The holiday season is a time of joy, togetherness, and indulgence, a time when we gather with loved ones and enjoy delicious meals together. However, these festive feasts often includes foods that can be inflammatory for our bodies. How can you enjoy the holidays and care for your health at the same time?
Keep reading for FREE holiday recipes!
Chronic inflammation, sometimes called the “silent killer,” can have serious impacts on your health, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer . In Ayurveda, inflammation is viewed as an imbalance in the body's doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Inflammatory foods can aggravate one or more of these doshas, leading to discomfort and health issues.
Holiday foods that are high in refined sugars, saturated fats, and processed carbohydrates are more likely to cause inflammation and lead to spikes in blood sugar. Here are some common holiday foods and ingredients that can contribute to these issues:
- Sugary Desserts: Many holiday desserts are loaded with sugar, including pies, cakes, cookies, and candies. Excessive sugar intake can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.
- Processed Carbohydrates: Foods made with white flour, such as rolls, white bread, and stuffing, are high in refined carbohydrates. These can cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly.
- Fried and Greasy Foods: Fried foods like potato latkes, doughnuts, and deep-fried turkey can be high in unhealthy fats. Consuming too much saturated and trans fats can contribute to inflammation and heart health issues.
- Sugary Beverages: Holiday cocktails, sweetened eggnog, and soda are often packed with added sugars, which can cause blood sugar spikes and contribute to inflammation.
- Highly Processed Snacks: Snack foods like chips, crackers, and cheese dips are often highly processed and can contain unhealthy fats and additives that promote inflammation.
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption, which is common during the holidays, can lead to blood sugar fluctuations and trigger inflammation. Mocktails are a great alternative if you’d like to ease away from alcohol!
- Processed Meats: Deli meats, sausages, and bacon are high in sodium and usually contain preservatives and additives that can contribute to inflammation when consumed in excess.
- Canned and Prepackaged Foods: Many holiday recipes call for canned soups, sauces, and prepackaged mixes, which can contain high levels of sodium and unhealthy additives.
Strategies for a Balanced Holiday Season
Mindful Eating: The foundation of Ayurveda is mindful eating. Pay attention to your body's hunger cues and eat when you're genuinely hungry. Avoid overindulgence, which can disrupt digestion and increase inflammation.
Balance Your Plate: Aim for a balance of all six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent—in your meals. This helps ensure you're getting a variety of nutrients and flavors.
Choose Smart Sweets: Instead of reaching for sugar-laden desserts, opt for healthier alternatives like fruit-based sweets, natural sweeteners like honey, or homemade treats with less sugar.
Spice Wisely: Incorporate cooling spices like coriander, cardamom, and fennel to balance the heat of holiday dishes. These spices can help soothe aggravated Pitta.
Stay Hydrated: Drink warm water or herbal teas throughout the day to support digestion and flush out toxins. Avoid excessive cold or iced beverages, which can disrupt your body's natural balance.
Mindful Food Combinations: Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of proper food combinations. Avoid mixing incompatible foods, such as dairy with fruit, to prevent digestive discomfort.
Digestive Support: Consider taking Ayurvedic herbs like triphala or ginger to aid digestion. These herbs can help maintain a healthy gut and reduce inflammation.
Moderate Alcohol: Alcohol can aggravate Pitta and disrupt digestion. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation and opt for lighter beverages like wine or herbal cocktails.
Listen to Your Body: Most importantly, listen to your body. If you feel overly full or uncomfortable, take a break and go for a gentle walk to aid digestion.
By incorporating Ayurvedic dietary principles into your holiday season, you can enjoy the festivities while minimizing the impact of inflammatory foods. Remember to be mindful of your choices, balance your plate, and prioritize self-care to keep your body in harmony during this special time of year.
Holiday Recipes (from Banyan Botanicals)
These dishes are not only perfect alternatives to traditional holiday foods, but also work harmoniously with your body, reducing inflammation and promoting well-being.
Sweet Potatoes and Greens with Cinnamon and Ginger Recipe
Instead of heavy white potatoes loaded with unhealthy fats, try adding this sweet blend of sweet potatoes with delicious spices and greens to your table!
- 4 medium sweet potatoes, chopped to 2-inch cubes
- 2 heaping handfuls chopped kale or hearty greens (lacinto/dino, red Russian, or collard greens)
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (reserve a couple slices of the lemon)
- 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon natural mineral salt
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a bowl, toss the kale/greens with lemon juice and nutritional yeast, and mix until well coated.
In a medium pot, add water and a couple of slices of lemon and heat. Scrub the sweet potatoes and chop (leave on the skins). Once the water is boiling, add the sweet potato. Reduce heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes until the sweet potato begins to soften slightly but isn’t falling apart. Remove from heat. Reserve 1 cup of this starchy water, drain the rest.
Heat the ghee in a pan, and add the spices. Cook until the aroma lifts, then remove from heat.
In a large 9x12 glass dish, add the sweet potato and kale. Add the starchy water until the sweet potatoes and kale are half-way covered in water (this may be less than the full cup). Drizzle the spiced ghee over the entire dish.
Bake for 15 minutes. Take out, mix, and return to oven for an additional 15 minutes, or until the sweet potato is fully soft.
Green Beans with Shallots and Rosemary Recipe
Skip the cans of processed soup and fried onions, and opt instead for a fresher take on this vegetable. You’ll love the flavors a few simple ingredients bring out!
- 1 pound green beans
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced, or a pinch of dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon mineral salt
Prepare the green beans by cutting off the ends. In a large pot, add enough water to generously cover the green beans (but don’t add them yet). Bring the water to a boil. Carefully add the beans, blanching for 3–4 minutes or till the color shifts to a vibrant green. Remove from heat, drain the water, and cover.
In a sauce pan, melt the ghee over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté. When the shallots are translucent, add the rosemary and salt, cooking gently until the flavors meld and the shallots start to turn golden. Remove from heat.
Place the beans in a serving dish, drizzle with the seasoned ghee and shallots, gently toss, and serve.
Pippali Gingersnap Cookie Recipe
Play around with some fun spices while treating yourself to a warm, delicious holiday treat!
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup ghee
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon clove
- ½ teaspoon pippali
- 1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)
- 1 ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup unsulphured molasses
- 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
- 1 large egg and 1 large yolk
- ½ cup turbinado sugar
Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt, then set aside.
Add the ghee to a medium-sized pot. Brown the ghee, watching it closely as it can burn, until it reaches a deep amber color. (Your house will start to smell like a candy factory!)
Add the dry spices and sauté until the aroma lifts—this happens quickly. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then mix in the molasses and fresh ginger. Beat in the sugar until smooth and whisk in the eggs.
Next, add the flour combination using a broad spatula and mix well.
Form balls with 1 tablespoon of dough per ball, flattening slightly with your palms until the cookies are about 1 ½ inches wide. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing about one cookie length between them. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Remove plastic wrap. Bake on the top rack for 14–18 minutes, rotating halfway through. Don’t overcook—they’ll firm up outside of the oven once they've cooled.
For a softer cookie, bake for about 14 minutes. For a cookie that “snaps,” bake for about 18 minutes.
Spiced Holiday Nog
Balance is so important, and this nog recipe is all about hitting that sweet spot of healthy indulgence!
- 5 cups whole milk (or your favorite nut milk)
- ½ cup cream
- 5 cinnamon sticks (plus a few more for garnish)
- 2 whole cloves
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
- ¼ cup ground chia seeds (you can make this by grinding whole chia seeds in a blender or coffee grinder)
- Sweetener of your choice to taste (the best options would include organic date or raw turbinado sugar)
- Nutmeg powder for garnish
- Star anise for garnish (optional)
Pour the milk and cream into a large pot and begin to warm the milk over medium heat. Add in the cinnamon sticks, cloves, turmeric, and ginger powder, and let the spices begin to steep.
Cook the milk mixture at a low temperature, making sure not to scald it, until it reduces to about 3 ¾–4 cups.
Once the mixture has cooked down, remove from the heat and let it sit until it cools down. Once cool, strain out the cinnamon sticks and clove.
Pour the cooled milk into a blender, add the ground chia seeds, and blend thoroughly. The chia will help thicken the nog.
Place in the fridge for 3–4 hours to allow the chia seeds to fully thicken the mixture.
Before serving, return the mixture to a pan and slightly warm it on the stove.
Pour into a mug, top it off with a dusting of nutmeg and a cinnamon stick or star anise for garnish.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Looking for that traditional latte without the loaded sugar and additives? Look no farther with this recipe that will warm your soul!
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon coconut butter
- 1 date, pitted and soaked
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ashwagandha powder
In a small pot, set over low heat, warm the almond milk until just barely simmering. Remove from the heat and transfer to the container of a highspeed blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend on high until completely smooth. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!