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Diet Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays

Holidays can be a stressful time of year for many people. Additional things to do in a given time can mean that aspects of the daily diet and routine that are crucial for good health sometimes take a back seat. Yet it is a time of year when it is important to stay balanced in both mind and body.

Here in the United States, temperatures are quite low almost everywhere, and colds, the flu and various other kinds of bugs and viruses abound. Crowded malls, traffic jams and delays, and a general air of impatience characterize urban environments. It is a time of year when loneliness and other emotional imbalances can disturb one's equanimity more than at other times of the year.

Here are some suggestions for a smooth and healthy holiday season from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians:

One of the main reasons people tend to get colds and the flu easily during this time of the year is because the digestive power or agni can be weakened by cold temperatures. Weakened agni leads to undigested food or ama in the physiology, which then weakens the immune system and creates a fertile environment for viruses and bacteria to attack. By paying extra attention to keeping the agni strong, it is possible to reduce or avoid the accumulation of toxins, and thereby avoid illness the entire season or throw off any bugs more easily and quickly.

Maharishi Ayurveda offers a range of targeted nutritional supplements to enhance the digestive fire, boost natural immunity and restore balance to the physiology. Flu Season Defense and Sniffle Free herbal tablets help to burn off ama and keep agni strong. Protection Plus - Sinuses helps clear the channels in the sinus area and maintain fluid balance. Bio Immune and Protection Plus - Respiratory System help enhance natural immunity in the entire body and the respiratory area respectively. The Sniffle Free Aroma oil blend also helps stimulate agni and helps to clean and purify the environment.

Wear clothing appropriate to the environment and avoid extreme temperatures. Make sure to cover your head with a wool cap if you go outside when it is cold or windy. Keeping your head covered and protected helps to keep Vata, which tends to go out of balance during the winter, in balance.

Taking Amrit, both Nectar and Ambrosia, is an excellent way to boost the body's natural defenses and the immune system. Many of our customers report enhanced immunity, elevated energy levels, and a deeper quality of rest when they take Amrit on a regular basis.

Planning ahead of time, shopping during the week instead of on the more crowded weekends, shopping mail-order or on the internet well in advance, and distributing holiday tasks among all members of the family can help avoid holiday frenzy. Frenetic rushing from one activity to another, so common in our society, is one of the main factors that destroy ojas, the finest by-product of digestion that sustains life itself, and is responsible for bliss, vitality, and immunity.

Take the time to be with friends and family in a pleasant, relaxed environment. Avoid taking on too many activities and projects-choose just a few that you think are most important, and let go of others. Find the time to practice the TM® program twice a day to keep your sense of balance. Make sure you set aside time for meals, your daily massage and some exercise. Go to bed before 10 p.m. and wake up early each day.

Dietary Tips for the Holiday Season:

  • Avoid eating heavy meals in the evening when agni is naturally weaker. Try to plan your holiday dinner for lunch or the late afternoon, and stick to light nutritious foods such as vegetable soups in the evening.
  • Eat fresh ginger slices with a dab of salt and lemon juice just before a big meal, or have some ginger, which helps stimulate the digestive fire.
  • Add plenty of fresh ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel, and turmeric to your traditional family recipes. Spices help the process of digestion and add many of the six ayurvedic tastes to each meal.
  • Avoid cold drinks. Ice-cold beverages retard digestion.
  • Minimize the intake of alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Drink herbal teas or Raja's Cup instead.
  • Sip plenty of warm water through the day to help cleanse the body.
  • Try to avoid eating leftovers, which are more difficult to digest.
  • Savor each meal. Sit down to eat, and take a few minutes to sit quietly after the meal.

Enjoy some of the following healthy holiday recipes:

Stuffed Butternut Squash (Main Dish)

  • 4 butternut squash
  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cups wild rice, rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon hing (asafetida)
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 2 tbls. ghee or olive oil
  • 3 cups paneer, cut into small cubesz
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 tbls. sesame seeds
  • 1 cup Organic Almond Butter
  • 1/4 cup soaked currants
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  1. Halve each squash, scoop out and discard seeds and fibers. Place cut squash face up in a shallow baking dish. Cover and bake until easily pierced with a knife but still firm, about 50 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in wild rice and cook about 40 minutes. Set aside. Cook basmati rice separately. Set aside.
  3. Scoop out pulp from squash, leaving 1/2 inch thick shells. Set shells aside.
  4. Chop pulp and place in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Mix almond butter with 1 1/2 cups of warm water to make a thick gravy.
  6. Sauté garlic, seasme seeds, paneer and hing about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir cooked rice, paneer mixture, gravy and remaining ingredients with the squash and spoon the mixture into the squash shells. Place in a foil lined baking dish. Cover and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

Serves 8

Curried Sweet Potato Cakes (in place of candied yams)

  • 4 sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled
  • 2 Tbls. grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons Vata Churna
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 Tbls. wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • Ghee for frying
  1. Cut sweet potatoes into chunks and place in a food processor or blender with other ingredients and blend until smooth.
  2. Form into patties and place in an oiled skillet. Fry on both sides until crispy. Serve with fresh plain yogurt and Ginger Preserve.

Suggestions for lighter foods to serve with the heavier foods above:

  • Sautéed Kale
  • Steamed Green Beans with gravy sauce
  • Broiled baby potatoes with ground black pepper
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Biscuits

Fruit Compote (Dessert)

  • 1 lb. whole apricots or frozen peach slices (thawed)
  • 1 lb. pitted Bing cherries, fresh or frozen, not canned (thawed)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 Tbls. Rose Petal Preserve
  • 1 Tbls. grated orange rind
  • 2 navel oranges, sliced and peeled/li>
  • 1 ripe banana, sliced
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup orange juice

Add spices, and the lemon and orange rinds, to the orange juice. Bring to a boil and then cook about 5 minutes. Strain out seeds and add spiced orange juice to fruit. Bring all ingredients to a boil, except the honey and the banana. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow temperature to cool to slightly warm. Add honey and bananas. Serve warm.

6 servings

To make fresh paneer at home: Bring whole milk to a boil, being careful not to burn it. Add fresh lemon juice and stir. Keep adding more lemon juice and stirring until the milk solids separate and a faintly cloudy, not milky, whey forms. Strain the whey through a muslin cloth. Squeeze the cloth to draw out all liquid and place the paneer (in the cloth) under a heavy weight for a few hours. When the cloth is then opened, a chunky brick of paneer should be formed. Dice into cubes for use, or crumble, as for this recipe. Paneer is also available at Indian food stores.

These articles provide a great resource from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians on the knowledge, practices, products, and applications of Maharishi Ayurveda.

The sole purpose of these newsletters is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area.