The Essential Holiday Digestion Guide

By Hillary Branoff

Many of us attend parties, dinners, holiday lunches and once January comes around our digestion is fairly compromised which can lead to further ailments in the upcoming months. In Ayurveda, we say it's what you do most of the time that counts, so if you have one holiday party a week and follow these healthy ayurvedic tips for food digestion and you will feel vital, happy and peaceful!


Eat breakfast before 7am. Preferably something cooked and warm like amaranth porridge or oatmeal. 

Avoid cold/frozen smoothies, cold yogurt, fruit or vegetable juice, cereal with cold milk, raw fruit, heavy things (meat, coconut products, fried food and refined sugars) and avoid skipping breakfast and only having coffee.

For those of you who are curious about Intermittent fasting you can try an Ayurveda style of fasting which is typically the last meal of the day around 6pm and breakfast at 6:30am the following day. Skipping breakfast can increase anxiety throughout the day as well as put out Agni (digestive fire). If you don't have an appetite in the morning, check out the recipe below for my Breakfast Stew or as my friend Dayle likes to call it, “apple pie in a bowl!” This is light, warm, delicious and will stoke your digestive fire for healthy metabolism, vigor and a balanced mind for the rest of the day.

Breakfast Stew (can be made in the Vitaclay or stovetop)


  • 2 peeled apples or pears or both
  • 3 prunes
  • Handful of crushed walnuts
  • 1 date
  • Pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg (small pinch)


  1. Peel, de-pit fruit/dried fruit
  2. Add all ingredients with ½ cup water
  3. Cover and cook on medium until fruit is very soft.

*If you have a crock pot this is a great recipe to throw in overnight and cook on low so that it’s ready when you wake up. 

*If you have a VITACLAY this can be put on the timer so that it’s ready when you wake up in the am. I use the stew setting for 1 hour. 


On to lunch... Skip snacking but don't skip meals and especially not lunch! Even if you don't have the best quality food around it's better to eat something between 10am-2pm than to not eat anything at all. If there is no food to digest the internal heat can spread all over the body and create inflammation, headaches, irritability, rashes and other Pitta (fire/heat) aggravated conditions. This can also be the underlying cause of high blood pressure. Some people have a higher metabolism and will need to eat twice during this time period which is fine. Make your snacking conscious: choose wisely and eat mindfully.


One of my favorite digestive aids is the ‘Ginger Pickle’!

Take it 5-30min before your meals especially before dinner when Agni (digestive fire) is a little lower (bloating, gas, lethargy, foggy mind) and it will help with digestion, assimilation and reducing ama (toxins). If you have heat symptoms such as intense hunger all day long and/or any burning sensations in the gut then avoid using Ginger Pickle and visit an Ayurvedic Practitioner for other herbs and remedies to help balance the body/mind. 

Ginger Pickle Recipe


  • Fresh ginger
  • Lime
  • Himalayan salt


  1. Peel skin from a small piece of ginger (1/2")
  2. Slice 1-3 very thin pieces of ginger 
  3. Squeeze lime over top
  4. Sprinkle a little salt

Take this 5-30 min before each meal. If you need to be out and about during the day put them in a little container and carry with you. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Make fresh daily.


Turn your Beer Belly into a CCF Tea Belly...

During the Holidays we can end up eating a great deal of heavy foods, over eating, poor food combining, eating late at night and drinking a lot of alcohol which will compromise digestion causing things like gas, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, fatigue and foggy mind to name a few symptoms. CCF tea can be a lifesaver! Instead of other tea, drinks and even plain water you can drink this all day long.

When it comes to your digestive system, this tea is a game changer. A combination of three classic culinary spices—cumin, coriander, and fennel—this tea aids in the absorption of nutrients and stimulates the lymphatic system.

Let’s look at the ingredients to understand the power of this tea...

CCF Tea 


  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4–5 cups water


  1. Heat the water in a stainless steel pot over high heat.
  2. Add the seeds. Allow the tea to boil for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the preferred strength.
  3. Strain out the seeds, place in an insulated thermos, and sip throughout the day.

If you get into the habit of making this tea daily, here are two CCF pro hacks:

Scoop half a teaspoon of each seed into each compartment of a seven-day pill organizer, so your seeds are premixed for the week.

Add half a cup of cumin, half a cup of coriander, and half a cup of fennel to a glass jar and shake well to mix. Each morning, simply add 1 ½ teaspoons of the blend to the hot water. 

This may seem like a no-brainer, but this tea should be consumed hot. Cold creates constriction, while heat opens up the blood vessels. The ultimate goal is to increase blood circulation in the digestive system, so that everything is working at full capacity.


Eating in peace... Over the holidays we might end up eating in some very active environments such as parties, family dinners and restaurants. It could be more excitement for your digestion than what you're used to. Eating in a peaceful environment helps us to focus our senses on our food. When we are distracted with conversations, television, loud surroundings, mental busyness, emotional turmoil, etc. our senses get taken elsewhere and digestion can be comprised. We digest everything that we hear, see, touch, smell as well as taste. A wonderful practice to try is to eat in silence (no TV, computer, cell phone or conversations). Focus on the aroma, texture and flavors of the food. Try it for one meal a day and see how you feel afterwards!


What to do after you finish eating... sit at the table for 10min before getting up or lay down or lean on your left side for 10 minutes. After breakfast and dinner you can take a gentle stroll (after your 10 minute resting period). Avoid lots of activity right after eating. Be mellow and let your digestive system do its thang! 


If you've been attending many parties that involve eating all sorts of food that you're body isn't used to and your digestion becomes sluggish you can try eating more meals like this:

Eat one of each - protein, carb, fat/oil and vegetable. example: lentils, basmati rice, bok choy and ghee. And spices of course! 

Also, you might like to try a vegetable broth for dinner to really let your digestive system rest.

Here are some broth recipes:

Bieler Broth
Makes 2 quarts


  • 4 medium squash (zucchini, yellow or summer) washed, ends removed and sliced
  • 1 pound string beans, ends removed
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped (optional)
  • 2 bunches parsley, stems removed (optional)
  • fresh herbs such as thyme or tarragon, tied together with a string (optional) 1 quart filtered water
  • whey (optional) 1 Tbsn whey maybe be added to each cup of soup.


  1. Place water, veggies and optional herbs in a pot.
  2. Bring to boil, skim, lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 1/2 hour.
  3. Remove herbs.

Vegetables may be eaten whole with cooking water, or blended into a thick soup with a handheld blender.

Maverick physician Henry Bieler recommended this broth for energy and for overall health. He felt that this combination of veggies was ideal for restoring acid-alkaline and sodium-potassium balance to organs and glands, especially the sodium loving adrenal glands. Bieler broth is highly recommended for those under stress or suffering from stress-related conditions, such as back pain and ligament problems.

Potassium Broth by Sally Fallon, “Nourishing Traditions”
Makes 2 quarts


  • 4 potatoes, organic, well scrubbed and peeled 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 4 quarts filtered water whey (see instructions)


  1. Place potato peelings, carrots and celery in a pot with water. 
  2. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer covered, for about 1/2 hour. 
  3. Add parsley and simmer 5 minutes more. 
  4. Allow to cool and strain into 2 quart glass container. 
  5. Store in fridge and reheat small portions as needed. 
  6. Add 1 Tbsp of whey (optional) to each cup of warm broth- this will greatly facilitate the absorption of potassium and other minerals.

This is a wonderful pick-me-up, drunk warm like tea: a great rejuvenator for those who have been sick or are recovering from childbirth.


If you don't want to end up like this sleepy Santa try not to snack in between meals. Of course if your metabolism is high you can sit down and have a mindful snack but avoid the kind of snacking that goes on all day long, while watching TV, while driving and generally not paying attention to actual hunger...Eating out of boredom or for soothing/avoiding emotions and/or a general old habit. If you're not aware of what/how/when you're eating/drinking it's a good practice to write it down for one week. Food journals give great insight and once we're aware we can begin to make better choices. Eliminate snacking and eat 3-4 nice sit down meals per day. This will reduce ama (toxins) greatly and will eliminate sleepy Santa syndrome (foggy mind, bloated belly, gas, lethargy).

TIP 9 

This tip trumps all the rest! The number one tip for optimal digestion during the holidays and ALWAYS is to have a pleasant attitude when eating. 

Sometimes we don’t get to eat the highest quality food, best food combination, perfect time of the day, etc. The most skillful action we can take is to have an attitude of gratitude. With feelings of peace and love in your heart you can digest anything with ease. And that goes for everything in life, not just food! 

Hillary Branoff is an Ayurvedic Practitioner, Pancha Karma Technician,  Certified Massage Practitioner, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Classical Hatha Yoga Teacher. Hillary has been teaching Yoga since 2001 and working in the field of Ayurveda since 2010.  She is most passionate about helping people with sleep, digestion, elimination  and purification. When these pillars of health are balanced one will enjoy happiness, vitality, longevity and peace! You can connect with Hillary on her website at Four Pillars Ayurveda.