10 Mistakes People Make When Holiday Eating + What To Do About It
December 8th 2020
by: Vincent Pedre M.D.
For many of us, the holidays have always been a time of indulgence. We eat all the cheesy, salty, sugary foods our hearts desire and have that extra glass of wine (or two!). As the shorter days of winter close in on us, we start the day with something carb-y, drink sweetened coffee beverages to keep our energy up throughout the day, and end the night with dessert after an already heavy meal. The goal is to feel warm, comfortable inside, as we confront the stresses the holidays inevitably bring.

Holiday office parties, family gatherings, and get-togethers with friends may not be on the schedule this year, but many of us are still looking forward to all our favorite holiday foods and drinks. In fact, after the tumultuous year we’ve all had, it’s tempting to simply stress eat our way through the rest of 2020.

Unfortunately, this will only end one way — with our gut a mess and us feeling bloated, cranky, and unbelievably fatigued. That is why this week, I’m going to focus on helping you get through the rest of 2020 with a Happy Gut AND a smile on your face. I promise, it is possible!

Why a Healthy Gut is More Important Now Than Ever Before

There’s no sugar coating it: 2020 has been hard. We’ve all felt isolated, anxious, or depressed at one point or another, or steadily worse since March; we’ve had cancelled plans, lost loved ones, and experienced a total upheaval of our daily life and routine; we’ve been unable to plan anything and things that we thought were on solid ground — like our job and our health — are feeling shaky and unsure.

If you’ve been having a hard time this year, you’re not alone. It’s normal to experience physical and psychological ups and downs when there’s so much going on in the world. But here’s a secret that I tell my patients all the time:

Quotation

“A healthy gut is one of your greatest allies in good times, but even more so in bad.”

Dr. Pedre Signature

Here’s why:

  • A healthy gut promotes good mental health, which means you are more resilient to life’s many challenges.
  • A healthy gut will give you more energy, which means you have the power to take on adversity.
  • A healthy gut will help you prevent disease, which means you have less on your plate when things aren’t going well.
  • A healthy gut means a more resilient gut, which means it can handle the occasional unhealthy meal.
  • A healthy gut will promote great sleep, which is the key to waking up ready to take on the day.
  • A healthy gut helps your immune system fight off infections, including bacteria, and yes — even viruses!
  • A healthy gut promotes a healthy nervous system, which means you can feel more relaxed in your body, even when the world is in chaos.

There’s no doubt about it: optimizing the health of your gut can help you get through the rest of 2020 and all the challenges in the years to come. But the real question is, how do we support gut health for the next month with all the challenges and temptations the holidays present? Keep reading for my best advice.

How to Support Gut Health During the Holidays

I know it’s been a tough year for many, so you’ll be happy to know that I’m not here to tell you to avoid all your favorite holiday treats. What I will tell you, though, is that you can work to maintain a happy gut AND enjoy the holidays by avoiding a few specific mistakes that have a particularly big impact on your gut health.

The following mistakes are guaranteed to sabotage your gut health, and if you can avoid them over the next month, you’re guaranteed to start 2021 with a more resilient gut, mind, and immune system.

The Top 10 Holiday Eating Mistakes

Mistake #1: Starving yourself all day, then going to the holiday party

If you remember one thing from this list, it’s to never go to a party hungry. If you do, you’ll head straight to the cheese, desserts, and sugar- and simple-carb filled treats, and that spells trouble for your blood sugar, gut health, and waistline.

What to do about it: Instead, never go starving. Eat a healthy high-protein, high-fat snack before you go. That way, you can eat treats in moderation and be more mindful about what you consume.

Mistake #2: Going for the carbs first

Carbs are the most addictive and the least satiating macronutrient. So, when you b-line it for the carbs — whether it be fruit, cake, pasta, potatoes, or bread — you end up spiking your blood sugar, triggering that addictive mechanism in your brain that keeps asking for more, and in the end, eating a bunch of empty calories. That’s a big “no no” for your gut.

What to do about it: Instead, head to the veggie or protein dishes first. This will help you feel more satiated and cut down on your cravings for the other less healthy stuff.

Mistake #3: Not eating fiber first

If you are going to eat sugar, don’t forget to also eat fiber. Fiber helps slow down the digestion and assimilation of glucose, which means it subdues sugar’s negative effects on your body. As an added bonus, fiber will also help keep your digestion regular, support the production of health-promoting microbiome metabolites, and prevent constipation.
High-Fiber Foods

What to do about it: Start your meal with a high-fiber food, like salad greens, raw carrots, seeds, and avocado. Or, add a fiber supplement to your daily routine.

Mistake #4: Filling up on h’or d’oeuvres

H’or d’oeuvres are typically the unhealthiest part of the meal and because they’re bite-sized, it’s easy to overindulge. This can leave you with an upset stomach and barely any memory of what and how much you actually ate.

What to do about it: Instead, try one of each and don’t go for seconds before the main meal. That way you save your appetite for the healthier, more nutritious options.

Mistake #5: Overdrinking

Alcohol is a major source of hidden calories — particularly sugar — so when you drink too much, you’re spiking your blood sugar and overloading your body with toxins. Not to mention, having a hangover can make it harder to make healthy lifestyle choices, causing you to crave sugar, carbs, and other comfort foods. (Bagels, anyone?)

What to do about it: If you are going to imbibe, do it in moderation and choose the lowest-sugar alcoholic drinks, like tequila or vodka mixed with sparkling water, ice, and lemon or lime.

Mistake #6: Under-drinking

You might be scratching your head after reading the word “under-drinking” but I’m not talking about alcohol! Under-drinking WATER is something you want to avoid this time of year. Why? Because there’s a major connection between dehydration and hunger; oftentimes, we think we’re hungry but we’re actually just thirsty.
Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day

What to do about it: Make sure you’re drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. If you do feel hungry or have a craving, try drinking some water first to see if that does the trick. You might be surprised!

Mistake #7: Not saving room for dessert

This may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re going to eat dessert, you may as well leave room for it. Otherwise, you’ll be overly full, and throwing dessert on top of your abundant meal can lead to weight gain and digestive upsets, like indigestion and heartburn.

What to do about it: Decide if you’re going to have dessert before your meal and save room for it. I promise, you’ll enjoy it more this way!

Mistake #8: Eating too fast

Scarfing down your food, especially when you’re stressed or overly hungry, is a recipe for overeating, bloating, and reflux. Plus, not properly chewing your food can put more stress on your gut. By eating too fast, you override your satiety signaling hormone known as leptin, and by the time you realize you’re full, you’ve already eaten too much.

What to do about it: Instead, take a few mindful breaths before you dive in and focus on chewing your food thoroughly. Oh, and don’t forget Mistake #1. If you’re starving an hour before dinner, have a snack! A scoop of almond butter or coconut oil will prevent you from feeling starved when you sit down for the meal!

Mistake #9: Trying to restrict too much

If you try to avoid every cocktail, cake, and hot chocolate this time of year, you’re bound to end up using every ounce of your energy controlling your cravings, instead of enjoying time with friends and family members. Go ahead and loosen the reins a little bit this time of year — you’ll be glad you did!

What to do about it: Pick a few key indulgences that you really love, and then enjoy those fully and let go of any guilt. Whether it be your grandma’s pumpkin pie or hot chocolate by the fire, pick things that really make your holiday special. And when you eat them, slow down to savor every single little bite. It’s those moments of full, conscious enjoyment that can ward off those nasty cravings that lead to uncontrollable binges.

Mistake #10: Skipping the veggies

When there are so many different delicious foods on the table, it’s tempting to skip the veggies to save room for everything else. But even if you’re enjoying the carbs, alcohol, and sugar — don’t skip the veggies! You need the nutrients and fibers in vegetables to optimize energy and feel your best.

What to do about it: If you can, eat your veggies FIRST so you’re guaranteed to get them in at every meal. Not to mention, they add bulk in your stomach, that can help you get your satiety signal sooner before you regret overeating. You can also add an organic greens powder to your daily routine if you’re worried about the lack of veggies during the holiday season.

Making the best out of the holidays doesn’t need to mean putting your gut health on hold until the New Year. The holidays are destined to be different this year. With the pandemic still hanging around, it will usher in its own stressors and rounds of emotional eating as we face the reality of a world changed by this virus. The good new is that by avoiding the top 10 holiday eating mistakes, you can find ways to enjoy the holidays while maintaining a healthy, happy gut — even in the tough times.

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