The festive season is a time of celebration and that goes hand in hand with enjoying food, perhaps some foods that we save for that time of year. The same is true for ostomates. No matter what festivities you celebrate, during these times it may feel tricky to put into practice your knowledge of what foods you find easier to digest than others. You might have found that since your stoma surgery and possibly adapting your eating that you’re not as physically or mentally satisfied with food as you once were. Please know that this is understandable and you’re not alone.
Alongside our other guides, we’ve created this to help you get maximum enjoyment from your festive foods while looking after your health. We’ve included some helpful resources like two example Christmas Day menus that you may find useful.
Note: This advice doesn’t replace tailored diet advice from your healthcare professional.
Our Top Tips
- Choose foods that you genuinely love
- Foods that can be tougher to digest may be tolerated in smaller amounts
- You may want to pick only 1 or 2 of these foods to have in the day to not overwhelm your gut
- Try to have a third of each of your main meals as vegetables, and/or include a portion of fruit
- Chew your food well and take your time eating
- Have water regularly throughout the day, including a glass with each meal unless you’ve been advised otherwise
- Try some ‘mindful eating’ using our suggested steps
Feeling physically satisfied (fullness)
Fibre is found in foods like fruits, vegetables, wholegrain or ‘brown’ starchy carbohydrates, nuts, and seeds. Eating fibre helps our food to leave our stomach slower which means we feel fuller for longer. With a bowel stoma, you may have reduced how much fibre you eat to reduce how watery your stools are or how much you pass. Everyone has different tolerances – a good ratio to try is a third of your meal as vegetables e.g. roasted cauliflower heads and carrots alongside your meat (or plant-based protein) and roasted potatoes at a Christmas Day ‘roast dinner’.
Water can give our stomach a filling sensation and reduce hunger. For overall health, and to regulate hunger, it’s important to drink regularly throughout the day and some like to have a glass of water with a meal – depending on your specific needs, your medical team will have said if this is something that could trigger you to have more watery stoma losses. Unless you’ve been given a different target, aim to have 2L of water across the day e.g. half a pint every 2 hours.
Taking time to chew your food helps your gut to absorb what you eat. It may seem simple but it’s also highly effective for feeling more full from a meal or snack. Our fullness is triggered by how filled our stomach is and specific ‘fullness hormones’. Slowing your chewing prolongs the meal (and the enjoyment!) helping you feel fuller and for longer.
Feeling mentally satisfied with your eating
- Including foods you love
Since your stoma surgery, there might be some foods that you’ve found have become tougher to digest. When we restrict what we eat it’s natural that we may crave certain foods, this can make other foods seem less satisfying. A way to work around this can be to find similar foods or recipes or adapt those you already adore. An example is our bread and butter pudding recipe, it’s a must-try! We also created our Festive Food Guide with lots of suggestions for tweaks to traditional festive foods.
- Mindful eating
Have you ever eaten or drank something and wished it had lasted longer? A way to get more enjoyment from anything we eat and drink is using a technique called ‘Mindful Eating’. This helps us feel more pleasure when consuming something by actively engaging all our senses while eating and drinking.
A practical example of using mindful eating:
Before you start to eat or drink what’s in front of you
- Look at the different colours, shapes, sizes, and external textures
- Ask yourself what various smells there are, perhaps there are many, some are stronger than others, after a few moments some may become more noticeable
Have a medium-sized mouthful and before swallowing:
- Hear what sound it makes when you take a drink or put the food on the fork/spoon
- Listen to if there are different sounds when you start to move the food or drink around your mouth and what they are
- Taste the different flavours and what they are, perhaps it changes after a few moments or there are multiple flavours, notice what you like about the flavours
- Feel the different and changing textures in your mouth, what ingredient they’re coming from, and what parts you especially enjoy
Please allow yourself to experience all the sensations and any emotions that come from paying attention to the look, smell, sound, taste, and texture from what you’re having. It might be more powerful than you thought.
These are example menus to give some ideas of what you may like to eat over a typical Christmas Day. Please know that you don’t have to eat these exact amounts or choose these specific foods, you can adapt them to what you prefer. We haven’t included drinks although try to drink about 2L of water across the day or the amount your medical team has specifically advised for you.
Example menu for Christmas Day Celebrations
Breakfast: A bagel (wholemeal if you can manage it) with smoked salmon, cream cheese and a side plate of sliced melon
Snack (if having a late lunch): 2-3 oatcakes with nut butter and slices of banana, you can sprinkle it with a little nutmeg and ginger to add a festive flavour
Lunch: Starter of spiced parsnip and ham soup
A roast dinner with all the trimmings e.g. your meat or protein food of choice, our broccoli gratin, roasted potatoes, a Yorkshire pudding, gravy, and smooth cranberry sauce.
For dessert, a slice of Yule Log
Dinner or large snack: A sandwich made with leftover meat from lunch and a couple of spoonful’s of smooth bubble and squeak
Pudding (if you’d like): A portion of our panna cotta recipe that can be found in the Ostomates Kitchen Recipe Guide.
Example vegan menu for Christmas Day Celebrations
Breakfast: Vegan pancakes with vegan yogurt, grated apple, and sprinkled with cinnamon for festive flavour.
Snack (if having a late lunch): Vegan cheese melted on a slice of toast, cut into strips, dipped into apple sauce
Lunch: Our Maple-glazed Tofu, roasted parsnips, swede, potatoes, vegan Yorkshire pudding, gravy, and cranberry sauce
For dessert, vegan sticky toffee pudding
Dinner: Leftover Christmas dinner
Pudding (if you’d like): Vegan chocolate pudding
For extra nutrition advice, you may find our nutrition guide and recipes helpful. https://www.fittleworth.com/ostomates-kitchen/
Our many nutrition articles are written in collaboration with Registered Dietitian Laura Coster
If you’d like tailored advice, your hospital team can likely refer you to their specialist dietitian. You can also self-refer to a private practice dietitian on the Freelance Dietitians website. https://freelancedietitians.org/
Laura Coster is a Registered Dietitian who is passionate about helping people feel confident in managing their health and find joy through what they eat.