‘Tis the season for indulgence. The winter holidays ring in plenty of gatherings and celebrations, and yes, plenty of eating and drinking too.
1. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Unfortunately, most traditional holiday foods are highly inflammatory. If you suffer from chronic pain of any kind, inflammation is your enemy. It can wreak havoc on your spinal health, especially if you’ve sustained a severe injury in the past, such as a car accident, sports-related, or work-related injury.
Here are a few high inflammation foods to avoid this holiday season:
- Pasteurized dairy (eggnog, butter)
- Fried foods (potato pancakes)
- Refined carbohydrates and sugar (bread, cookies, candy, pies)
- Red meat (roast beef)
- Processed meats (ham, bacon, pigs in a blanket
- Trans fat (margarine, lard, shortening)
I know what you’re thinking. That’s basically a list of all your favorite holiday foods. The good news is, there are ways you can minimize your inflammation symptoms this holiday season, even when you’re surrounded by temptation at every turn. Also, while these foods can cause inflammation, when consumed in moderation, they can be acceptable and may not lead to too much excess inflammation. Here are some ways you can prevent aggravating existing chronic pain, inflammation, and back discomfort this holiday season.
2. Avoid Unnecessary Weight Gain
Carrying around extra weight increases inflammation in the body, resulting in symptoms like lower back, hip and knee pain. It can also negatively affect your sleep, which has a long list of negative effects on health. While gaining weight during the holidays might be incredibly common, it doesn’t have to be inevitable.
Here are a few quick tips to avoid packing on the pounds this season:
- Stay hydrated. Filling up on water not only makes you feel good, but it also helps you eat less
- Budget your calories wisely. You don’t have to sample everything you see, but go ahead and indulge sparingly in the foods you love
- Take 10 minutes before taking seconds. It takes time for your stomach’s “full” signals to kick in. You might realize you aren’t so hungry anymore after all
3. “Pre-Game” With Healthy Snacks
If you’re heading to a holiday party, it’s a good idea to fill up on nourishing, protein-rich snacks before leaving the house. Chances are, the vast majority of the appetizers on offer will be loaded with inflammatory ingredients, like butter, sugar, and carbs. If you arrive hungry, it will be hard to resist temptations. As you’re getting ready, munch on a few handfuls of almonds or veggies dipped in hummus to keep your cravings in check.
4. Watch What You Drink
Alcohol both increases your appetite and decreases your self-control around calory rich food. This effect is especially strong when you drink on an empty stomach — yet another reason to fill up on healthy snacks beforehand! Alcohol itself is inflammatory in large enough quantities. Furthermore, a single glass of eggnog packs in about 500 extra calories, and mixed drinks can set you back by about 200. All those extra calories do more than just increase inflammation. They also add up and make weight-gain even more probable. Experts recommend sipping on flavored seltzer or sparkling water between drinks to reduce your intake and to stay hydrated.
5. Get On Your Feet
Sometimes a little indulgence is inevitable. Instead of feeling guilty about it, why not burn some of those extra calories off — and have fun doing it? Crank up those holiday tunes and do some dancing. Or go for a walk to get some fresh air between dinner and dessert. Speaking of dessert, if you can stomach it, try avoiding too many sweets. Most desserts are devoid of nutritional value and are what experts call “empty calories”,
6. Fill Up on Anti-inflammatory Foods
The good news is, you can cancel out some of the ill-effects of high inflammation foods by filling your plate with foods that fight inflammation. Chances are many of these foods will be options during a holiday party or dinner.
Here are a few anti-inflammatory foods to try eating more of this holiday season:
- Fatty fish, like mackerel or salmon
- Olive oil
- Green leafy vegetables, like kale or spinach
- Nuts, like walnuts or almonds
- Fruits, like cherries or oranges
- Dark chocolate
Show your family and friends you care by using less saturated fat, sugar, and red meat in your own cooking this holiday season. A natural, less processed diet not only reduces inflammation, but it can also have noticeable positive effects on physical and emotional wellbeing. When you serve healthier alternatives, everyone will feel better for it.
7. Reduce Stress
The holidays can sometimes feel more stressful than blissful at times. Stress produces cortisol, which is linked to inflammation. Allowing your body enough rest is crucial to keeping symptoms at bay — but at the same time, stress can interfere with sleep. If you’re struggling to catch enough Z’s, treat yourself to hot baths with Epsom salts and lavender oil, and make sure you switch off all screens at least an hour before bedtime. If that’s not enough there are natural ways to help you sleep better including melatonin, magnesium, and getting plenty of excersise earlier in the day.
Cuddling with loved ones is one of the best stress-busters out there. It releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that inhibits inflammation. So if you get a chance, hug your loved ones to reduce inflammation.
To Your Health!
While practicing healthy eating habits is important for avoiding inflammation, don’t forget the things that really matter this holiday season. Your main focus should be on enjoying the company of friends and family, savoring good food, and creating happy memories with plenty of laughter and good cheer. As long as you stay mindful and practice moderation, for the most part, a little excess won’t do you any harm in the long run. Stay safe, and have fun.