Tips to Healthfully Navigate the Holiday Season

Tips to Healthfully Navigate the Holiday Season

Tips to Healthfully Navigate the Holiday Season

Navigating the holiday season can be tricky! Especially if you’re trying to keep up with your healthy habits.⁠

It can be an extremely busy time of year. There are often lots of social events happening, work and school tend to get busier, plus it’s a time of year filled with sweet-treats and other delicious foods that of course we want to indulge in!

You don’t need to feel like you’re stuck between the choice of either giving up on your healthy habits or not getting to enjoy the holiday season. You can find a middle ground and enjoy this time of year while still staying healthy.

Use these tips to bring some balance into your holiday season and you’ll end up feeling better than ever come January 1st (or perhaps 2nd…).

Tips for a Healthy, Happy Holiday Season:

Save time by meal planning & prepping on the weekend. Planning ahead is incredibly important for surviving these busy periods.⁠ Not only will you save money on your grocery bill by being as efficient as possible and minimizing take-away and convenience foods, but you’ll also be getting more more nutritious meals that will keep you full and fuelled for longer. Take into account when you have social events so that you don’t plan for meals unnecessarily. Investing time in advance to prep your meals (for example, chopping veggies or even preparing some meals entirely for in the freezer), will allow you to save precious time on the weeknights.

Bring a homemade packed lunch. Not only will you probably save money and cut down on food waste, but you’ll be making sure to get a nutrient-dense lunch in before any evening activities. Include this in your meal planning and prepping to ensure it is easy to grab-and-go in the morning on your way out the door.⁠ The same thing goes for snacks. Bring your own healthy options with you if you want to try and avoid the platter of cookies your colleague keeps refilling.

Focus on the meals that you can control. During this period, that often means our breakfasts and our lunches. Try to get lots of veggies and protein at these meals, since these will likely be lacking if you’re out for dinner or at a social event.⁠ This way you can roll with whatever comes in the evening, knowing that you got some solid nutrition in already!

Decorative snowmen sitting in a row, how to have a healthy holiday season with IBS

Don’t be too strict on yourself – you should still enjoy the holiday season! If you’re out at a party, start off with the “healthier” fare, but definitely still go for those indulgences as well. The healthier options will fill you up first, helping to ensure you can still have those treats mindfully. This way you’re less likely to go overboard but you also won’t feel like you’re denying yourself.

Swap out a couple alcoholic drinks for some non-alcoholic cocktails. Keep your alcohol consumption in moderation by, at the least, alternating with a non-alcoholic alternative. There are loads of fancy mocktail possibilities, and I bet most people won’t notice! You’ll definitely thank yourself in the morning when you sleep better and minimize the chance of a hangover. Most of the symptoms of a hangover can be attributed to dehydration, so always be sure to drink plenty of water alongside your alcoholic drinks.

Prioritize sleep. Sleep is key for recovering and building resiliency to stress. Not to mention this time of year kicks off cold and flu season, so your immune system could do with the boost. Even if sleep comes at the expense of something like exercise, this is a period of the year where I personally believe this swap is worth it.⁠

Know your non-negotiables for managing stress, and keep up with some form of self-care.⁠ While you might need to cut down on your self-care time to properly balance your schedule, make sure you’re not cutting it out completely! That time to yourself will help you recharge and have more energy to give to everything else that is going on.

Practise saying no when needed. Recognize your limits or propose alternatives when certain requests are just too much.⁠ Everyone is busy at this time of year, so most people will understand if you turn down an invitation. Or think of alternative activities that won’t take all of your energy. Did a friend invite you to a holiday party that you know will be exhausting? Propose meeting for a lunch instead so you still get that time to connect. Or, maybe you want to throw a party of your own to see all your friends in one go, rather than attend a million different functions. Too often we can feel awkward saying no to people, whether it’s that invitation or having another Christmas cookie. Try not to offer an excuse, just express your boundary clearly and firmly – you’ll probably feel empowered afterwards!

I hope these tips give you some inspiration towards having a more balanced holiday season.

If you’d like to make next year an even healthier one, book your dietetic consultation before Christmas so that your personalised action plan is ready to go for January!

Click here to make your appointment, online or in person options available.

(Intake consultation must take place on or before December 23rd, 2023 in order to receive your plan at the latest by January 7th, 2024.)

This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing

This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing

This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing; woman with her head down grabbing her hair in frustration

This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing

Hands up if you’ve ever felt stressed or overwhelmed before?

(Pretty sure you should have your hand up right now!)

Stress is a normal part of life, but large amounts of it, or long-term, chronic stress can start having an impact on our health.

And often, stress is the reason why you’re struggling to find the pattern to your digestive symptoms.
⁠ Stress is a huge trigger when it comes to your digestion. I would maybe even go so far to say that it’s the number one trigger!

It might be why one week a meal can be perfectly fine, and the next week the exact same food ends up in a whole lot of discomfort.

What types of stress can affect your digestion?

When we think about types of stress, we often overlook or downplay the importance of certain areas. Things like deadlines, finances, relationship troubles probably come to mind immediately, but they are just the tip of the iceberg really.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, below I’ve summarized some of the big categories of stress with examples.


Physical stressors:

  • Over-exercising
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor sleep (quality and/or quantity)
  • Injury or illness, surgery

Chemical stressors:

  • Allergens (whether food-related or otherwise)
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Drugs

Sensory stressors:

  • Bright lights or chaotic colours
  • Loud noises
  • Crowded or cluttered spaces
  • Strong scents


  • Deadlines
  • Traffic jams
  • Financial problems
  • Relationship issues
  • Worrying about digestive issues
This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing; man pouring coffee from one cup to another, the second overflowing and spilling over his hand

How can stress management help with digestion?

So now that you have an idea about what types of things might be causing stress on your body, let’s look at two angles to consider stress management itself:

  1. How big is your bucket – aka how resilient are you to stress? How effective are you at dealing with and recovering from it?
  2. How full is your bucket – aka how much stress are you under? What areas can you identify to decrease the total amount of stress hitting you?

Most of the time, when we talk about stress management, we focus on tactics that build resiliency. How can we make our bucket bigger and therefore manage the ever growing list of stressors we are collecting?

These are actions and habits that you have that reduce the overwhelming feeling of stress or help you increase the size of your bucket so that it takes more stress to even make you hit that feeling in the first place.

This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing; pink background with an alarm clock, calendar, and pencil on top

What activities can help build stress resilience?

Often these are activities that feel relaxing or recharging in some way. Everyone is going to be different, so just because something works for your friend or family member doesn’t mean that you will find it relaxing or refreshing.

If you’re unsure if something is truly helping you reduce the feelings of stress and overwhelm, note down before and after the activity the number (between 1 and 10) that reflects your feelings of stress at that moment. If your number is higher or the same afterwards, then maybe that activity isn’t for you!


Some examples of activities to build stress resilience:

  • Meditating / breathing exercises
  • Journaling
  • Taking a bath or shower
  • Getting a massage
  • Going to the spa or spending time pampering yourself
  • Exercising
  • Being in nature
  • Yoga or stretching
  • Talking to a friend
  • Snuggling a pet
  • Reading a book
  • Having sex (with a partner or alone!)
  • Shopping
  • Watching a TV show or movie
  • Listening to music
  • Laughing
  • Doing something creative
  • Gardening
  • Cooking

⁠Focusing on stress-relieving activities is a great approach, but don’t completely overlook ways to also decrease the total amount of stress you’re subjected to.

Mealtime Hygiene – 5 Tips for Mindful Mealtimes and Better Digestion

Mealtime Hygiene – 5 Tips for Mindful Mealtimes and Better Digestion

Mealtime hygiene 5 tips for mindful mealtimes and better digestion | group eating around a picnic table

Mealtime Hygiene – 5 Tips for Mindful Mealtimes and Better Digestion

Mindful Mealtimes: Why HOW you eat is as important as WHAT you eat

It might surprise some of you to know, but almost as important as what you eat, is how you eat. You can be eating all the so-called “right” foods, but if your mealtime hygiene is lacking, you might not be reaping the benefits! By working on improving your mealtime hygiene you’ll also be working on better digestion; it’s really a win-win situation.

So what do I mean with mealtime hygiene? Well, it’s basically your habits around eating your meals. Do you eat on the go, at your desk or in a meeting, or sit down for a family dinner? Do you eat quickly or slowly? All these things can affect your digestion.

Proper digestion is so important; you could be eating amazing, nutrient-dense foods, but if you can’t properly digesting them then your body isn’t getting all of the benefits! This could lead to subsequent cravings and unnecessary snacking, as your body calls out for the nutrition it couldn’t get from your meal.

What you need to know about the parasympathetic state, a.k.a. rest and digest mode

Our autonomic nervous system has two key states: the sympathetic and parasympathetic state.

The sympathetic state is where the “fight or flight” stress response is turned on, it’s a state of being a lot of us find ourselves in often in these modern times, from stressful commutes to work to managing relationships, finances, or high workloads. This is our active, energetic, reactive state. It’s a positive reaction when we have a specific stressor to focus on, like the extra adrenaline needed for a push towards a looming deadline.

To contrast, the parasympathetic state is our “rest and digest” setting. It’s where the body can rest and repair/rejuvenate itself, and its the state we need to be in for digestion to function properly. It’s less active, more passive, and we need to find a comfortable balance between both of these two states.

By making sure your body is in the parasympathetic state (or rest and digest mode) at mealtimes, you’ll be setting yourself up for better digestion and less stress on your digestive system overall.

Want to know more about what proper digestion looks like? Check out this blog article.

Mealtime hygiene 5 tips for mindful mealtimes and better digestion | group eating around a table

How to use proper mealtime hygiene to get yourself into rest and digest mode

1. Carve time out for meals

Stay away from on-the-go meals and eating at your desk or in front of the TV and try as much as possible to sit down separately for your meal. Even though you think your brain can multitask while eating doesn’t mean your body is able to process that meal properly. The first part of digestion is triggered by the brain; the thought and smell of food can get the process kickstarted – for example, you start salivating which produces enzymes that help in the breakdown of carbohydrates.

2. Ditch the distractions

We are conditioned nowadays to always occupy our mind with something. Whether it’s scrolling our phones while waiting in line, in the bathroom, or at the dinner table, it can be really difficult to disengage from the constant stream of information. But it’s important to stay away from screens while you’re eating – even if it does feel super uncomfortable the first few times! (And no, you can’t just substitute a book or magazine for your usual scrolling.)

If our mind is distracted by whatever we are reading or looking at, it’s also distracted from really registering the act of eating and properly triggering our digestive system. Plus you’re much more likely to have your stress response triggered by something that you see or read, pulling you out of rest and digest mode. 


3. Take your time

The first physical step of digestion is the act of chewing; if you inhale your food as fast as possible to move on to the next task, you’re only putting undue burden on the rest of your body, which won’t be able to take up the slack. Chewing mixes our food with saliva which as said starts the breakdown of carbohydrates. But the act of chewing itself also breakdowns proteins and fat into smaller pieces – the smaller the better and easier it will be for the rest of your digestive system to further break everything down.

Try and aim for 25-30 chews for every mouthful. It might feel tedious at first, but you’ll quickly start noticing the difference. By doing this you’ll also automatically slow down your eating, giving yourself more time to digest your food and lower the likelihood of over eating.

4. Breathe your way to better digestion

Before you start eating, try taking some deep calming breaths to help relax your system and switch over to that parasympathetic state. Be sure to pause between bites and repeat these breaths, it will help you stay mindful and present and less likely to rush through the meal. Try a box breathing exercise that is shown to relax and bring people into the rest and digest mode. Inhale for 4 counts, hold the breath for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, and hold again at the bottom for 4 counts. Repeat a few times before starting your meal.

5. Enjoy yourself

Eating should be pleasurable! It’s a great time to relax with family, friends, or colleagues over a good meal, and that congenial atmosphere that is created with good conversation, laughter, and connection can actually help your digestion. Try to keep any potentially stressful conversation topics for another moment, away from mealtimes. Relax and enjoy yourself and the food!

Getting started with mealtime hygiene and mindful mealtimes

Don’t bite off more than you can chew! (Sorry, not sorry for the pun.) Start slow and build it up so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Choose one meal to focus on implementing proper mealtime hygiene, like dinner, and once you get the hang of it, go from there.

The bonus is that a lot of these habits easily stack together. Focusing on chewing more slows you down, and you’re less likely to crave the distraction that a screen might bring.

Good luck, and enjoy your meal!

3 reasons why you’re holding yourself back

3 reasons why you’re holding yourself back

What's Holding You Back?

Have you found yourself talking time and time again about how you wish things were different?

You don’t want to feel bloated anymore.

You want to go on vacation without the fear of feeling miserable the whole time from cramps and pain.

You want to buy an article of clothing that doesn’t come with a stretchy waistband!

It’s one thing to want those things, but it’s another to actively work towards making that your reality.

I tend to see three big aspects holding people back from doing the work and realizing their goals.

1/ Only focusing on the roadblocks

All your mental energy is going into thinking about how hard the journey is going to be. You become overwhelmed in determining the steps you need to take and your anxiety and internal resistance just continues to build.

You’ve forgotten what the end goal looks like. You’re focusing on the challenges and not on the opportunity you have. It’s time to reframe your mindset and stop getting bogged down by the details.

2/ A lack of accountability

For some, it can be extremely hard to hold yourself accountable for making personal changes. Stop beating yourself up for “a lack of willpower” and instead harness the potential of an accountability partner! Whether this is a friend, family member, colleague, or coach, (or even strangers on the internet!), sometimes you just need someone to report in to to keep you moving forward.

3/ An identity crisis

Sometimes the hardships we go through can become, consciously or no, a part of our identity. You might not be aware of it, but you could be “identifying” with your symptoms or disorder. The idea of suddenly becoming symptom-free may actually be causing you to question your identity, and this transition can cause a lot of anxiety. It’s only by releasing this identity that you’ll be able to ultimately move on.

Check out this week’s video below to dive deeper into these three roadblocks!

5 hacks to get more veggies into your diet

5 hacks to get more veggies into your diet

5 hacks to get more veggies into your diet

If you’re new around here, you might not already know this, but I am seriously obsessed with helping you try and increase your vegetable intake every day. This is something that is so important to our overall health as vegetables are full of vital vitamins and minerals and are a great source of fiber.

Studies have shown that the average person is just not hitting their goal intake, whether that’s in terms of total vegetables or in terms of these vitamins, minerals, or fiber.

In my journey towards healing my gut and dealing with my various triggers of irritable bowel syndrome, making sure that I was getting lots of fresh vegetables into my diet was really a defining factor in the change process that I went through.

Vegetables are one of the foundational aspects of health (read the blog post here). In fact, they are cornerstone piece of the puzzle! This is usually the number one thing that I start working with my clients on because it can have a halo effect across all different areas. This essentially means that as you work on consistently hitting your vegetable intake, this positive habit helps feed and grow other positive changes in your life. Just like how a stone thrown into the pond creates a ripple effect outwards, so too can the seemingly small action of increasing your vegetable consumption!


One of the biggest changes that I made to my habits to ensure that I’m hitting that daily veggie intake, is really trying to always include a source at breakfast. Traditionally, breakfasts don’t tend to be a place where we include vegetables as most of us tend to prefer the sweet over the savoury. (I’m definitely included in that too!)

But what if I told you, you can still have your sweet breakfast and sneak those veggies in?

In today’s blog post, I’m going to go through five of my favourite hacks for how you can sneak vegetables into your diet. Either these will be ways to hide them in places you wouldn’t guess they are, or just easy and quick ways to prepare them so that you have some no-hassle go-to’s to use whenever you need a veggie boost!

Veggie hack #1: Veggies in your porridge

Stick with me on this one! It might sound a little bit strange, but you can actually add a lot of veggies into your porridge, and you wouldn’t even know that they’re there. 

One of my favourite ways to do this is to simply grate up some zucchini and mix it in with the oats. You’ll be decreasing the total amount of oats you would normally use to account for the added zucchini. For example, if you would normally do ½ cup of oats for porridge, try decreasing this to ¼ to 1/3 of a cup and instead adding about 1/3 to ½ of a zucchini grated.

If the green in your porridge is a turn-off first thing in the morning, then peel the zucchini first. The white flesh will be barely noticeable in your final porridge bowl!

You can also switch it up and try out other veggie combinations! For example, mixing in some grated carrots for sort of carrot cake type porridge bowl. Or perhaps some mashed pumpkin or butternut squash (or even sweet potato).

These would all make fantastic additions to your bowl of porridge and you’ll be getting a serving of veggies in first thing in the morning! You’ll be starting the day already ahead of the curve.

Try these recipes:

Veggie hack #2: Veggies in your smoothie

This is not the most revolutionary concept, but you can very easily get an additional serving or even two of veggies in your morning smoothie. And it doesn’t need to be the stereotypical green smoothie either!

Again, it’s all about playing around with combinations. You have two main types of veggie smoothies: the veggie is the star type, and the “I didn’t know there were veggies in there” type!

For a veggie is the star type, you want to play up the natural flavour of the vegetable. Using carrots or pumpkin you could create a smoothie flavour similar to a cake or muffin by combining these with warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

If you’re trying to hide the vegetables, then it is even easier. Most of your greens (spinach, kale, etc.) will be hidden by any fruit you use. But you can also sneak in some steamed (and frozen) zucchini or cauliflower without much impact on taste and they also tend to give a creamy texture to the smoothie!


Try these recipes:

Veggie hack #3: Replace noodles with vegetables

You might have already seen zucchini making the rounds on social media as a substitute for pasta, but there are actually so many other veggie noodle combinations that make great pasta alternatives.

You can invest in a tool that “spiralizes” your veggies for you into various shapes of noodles, but if you just want to get started you can use a simple vegetable peeler to create long ribbons. This way you can test out the idea without immediately making an investment in another kitchen tool. (Although the spiralizers do give you more flexibility in noodle shape and takes much less time!)

Some examples of veggies you can make noodles out of:

  • Zucchini
  • Carrot (try and find as thick carrots as possible)
  • (Sweet) potato
  • Butternut squash
  • Broccoli steam
  • Kohlrabi
  • Celeriac
  • Turnip

Use the veggie noodles in any way that you would normally use pasta, whether that’s just for a simple spaghetti and meatballs, or as noodles in a stir-fry. Create thin slices of veggies like zucchini or eggplant to substitute for lasagne noodles, or thinly slice sweet potato for your own version of toast or even nachos!

Be creative and try remaking some of your favourite classics with veggie noodles.

Try these recipes:

Veggie hack #4: Veggie Rice

Similar to the veggie noodles, veggie rice can be a great swap in many dishes where you were using rice before.

The easiest way to make it, if you are using a vegetable that you can also make noodle out of, is to start with that step first. Then take your vegetable noodles, a portion at a time, and pulse in a food processor or blender just a couple times until you have a rice-like consistency.

Alternatively, if you are using broccoli or cauliflower, you can just cut these into florets and pulse in small batches in the food processor or blender. The small batches are key here to ensure you get the rice consistency and don’t end up with mashed cauliflower!

And just to note, you want to be doing this with the veggies in their raw form, before cooking.

The veggie rice doesn’t need to be boiled like your standard rice. Just use a pan or wok with a bit of cooking oil, (I like coconut oil for this), and stir regularly until softened. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of water to help get things going.

Flavour it like you would with normal rice; for example, a bit of coconut cream and lime is great with coconut rice for an Asian inspired dish.


Try these recipes:

Veggie hack #5: My favourite & easiest way to prepare veggies

Getting extra veggies into your diet is not just about finding places to hide them or swap them. Being conscious of them in your food is an important step, along with developing a taste for them. Vegetables, cooked properly, are far from bland and boring! But, unfortunately, we have often been brought up eating overcooked, sad veggies or have learned (incorrectly) that they take a lot of effort to prepare.

My favourite way for preparing veggies with maximum flavour and minimal effort is to create a sheet pan meal:

  • Preheat the oven to 175C/350F
  • Wash, peel (if necessary), and roughly chop into similar size cubes a variety of different veggies
  • Scatter across the sheet pan (a full pan would probably provide you around 4 servings)
  • Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and ground pepper, and any other spices you enjoy
  • Across the top of the veggies, lay chicken thighs or chicken legs. They can also be spices with the seasoning you’ve chosen.
  • Bake everything in the oven until the chicken is done and the veggies are tender.
  • Enjoy!

The best thing about this meal is that the juices will come out of the chicken and get soaked into the cooking vegetables, adding an even deeper layer of flavour.

When choosing veggies, try and pick ones with similar cooking times. I’ll combine ones like zucchini and eggplants, or an assortment of root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, beets, etc.). If you chop them into similar sizes you should end up with a uniform cook.

And there you have it!

Those are my top five veggie hacks. Hopefully this is gives you some inspiration into ways to get even more vegetables into your diet.

If you struggle to be consistent with vegetables, head over here to check out my free five-day challenge to kickstart your vegetable habit.

As I’ve mentioned, it is so important to our overall health that we are consuming a variety of fresh vegetables every day; they are vital to our vitamin and mineral intake as well as having enough daily fiber. But even knowing this, so many of us are failing to get in those servings of veggies!

Start taking action and work towards a solid foundation of health. Sign-up for the free challenge and start immediately!

Organic versus Conventional Produce

Organic versus Conventional Produce

Organic versus Conventional Produce

First of all, what do these terms actually mean?

Organic refers to the method of farming that is being used. When it comes to produce, these agricultural practices are aimed at improving soil and water quality, reducing pollution, and promoting a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm. Compared to conventional farming, certain practices are not permitted for organic produce, like using synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge, using synthetic pesticides, irradiation, or genetic engineering. (1)

There are a few natural pesticides and a few synthetic pesticides that have been approved for organic agriculture. In the EU there are 385 approved substances for conventional agriculture and only 26 for organic.

A diet high in pesticide residues has been linked to a higher instance of cancer as well as fertility problems. A study conducted in Sweden showed that people eating a conventional versus organic diet, were exposed to 70x more pesticide residues. (2)

Is organic produce more nutritious?

In terms of nutrition, the scientific evidence is still largely inconclusive. The nutrient content in produce can vary greatly based on where and how it is being grown, the nutrients available in the soil, and that doesn’t even take into account conventional versus organic.

Several studies have shown that organic produce generally contains more antioxidants than its conventionally grown counterparts, as well as some micronutrients like vitamin C, zinc, and iron. Because organic produce can’t rely on pesticides to protect themselves, they do tend to grow a stronger internal defence system – hence the higher levels of antioxidants!

Organic produce has also been shown to have lower levels of nitrates. A diet high in nitrates has been linked to an increased risk of some cancers. However, the benefit of eating fruits and vegetables greatly outweighs the nitrate concerns.

What if I can’t afford organic?

While overall it’s fair to say that buying organic is better for our bodies and the environment than conventional, sometimes it’s not possible either for accessibility or budget reasons. But there’s a great way to decide what produce should get priority over others.

The Environmental Working Group out of the United States regularly releases a round-up of the most and least pesticide contaminated produce. Their “Clean Fifteen” is the least contaminated produce which you should be OK buying conventionally. The “Dirty Dozen” is the produce with the most pesticides that you should try to buy organic as often as possible. (3)

The 2019 “Dirty Dozen” is:

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes

And the 2019 “Clean Fifteen” is:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Frozen sweet peas
  • Onions
  • Papayas
  • Eggplants
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwis
  • Cabbages
  • Cauliflower
  • Cantaloupes
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Honeydew melons




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Are you struggling to get more veggies into your diet? 

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Healthfully Heather
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