The Forager's Path - School of Botanical Studies

Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating

Many people struggle with food during the holiday season that runs from late November through early January. During this season, the issues that come up most often in my herb practice are:
-The quality of food goes down
-The quantity of food goes up
-The ability of the digestive system goes down
This article gives tips for making better choices and ways to avoid overindulgence when temptations run high.

Increase Healthy Fats to Reduce Cravings
Fat has a satiating effect in the diet. When one feels satisfied, overeating is less common. Research shows low fat diets actually lead to overeating and weight gain because they fail to satisfy. Many clients in my clinical practice have significantly reduced their desire for carbs by adding extra healthy fats to each meal.

The type of fat is especially important. Saturated fat from animal products (meat and dairy) is healthy IF the animal is grass-fed or wild. Grain-fed meat, farmed fish and dairy products from mainstream sources should be avoided as much as possible. In the plant world, olive and coconut oils are recommended and can be used freely.
Some fat should be included with each meal.

Eat a Healthy Meal with Sufficient Fat Before a Party
Just like one should never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, the same rule applies to holiday parties and dinners. The best dietary intentions don’t last when endless trays of seasonal treats are combined with a strong appetite.

One of the best and easiest ways to deal with this is to calmly prepare and eat a healthy fat-rich meal or snack at home shortly before going out. This allows for a more relaxed food approach at the party and previously chosen food guidelines are more readily followed.

Bitters
Bitters is a category of herbs that are (obviously) bitter. Herbs with this taste have a stimulating effect on the digestive system and are especially helpful for digesting heavy, high fat meals. Perfect for the traditional Thanksgiving-type dining experience.

The best way to use these is to put a dropper of the bitter tincture on your tongue and enjoy the bitter taste briefly before swallowing. This is most effective if done 15-20 minutes before a meal. If this sounds strange to you, be aware that pre-meal bitters are a long standing tradition in multiple cultures around the world.

Urban Moonshine is a Vermont-based company that offers several quality choices in bitters which are widely available at health food stores.

If you know how to prepare tinctures at home and you want to have a go at putting some bitters together, there are endless possibilities for formulas. The general rule is to combine the bitter flavor with a warming aromatic herb. Ginger and peppermint are commonly used.

Seed head of Angelica archangelica

One possible formula I have used is:
3 parts Angelica (Angelica archangelica) – a warming aromatic bitter
2 parts Bitter Orange Peel (Citrus x aurantium) – a warming aromatic bitter
1 part Cardamon seed – a warming aromatic that is treasured in Ayurveda for its digestive supporting qualities.

Carminatives
This herb category contains aromatics herbs that are usually warming and often relaxing. Both qualities enhance digestion and are helpful to drink as a post-meal tea. Peppermint is a well known and universally liked carminative that has a long history of use in this way. The bowl of mint candy on the counter at the local diner reflects this as does the offering of fennel seeds at the Indian restaurant.

Like bitters, there are endless ways to combine these pleasant tasting aromatic herbs in tea form. Some possible formulas are:

German Chamomile, Manzanilla, Matricaria recutita

Chamomile is a treasured relaxing carminative that supports both digestion and the nervous system

-Peppermint tea by itself
-Peppermint, Chamomile, Cardamom
-Peppermint, Fennel, Ginger
-Ginger, Tulsi
-Lemon Balm, Fennel, Peppermint

A carminative tea is best to drink when relaxing after the meal.

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