As we head out of the holiday season and into the New Year, many of us are still dealing with bloat caused by excess intake of holiday carbs – from festive cookies to mashed potatoes.
While getting rid of unwanted pounds can seem like an uphill battle, Dr. Julie Gatza, co-founder of the Florida Wellness Institute, told Audacy it doesn’t have to be that hard. Even if you are a person who heads to the fridge to deal with holiday stress, there are ways to get healthier fast.
When a craving comes, find some protein
“The best thing that I would say, because we are all stressed at a bit higher frequency I guess than we used to be… is that you need to eat protein. It is the most valuable type of food you can put into your body at a cellular level for your metabolism,” Gatza, who has 30 years of clinical experience, explained.
Protein rich smoothies and clear broth soups with protein such as chicken and vegetables instead of noodles are safe options, she said.
“I’m always a fan of hard-boiled eggs because they are so easy,” Gatza recommended for those who need a quick snack. “If you can just put your discipline in and have your protein first, that would do you a heck of a lot of good.”
Baby food is also a safe option, especially for those with digestion difficulties.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, Dr. Gatza said that our food in the U.S. should have more spices than we might be used too.
“We have all these ethnicities in this country, and with that came all these people who knew that digestion was important,” she said. “And these cultures already had built in spices in their foods.”
Some examples of spices and foods that can hep digestion are sauerkraut, ginger, pineapple, oregano, hot peppers and peppermint.
“I do believe that we do not spice enough in this country,” said Gatza. “We might use a lot of hot sauce, but I don’t think we use a lot of these spices.”
Only eat when you are hungry
While hard-boiled eggs are a good option for people who can’t help but snack, Gatza generally recommends just eating when you are actually hungry. This means that people shouldn’t just eat because it is lunch time or because they are bored.
“When your body is hungry for the plainest of foods, it’s telling you that it’s ready to manufacture the enzymes for proper digestion,” said Dr Gatza. “And don’t mistake thirst for hunger – try water first.”
Eat in the proper order
Did you know there is a proper order for eating food? Ideally, people should eat one type of food at a time. Meats should come first, followed by salad, then a complex carb like potato around 15 minutes after. Lastly, around 20 minutes after that carb, fruits and sugary deserts are okay to eat.
“It’s very difficult for your brain to properly signal a need for the correct digestive enzymes,” when you mix different foods at the same time, Gatza explained.
Chew 22 times and eat slowly
When people chew, it gives signals to the brain to release enzymes.
As protein is chewed, the brain triggers “production of the body’s strongest digestive enzymes, the proteases,” said Gatza. Without these enzymes, digestion can get dysfunctional.
Gatza recommends chewing each bite – even each sip of a protein shake – 22 times, since it is an easy number to remember.
“Chewing will make you fuller faster,” she said. “It breaks down your foods so you can actually digest and absorb that food faster.”
As for the protein drinks, Gatza explained that people can actually shock their system by slurping them down too fast.
Don’t eat when feeling stressed, ill, or injured
Some people turn to food for comfort during stressful situations, but Gatza recommends avoiding this in certain circumstances.
“When we are experiencing physical, emotional, and mental stress, or when we are physically ill or injured, or when our body is too hot or too cold, our digestive system is shut down and our body is in healing mode, not digestive mode,” she explained.
However, soup broths and juices may provide some comfort, as they require minimal enzymes for absorption and can be sipped slowly.
Avoid over-cooked foods
Over cooking foods can actually ruin their nutritional value.
“Because we don’t know what’s being added to the food we buy, when we take it home, we tend to over-process it because we’re afraid we’ll get sick if we eat something raw,” said Gatza. If meat is cooked at too high a temperatures, “enzymes in that protein are destroyed when they’re heated that high.”
Research your food
Making sure food is fresh and not laden with chemicals can help with digestion and bloat as well. Gatza even recommends making a small garden in the New Year to make sure your produce is as fresh as possible.
Don’t ignore digestive issues
“When something is wrong digestively, it’s very hard to get your health on track.”
From trouble sleeping to hormonal imbalances, a poorly functioning digestive system can have a web of consequences, she explained. Although symptoms such as bloating, constipation and indigestion are common, they are abnormal and are something people should work to correct.
“The thing that I’ve been pushing so hard with my patients forever is high-quality digestive enzymes,” Gatza said.
She recommends AbsorbAid. More information about her recommendations is is available through the Florida Wellness Institute website.
Gatza wants everyone to remember that, “really, you’re eating for nutrition.”