Healt hy Holiday Eating Never go to an event hungry. Ever. That’s just setting yourself up for disaster. Depending on logistics, you can eat beforehand or bring your own food. Sometimes offices will bring in sandwich platters, starchy salads and desserts. On days like this, you can break open your cooler and enjoy your food with everyone else. If you aren’t comfortable carrying your own meal, eat before you go and have a snack in the car or under your desk for later on. You’ll need it, trust me.
Healt hy Holiday Eating BY JODI BROWN
I HAVE AN AUTOIMMUNE THYROID DISEASE CALLED HASHIMOTO’S. What I eat can either make or break my ability to function on a day-to-day basis. While many folks look at me and think I “look” great (weight loss is a major bonus when you remove inflammatory foods from your diet), I still struggle many days to make sure I keep things in check by not eating foods that will trigger an inflammatory cascade in my body.
With a preponderance for all things inflammatory (food, booze, stress), holiday celebrations and the foods that come with them can be tough to navigate. Family and work related events will be plentiful. There are three major threats to your success: Parties, parties and parties… WORK There are likely going to be a lot of work-based holiday events. It’s an important time to network and connect outside of the traditional dayto-day environment. Don’t miss these opportunities to shine. When you have a glow on because you are taking care of yourself, people will notice.
The American Autoimmune Related Disease Association estimates that 50 million Americans have an autoimmune disease and that 75 percent of those afflicted are women (aarda.org). That’s close to one in five Americans. Autoimmune disease occurs when the body mistakenly identifies healthy cells as foreign invaders and attacks them.
FAMILY & FRIENDS Those closest to you may not be crazy about “your diet,” but they are usually the most understanding—or at least you’d hope they’d be. Call whoever is hosting this year’s events and quell their fears about what to prepare for you. Tell them you’ll gladly bring a dish to contribute to the dinner and that you’ll also be bringing along a salad for yourself to enjoy with whatever meat they are serving for their planned meal.
Inflammatory foods are a major trigger for those of us with any one of the over 100 classified autoimmune diseases. Many people don’t clearly understand that their specific disease is, in fact, autoimmune. Some examples of well known autoimmune diseases are lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Graves, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, IBD and celiac disease.
No one wants to be worried about preparing food for you unless they are getting paid to do so. Planning a gathering is a big enough hassle and having to prepare a separate dish for you won’t be a welcomed extra task. Be the bigger person and make the call ahead of time.
Many of us trying to calm down the inflammation in our bodies follow the autoimmune protocol (AIP), a diet and lifestyle program designed to reduce inflammation in the body. The food component requires that we remove inflammatory foods in order to calm the immune system and to keep the body from attacking itself. What are the foods that cause the most inflammation in the body? Gluten, dairy, soy, corn and processed foods—basically, the foods that are the backbone of the standard American diet (aptly referred to as SAD).
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Here are some tips for getting through the muck and mire that looms during the holiday dining season. Always have food packed and ready to go. The holidays are a time of general indulgence and healthier food options are usually scarce. At the very least, have a cooler on hand with a few snacks. A green smoothie, apples, jerky, or carrots and guacamole can beat back a case of “hangry.” Cranky is never pretty.
WORKPLACE POT LUCKS Make one of your favorite compliant dishes. Show people that your dietary restrictions might seem complicated but that you enjoy some great and tasty options. Have a salad packed just in case. Many folks are curious about what we are doing and times like these are great educational opportunities. You never know who has an autoimmune disease and might gain benefit from hearing your story. If necessary, Pinterest is chock full of AIP friendly holiday recipes. RESTAURANTS Go online and check their menu options. As a chef, the last thing I want to do when ordering out is to throw a wrench into what’s happening in the kitchen. If you are going someplace that takes reservations call ahead and let them know you are coming. Find out what their offerings are and ask them to make note of your food preferences on your reservation. The kitchen staff hates being caught off guard trying to accommodate one unexpected person when they are already busy trying to get food into a dining room full of guests. Don’t be that guy or gal. You’ll always get a better meal if they can plan ahead for your needs. PARTIES Table after table of bad food choices lurks behind the glitter and glitz of the holiday season. Stick to the crudités, green salads, fresh meats (not cold cuts), fruits and vegetable side dishes. Remember, eating before you go always helps. BOOZE Sparkling water with a splash of juice and a wedge of fruit is my go to holiday beverage. Not drinking is not as big a deal as it used to be. There’s always enough to beat ourselves up with during the holidays. Try not to make yourself feel worse by making bad food choices. You've got this—I know you do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jodi Brown helps people with autoimmune disease improve their health outcomes through dietary and lifestyle changes. She does one-on-one coaching and group education. You can learn more at AutoimmuneCEO.com.
SAUTÉED KALE 2 tbsp. organic coconut oil 1 medium onion – diced 1 tbsp. minced garlic (more if you love it as much as I do) 2 bunches of kale, leaves pulled from stems, palm sized pieces – approximately 16 cups 2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice (1 – 2 lemons) 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar 2 tbsp. water ½ tsp. sea salt Black pepper to taste Heat a large pot to medium and add coconut oil and onion and sauté until almost soft, clear and slightly browned. Toss in the garlic about 3-4 minutes after starting the onion. Cook for 2 minutes then add 8 cups of the kale and stir the greens every 30-60 seconds until wilted and reduced by half. Add remaining kale, and repeat tossing as above until reduced by half. Finish with lemon juice, vinegar, water, sea salt and pepper to taste. Cover and turn on low until it reaches your desired texture. I like mine with a little bite in it. Others like their greens softer. Enjoy hot or cold.
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Healthy holiday eating for those of us with autoimmune disease.