The holiday season is full of parties, family gatherings, and social events – many of which revolve around food. Don’t get me wrong: it can be great to let yourself indulge in tasty holiday treats with family and friends. But too many fatty dishes and sugary concoctions can lead to feeling less-than-ideal.
If you’ve noticed that you have problems with digestion around the holidays, you’re not alone. Americans tend to change their eating patterns this time of year, which often results in more feelings of nausea and other stomach pains. This generally occurs because with all the holiday parties and family feasts, it’s easy to overeat. In fact, the average person gains between two and seven pounds over the holiday season. But if you practice doing a few things differently this year, you can avoid pitfalls like gaining weight and digestive issues. Here are six tips that will help you stay healthy and stomach-happy this season:
Eat A Healthy Breakfast. People often believe that skipping breakfast will help them keep off excess weight the day of a holiday party or the morning after a big overindulgence. You may think skipping breakfast can “make up” for the three desserts you had last night, or that it “cancels out” the calories you will be eating later. However, if you skip that crucial first meal of the day, you will be starving by the time the party rolls around – and more likely to overeat. Make sure you don’t skip breakfast! It’s also a good idea to eat a light snack before a holiday party so that you’ll have better self-control when you’re standing near that seductive buffet table.
Exercise Even When You’re Away From Home. If you’re traveling this holiday season, don’t let the break be an excuse to stop exercising. Any way you can find time to move your body, do it, even if it’s just a short walk in the morning and evening. A leisurely walk will help burn off some calories and clear your head from holiday stressors. Plus, walking helps with digestion, so it’s a great activity to engage in after a big meal, and especially before heading to bed.
Practice Mindful Eating. The holidays can serve as a great time to practice mindful eating, or eating slowly while savoring each bite. This is especially useful for weight control and body-mind awareness. When you eat slowly, it allows you to really enjoy the taste of your food, and gives your body ample space to determine when you’re full, as opposed to rushing through the meal, which often ends in feeling stuffed. Mindful eating gives your brain a chance to catch up with your stomach and allows you to realize that you’re full. Make sure to sip your drink slowly throughout the meal and keep your portions small.
Be Smart With Your Food Choices. This is one of those obvious things that people seem to forget over the holidays. And why not? The holidays seem like a great time to enjoy those around you and allow yourself to let go a little when it comes to health. But by making smart holiday food choices, you can save yourself a wide variety of stomach problems. Try to get a good amount of lean protein – like turkey, chicken and fish – which keeps you feeling fuller longer. Also try to eat a lot of vegetables and fruit. And go easy on starchy dishes and sugary desserts. You don’t have to avoid them; just keep your portions small.
Take Digestive Enzymes. If you need to, give your digestive system an extra boost this season by taking digestive enzyme supplements, which help break down and digest food in order to free up vitamins and nutrients. (You can buy digestive enzymes at your drugstore or health food store.) If you know you’re about to go eat a heavy meal, try taking one or two capsules beforehand. Doing this will lower your risk of feeling bloated or having acid reflux later on.
Limit Alcohol Consumption. Holiday parties often involve fancy cocktails and good wine, which are hard to resist. You can feel free to indulge, but try to limit your number of drinks to two per event. Not only is alcohol hazardous to driving, it's filled with empty calories. Make sure to have plenty of water between drinks!