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Practical Ayurvedic Tips for Holiday Eating

Practical Ayurvedic Tips for Holiday Eating
Photo by krakenimages / Unsplash

I share a very brief introduction to Ayurveda here as knowledge is power! But the tips below are designed for anyone and everyone looking for some guidance surrounding food this holiday season. As I say in my yoga classes, if this (insert pose, breathing practice, mantra, whatever) causes any anxiety skip it - so if this discussion around food causes any anxiety, negative feeling, or is unproductive for you - please stop at tip #1.

“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” - Ayurvedic Proverb


I know this can be easier said than done for some - but simply and truly enjoy yourself! If you find a lot of enjoyment in food and gathering around the table with loved ones then by all means ENJOY yourself! Don't count the calories. Don't allow guilt to come into the picture. Stop all and any negative talk surrounding food and just give yourself permission to fill your plate with the food that love made, have that dessert (or two), eat the bread, drink the wine and do what is going to make you feel happy!

Now, I am not saying get recklessly wasted, eat all the sweets in sight, and mindlessly eat foods that you know aggavate your system.. I am saying rather than eating and mentally attacking yourself for enjoying a dessert - just lovingly curate your plate with the things that you want to eat and enjoy them all, guilt-free! The mental state you enter into a meal with is just as important as the meal itself.

Tip #2: Meal Spacing

Ideally, meals are had around the same time each day with 6 hours between each meal. This would mean breakfast would be at 7am, lunch (which should be the largest meal of the day) at 12pm, and dinner at 6pm. The digestive process can vary from person to person, but in general, once food enters the mouth, ideally it is all consumed within the next 60 minutes because the first phase of digestion has started. Food will move through the stomach, into the small intestine, and then eventually the colon. This entire process takes about 6 hours. If additional food is consumed within the 6 (or so) hour time frame it can cause a variety of digestive issues - such as constipation, gas, bloating, and more seriously toxic buildup.

If you must eat before the 6-hour window, ideally you should be waiting at least 3-4 hours before consuming your next snack or meal. At this point, the stomach (and all of the juices produced to digest the first meal) will have emptied and the food will continue its journey into the small intestine by then. This will help to avoid any sour stomach, stomach aches, indigestion, and potential problems further along the digestive tract.

To share an example, say you are going to a holiday party where there will be appetizers at 11:30am and lunch at 1:30pm. I would suggest the following: eat a nourishing breakfast of oatmeal, with seed butter, ghee, coconut flakes, cinnamon, and chia seeds at 7am. If a snack is needed, have a snack around 10:30. Ideally, something that is easily digestible like a piece of fruit.  During the appetizer portion of the meal, enjoy some warm ginger tea and focus on the conversation, being present with your friends and family. Then, enjoy your lunch at 1:30pm! Ayurveda says lunch should be two anjali (two of your handfuls). At 6:30, have a light dinner, if you are hungry. Again, something easily digestible like soup or kitchari. Avoid eating at least 3 hours before bed.

Tip #3: Stimulate / Support your Digestion

Stimulate and support your digestion during the entire holiday season by incorporating the following:
* Sip on warm water and/or ginger tea throughout the day
* Avoid cold or iced drinks - this puts out that digestive fire (agni)
* Ginger and lime appetizer. Grate fresh ginger and slice into thin slices, squeeze some lime onto the ginger slice and add a bit of salt. Eat just before your meal.
* Talk a short walk after eating
* Add digestive spices to your meals - things like cumin, turmeric, fennel, and  cardamom. Additional suggestions can be found here
* Think of your stomach like a blender. After you eat the stomach should be one third food, one third water and one third air. If there is too much food in the blender (your stomach),  the blender is unable to churn the food. If there is too much water, the internal flame (agni) is doused and again unable to fully process the food.

Tip #4: Be Aware of Food Combinations

Dr. Vasant Lad has a great article and chart on improper food combinations here. My biggest takeaways are:
 1. Fruit should be eaten alone
 2. Most dairy products should be eaten alone
 3. Avoid combining multiple proteins in one meal

Tip #5: Incorporate These Oral Hygiene Habits

Proper cleansing of the mouth is a regular part of an Ayurvedic morning ritual. Two of my favorite practices specifically for the mouth and removing toxins are tongue scraping and oil pulling. These practices could be incorporated into your morning routine.

Tongue scraping is a simple practice where you take a tongue scraper and gently scrap the tongue 7-14 times to remove any toxin (or ama) from the tongue.

Oil pulling is another simple practice where you put 1-2 tablespoons of oil (coconut or sesame oil is ideal) into your mouth. You can simply hold the oil in your mouth or gently swish it around for 2-20 minutes. Once you are done swishing the oil, spit it into a garbage can. Finish by brushing your teeth.

Both of these practices leave my mouth feeling so much cleaner!

A simple video on tongue scraping can be found here.
My tongue scraper was purchased from here.

There are many ways to support your digestion and many additional guidelines surrounding food depending on the individual's constitution (vata, pitta or kapha). The above guidelines are suitable for all people and are the first steps in supporting your internal fire this holiday season.  

"Ayurveda is the science of life and it has a very basic, simple kind of approach, which is that we are part of the universe and the universe is intelligent and the human body is part of the cosmic body, and the human mind is part of the cosmic mind, and the atom and the universe are exactly the same thing, but with different form, and the more we are in touch with this deeper reality, from where everything comes, the more we will be able to heal ourselves and at the same time heal our planet." - Deepak Chopra