Gut Friendly Foods for the Holidays

by Robin Thomas


The sweet smell of a hundred baked treats, candies that melt in your mouth, and of course, all the chocolate! I love the flavors of the holidays. Sadly, although I love them so much, too much of these comfort foods upset my gut balance, and therefore my ability to stay on top of my game, healthy and full of energy. 

Still, there are plenty of ways to make your holiday meals more microbiome friendly. Check out these tips, foods, and recipes to help you balance your belly through this hectic time of year.

Basic Tips to Balance Your Belly

A lot goes into keeping your microbiome balanced, but here are four simple steps that can get you started.

• Remove: Cut out foods that contain toxins, hormones, chemicals, processed sugars, or additives. They may cause an imbalance in your gut bacteria.

• Repair: Eat plenty of foods that contain prebiotic fiber or take supplements. This helps support your current microbiome as is.

• Replace: Eat certain herbs, spices, and supplements that can replace stomach acid and digestive enzymes.

• Reinoculate: Repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria by eating probiotic- and prebiotic-rich foods.

The key is to make sure you’re supplementing your microbiome with plenty of probiotics and then supporting those probiotics with prebiotic fiber.

Probiotic Rich and Prebiotics Aplenty

Probiotics and prebiotics are everywhere, you just need to know where to look.

Asparagus, jicama, apples, broccoli, beans, and whole grains are all loaded with fiber and prebiotics to help support the good bacteria already in your gut. Bananas, onions, garlic, flaxseed, and seaweed also aid gut microbiome health. Many of these foods are also rich in inulin—a class of dietary fiber linked to overall digestive health.

For probiotic-rich foods, look for vegetables or dairy that have been through some kind of fermentation process. Foods like pickles, miso, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir are bursting with healthy probiotics that can help your gut microbiome flourish. Still, pickles contain a lot of salt, so eat them sparingly. And make sure to eat sugar-free yogurt.

Cayenne pepper, ginger, cinnamon, oregano, and turmeric can also keep your belly balanced. These, and many other herbs or spices, can encourage your body’s natural process of creating digestive enzymes.

Making the Meal

Now you know what foods are good for your microbiome, but we still need to put them into delicious dishes worthy of any holiday feast. Here are some great recipes that use probiotic- and prebiotic-rich foods. Try whipping them up tonight or use them as inspiration to create your own gut-friendly recipes this season.

Cabbage, Beet, Apple and Ginger Slaw

With its brightly coloured and crunchy veggies, this salad is great for stimulating digestion through our eyes, nose, and taste buds. A little bit of a crunchy raw salad such as this at the beginning of a meal can help turn on your digestive juices with the physical action of chewing as well. And it tastes pretty fantastic!

Garlic Roasted Salmon & Brussels Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts are a great source of prebiotic fiber to help nourish your microbiome. And the added salmon will give you a boost of omega-3 fatty acids.

Ginger Turmeric Aromatic Rice

Turmeric has been shown to help healthy digestion and produce digestive enzymes. Turmeric also eases digestive discomfort, and boosts your immune system. Full of antioxidants, turmeric helps cleanse and heal your liver.

Superfood Vegan Dark Chocolate Truffle Recipe

Gotta have chocolate, right? This recipe uses all natural ingredients, and dark chocolate is extremely high in antioxidant power and very low in sugar. It’s the perfect special treat that’s also perfectly good for you.

Links to recipes:

Robin Thomas worked for 25 years in Medical Research at UNC studying inflammation in chronic and autoimmune diseases. She left UNC to start her own Wellness Business in 2004 and founded Living Well Connections, a community for people whose passion is healthy living, in 2015. Learn more at