5 Tips to Survive – and Enjoy – the Holidays

Holidays can be packed with fun activities, family reunions and traveling. It’s common to unknowingly stumble upon, or knowingly indulge in foods that are FODMAP “bombs” – and have to bear the consequences. With this in mind, I have put together a few tips to survive the holidays without incurring uncomfortable symptoms, so you can enjoy them too! 

1.    Plan your meals and snacks ahead.

Make sure to set aside some time for prepping and cooking your favorite low FODMAP meals and snacks even during this busy time of the year. Planning ahead and having low FODMAP foods and snacks available will make it less likely that you will end up eating something that may cause a bout of symptoms while you are out shopping, or at a holiday party.

2.    Bring a low FODMAP recipe to potlucks.

If you are hosting the Christmas dinner you can plan the menu so that everyone is pleased, including any family traditions that may be high in FODMAPs (your mom’s apple pie), with low FODMAP versions or other dishes (you can make fabulous mashed potatoes without garlic). If you are going to a potluck or are invited to a friend’s house, bring one dish you know you can enjoy without risking GI distress. Try my Roasted Rainbow Root Vegetables below; they are sure to please anyone.

3.    Decide what high-FODMAP food to “splurge” on.

Alright, so Christmas only comes once a year and you are really looking forward to your mom’s apple pie (which contains wheat, in the crust, and fructose and sorbitol in the apples – double whammy). Decide ahead of time what favorite dish you can’t do without at the Christmas dinner, even if you know it will give you symptoms, and eat a small portion of it. Having apple pie after an otherwise low FODMAP meal is better than having it after eating more than one FODMAP-laden course (garlic mashed potatoes, gravy or stuffing made with onions, you get the idea).

4.    Beware of greasy foods, alcohol, and caffeine.

Research is still trying to figure out whether these foods may be definite triggers of IBS symptoms. Nonetheless, many people report having bouts of symptoms when consuming fatty meals, or too much alcohol or caffeine. If you know one of these may trigger your symptoms, be mindful of portion sizes. You may not need to avoid them altogether, just make sure you don’t get carried away.

5.    Find time to relax and… don’t forget to (deep) breathe

It is well known that stress can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms. Holidays can be stressful for many people, and it is important to find the time to manage stress in the middle of the holiday rush. Find an activity that relaxes you – whether it’s walking in the woods or by the beach, taking a yoga or Qi-gong class or doing your favorite type of exercise. If you are traveling or find yourself limited in time, one of the most evidence-based stress management techniques is diaphragmatic breathing, also known as abdominal or deep breathing (this is when you expand your belly instead of your chest in the act of breathing).

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Roasted Rainbow Root Vegetables

Ingredients

1 lbs. parsnips

1 ½ lbs. organic rainbow carrots

½ lbs. fingerling potatoes (mix of yellow and red)

1 Tablespoon thyme leaves

2 Tablespoons avocado or sunflower seed oil

a few grinds of salt and pepper

Procedure

1.      Preheat the oven to 425º F.

2.      After washing and drying the vegetables, peel the parsnips and brush the carrots with a vegetable brush (see note). Cut the parsnips and carrots in 2 ½-inch sticks, about ¼-inch thick. Don’t worry about being perfect, as the vegetables are uneven in size. Do the best you can so that they will cook evenly. Cut the fingerling potatoes in half, lengthwise.

3.      Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Toss the vegetables with the thyme, oil, and a few grinds of salt and pepper and lay evenly on the baking sheets. Add 1 tablespoon water to each sheet and cover with aluminum foil.

4.      Bake vegetables for 15 minutes, then take off foil. Continue baking until they are tender and slightly browned (be sure to check early so they don’t burn), another 10-15 minutes.

Note: The advantage of brushing, instead of peeling, the carrots, is that you will get more of the precious carotenoids found right beneath the peel, and more fiber. One more reason to buy organic carrots. If you can’t find them, it is best to peel them.

Chef’s note: Use the leftovers to make a quick easy and nutritious lunch the next day. Toss 2 cups total baby lettuce leaves and arugula with a little olive oil, add 1 serving of the leftover Rainbow Roasted Root vegetables and ½ cup boiled edamame.

Yield: 4 servings

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Author: Antonella Dewell, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Chef