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How to Avoid a Holiday Food Hangover

You can enjoy these four popular favorites without the stomach upset, plus other unpleasant effects they can cause!

The season of indulgence is upon us once again. But you may be determined not to succumb to all those festive treats this year because they don’t always treat your body so well. Enjoy four favorites, without feeling worse for wear, with these tips. [source: Consumer Reports].

Cheese

The high fat and low fiber content of cheese can worsen or lead to constipation if you overdo it. You can help counteract the effect by munching on fiber-rich fruit, nuts, or whole-grain crackers with your cheese.

For people who are lactose-intolerant, too much of certain cheeses (namely softer types, such as ricotta and feta) may lead to diarrhea. “And the high sodium in many cheeses can cause problems for anyone limiting their salt intake to help control blood pressure,” says Molly Kimball, RD, founder of Ochsner Eat Fit in New Orleans, a nonprofit that helps restaurants identify nutritious ­options on their menus.

Aged cheeses (such as cheddar and Gouda) have little to no lactose, she says. Need to watch sodium? Try fresh mozzarella or goat cheese, with around 100 mg per ounce.

Alcohol

For some, it’s not a party without a cocktail. “But older adults need to be cautious, because even small amounts of alcohol can make you unsteady on your feet and leave you with a headache and fatigue the next day,” Kimball says. Alcohol tolerance declines with age, so the effects are inten­si­fied. To avoid them, limit yourself to one drink (and sip plenty of water along with it). Even better, opt for one of the newer alcohol-free options that taste like wine, beer, or a cocktail and feel just as festive as the real thing. (Just be aware of the amount of added sugars some of the no-alcohol cocktails might contain.)

Eggnog

Rich and creamy, this can cause stomach upset, especially for anyone who has difficulty digesting dairy. And if the eggnog is made with raw eggs, your digestive distress could actually be salmonella. Older adults may be more vulnerable to the bacteria, sometimes found in raw eggs, because their immune systems are no longer as good at fighting them off. If you’re reaching for eggnog at a party, ask whether it contains raw eggs, and use pasteurized eggs in your own recipes. Or buy premade “light” or plant-milk eggnog, which can be lower in fat and sugar and is pasteurized.

Sweet Treats

“Simple sugar metabolizes quickly, leading to a higher spike—and faster drop—in your blood sugar levels, which can leave you feeling sluggish,” says Lauri Wright, PhD, director of the Center for Nutrition and Food Safety at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. “Pairing your sweet treat with a little protein helps slow down the release and keep blood sugar on a more even keel.” So when you grab a cookie, also grab a handful of nuts, some hummus, or a glass of milk. The same principle is at play when you have dessert as part of a meal—rather than eating sweets in isolation. In either case, portion size is the key to not only limiting your sugar rush but also avoiding feeling uncomfortably full.

Another tip!

Take a short stroll.

A recent study, published in the journal Sports Medicine, found that as little as 2 minutes of light walking every 20 minutes (over the course of several hours) reduced post-meal glucose and insulin levels—keeping blood sugar more steady. So taking a few laps around the kitchen and living room throughout the gathering could help offset damage done by those holiday treats.

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