without a crust. By skipping the crust, you’ll you’ll skip those refined carbohydrates that can leave you feeling bloated.
Survive the 2018 Holiday Food Offensive
Make a pact to truly enjoy your holiday food this year – without the upset stomach. Simply substitute traditional dishes with flavorful, healthy dish alternatives, and ring out 2018 with both happy taste buds and a happy gut!
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