Eat This, Not That: Your Guide to A Gut-Friendly Holiday Feast
The holidays are around the corner, and the delicious, comforting foods that surround this time of year are one of the best parts about celebrating. But if you’re struggling with gut issues, such as candida, leaky gut, gut dysbiosis, or SIBO, you’re probably wondering what you can put on your plate this year that won’t aggravate your GI tract or steer you off track if you’re following a gut-supportive diet.
Let’s be honest: the last thing you need during the holidays are a few extra painful digestive symptoms to add to the list.
The good news is that holiday dishes can be gut-friendly, too. With a few minor tweaks, you can still enjoy the taste of the savory and sweet classics, without having to worry about spending the rest of the night in pain.
PS: Even if you do indulge in some of Granny’s glutenous pumpkin pie (hey, it happens!), we’ve got you covered with some tips to support your gut during the holidays, help you stay on track, and improve your symptoms.
Healthy Holidays: 8 Gut-Supportive Holiday Swaps
1. Conventional Turkey
Turkey is the hallmark Thanksgiving dish. And while many of the amino acids found in turkey, such as l-glutamine, are extremely healing for the gut, conventional or factory-farmed animal products are best to avoid when it comes to gut health. This is because they’re treated with growth hormones and antibiotics — which we absorb when eaten — that can damage the gut lining and cause or worsen leaky gut syndrome.
But hey, that doesn’t mean skip out on the turkey, it just means skip out on the toxins.
You can swap factory-farmed turkey for an organic, pasture-raised turkey instead. It may have a slightly higher price tag, but you’ll also be getting more nutritional value, as pasture-raised animal products are naturally higher in anti-inflammatory omega 3’s. Omega 3’s are a nutrient that help reduce intestinal inflammation, which you’ll want to be getting plenty of in your diet over the holidays.
You can find organic, pasture-raised turkeys at your local health food store, at farmer’s markets, or maybe even a local farmer who raises his turkeys without using hormones or antibiotics.
Next up, we have stuffing. The ingredients in your traditional stuffing recipe are mostly gut friendly, such as celery, rosemary, thyme, carrots, and low-sodium chicken broth (which we like to swap for bone broth for the added benefit of collagen). But it’s the bread you want to watch out for.
Stuffing recipes call for day-old white bread, which contains gluten. Since gluten is known as one of the top nutrients to avoid for gut health and chronic conditions like leaky gut, you’ll want to swap regular white bread for a day-old gluten-free bread, such as brown rice bread. Better yet, you could do a Paleo stuffing, which will have no grains or gluten at all.
Here’s a gut-friendly stuffing recipe we recommend: Paleo Grain Free Stuffing Recipe by PaleoHacks (just omit the bacon — pork can worsen digestive symptoms).
3. Turkey Gravy
Turkey gravy: there’s nothing quite like it. So you may be wondering if a gluten-free, gut healthy gravy could really taste as good. But it can!
Traditional turkey gravy recipes call for all-purpose white flour (gluten and white flour are a no-no for gut health), which can easily be swapped for potato starch or tapioca starch. If you opt for a packaged gravy mix, you’ll also get the addition of hydrolyzed soy, corn, caramel color, and other pro-inflammatory ingredients your gut could do without.
With the same aromatics as regular gravy, such as rosemary, thyme, and parsley, you won’t even notice you’re eating the gut-friendly version of holiday gravy.
4. Canned Cranberry Sauce or Jelly
We hate to break it to you, but traditional cranberry sauce is basically pure sugar (and some vitamin C, we’ll give it that). We’re not talking about the fructose from the cranberries, as much as the refined sugar added to traditional homemade cranberry sauce recipes or store bought canned cranberry jelly (which is often packaged in tin cans that contain BPA — another toxin that damages gut health).
Since refined sugar is a major culprit in causing intestinal inflammation and depleting your beneficial gut bacteria, you’ll want to make sure your cranberry sauce is free of refined sugar. The good news is that cranberry sauce is incredibly easy to make at home, and can be incredibly nourishing for your gut with just a few simple ingredient swaps.
Note: If you’re following the candida diet, you may want to leave out the cranberry sauce this time around, as the fructose from fruit and fruit juice is generally off limits in the early stages. (Don’t worry, you’ll feel better in the long run. Load up on the healthy turkey gravy instead!)
5. Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole is a rich, filling dish with a creamy texture from the addition of heavy cream and a little bit of crunch from deep fried shallots or onion rings. You can turn this holiday classic into a gut-friendly dish by omitting the cream and all purpose flour used for frying with almond meal or chickpea flour instead.
Try this Healthy Green Bean Casserole by A Sweet Pea Chef, and leave out the parmesan cheese if you’re sensitive to dairy or follow a vegan diet. If you choose to include the parmesan cheese, go for an organic brand to avoid hormones and antibiotics.
6. Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Casserole
Alright, this is the one holiday dish there may be no good option for a gut healthy swap.. Besides the healthy sweet potatoes, you have refined sugar smothered over top of more refined sugar.
Instead, you can do a garlic sweet potato mash. You’ll get plenty of fiber from the sweet potatoes — which act as a prebiotic to help feed your healthy gut bacteria — as well as antibacterial, antifungal benefits from the compound in garlic called allicin. (Garlic is one of the best gut-supportive foods, especially for conditions like candida).
7. Hot Chocolate
Dessert is the toughest part when it comes to the gut-friendly holiday dishes — or is it?
With leaky gut and other chronic digestive conditions on the rise, many of us have had to get creative so that we can “have our cake and eat it, too” on a gut-healing diet.
Hot chocolate can actually be pretty nutritious and packed with antioxidants when you use the right ingredients.
Try this Healthier Hot Chocolate by Detoxinista.
8. Pumpkin Pie
Of course, you’ll probably want a slice of pumpkin pie to go with your healthy hot chocolate.
You can avoid the sugar, wheat, gluten, trans fats, additives and preservatives from store-bought pumpkin pie and use healthier, whole food ingredients, such as full-fat coconut milk, cinnamon, and coconut sugar instead. You also can make the crust gluten-free by using an all-purpose, gluten-free flour (we recognize this is refined, but it’s the “lesser of the evils” when it comes to holiday indulgence).
Tips to Avoid Digestive Symptoms During the Holidays
Kudos to you for trying to stick to a gut-supportive diet over the holidays. We know it’s not easy, especially when treats are being brought to the office, dropped off by granny, or lining the aisles of grocery stores. If you happen to have a treat here or there, don’t stress. These tips will help improve your digestion and keep you on track towards a healthier gut.
1. Lemon Water and Apple Cider Vinegar
Meet two of your greatest allies over the holidays for improving your digestion: citric acid and acetic acid.
The citric acid from lemons and acetic acid from apple cider vinegar can help stimulate protein digestion and prevent bloating. If you know you’ll be having a heavy meal (or experience digestive symptoms after a meal), squeeze the juice of ½ a lemon into a glass of room-temperature or warm water and add 1 tablespoon of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar.
Drinking lemon water and apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning is a great way to improve your digestion throughout the day.
*If you’re prone to acid reflux, skip the lemon and just do the apple cider vinegar.
2. Chew Your Food Slowly and Thoroughly
Alright, we know you may be thinking, “okay, captain obvious,” but you’d be surprised how little we tend to chew our food before swallowing it. Many of us eat while driving, working, responding to emails, and instagramming. A lot of the time, we’re hardly paying attention to the actual eating process.
Undigested food is one of the major causes of digestive symptoms, such as gas, bloating and acid reflux (after all, if you don’t chew your food — who will?). And on a more serious note, when undigested food enters your GI tract, it can attract “bad” bacteria to break it down and ferment it.
As you can see, you can make a big difference in your gut health simply just by chewing your food and eating with no distractions. The goal is to chew fibrous, tougher foods up to 30 times before swallowing, and softer foods (including smoothies!) 5 to 10 times.
3. Take Gut-Supportive Supplements
There’s a time and a place for nutritional supplements, and the holiday season is a time when your gut could certainly use extra support. The holidays can be stressful for some people, and chronic stress is one of the root causes of compromised gut health.
Here’s a list of supplements we recommend for keeping your gut healthy during the holidays (and all year round).
4. Reduce Stress Levels
Speaking of stress, don’t let your exercise routine or doing activities you love slip away from you in the midst of holiday chaos.
Although it may be tempting to skip the yoga class to get your holiday shopping done, or reduce your 10-minute meditation down to 5 minutes, taking time for yourself and prioritizing relief is essential for a healthy gut. There’s no harm in booking yourself a mini massage or facial on the way home from picking up the turkey, is there?
5. Drink Bone Broth
Bone broth is the perfect substitute for regular broth in holiday recipes, and it also happens to be the perfect food for a healthy gut. Bone broth is loaded with collagen and anti-inflammatory amino acids, which help reduce intestinal inflammation and “heal and seal” the gut lining.
There are so many ways you can enjoy bone broth over the holidays. You can sip it from a (holiday) mug on a cold winter’s morning, or add it to your healthy holiday recipes. For festive twists on spicing and sipping bone broth, check out our Bone Broth Sipping Guide.
It’s simple to make bone broth at home, but if you don’t have the prep time in your schedule while running holiday errands (a collagen-rich bone broth takes at least 10 hours to make), you can leave the time-consuming stuff to us and get bone broth delivered straight to your doorstep.
Kettle & Fire Bone Broth is sourced from the highest quality bones and organic spices. Our Mushroom Chicken and Chicken Bone Broth are slow simmered for over 10 hours, while our Grass-Fed Beef Bone Broth is simmered for more than 20 hours.
Above all else, enjoy the holidays. There’s nothing more nourishing for your mind, body, and soul than sharing a meal with people you love. Don’t let your diet be a source of stress over the holidays, just do your best.