How does one partake of a holiday meal and still feel good?

It's one of the ironies of the holiday season that a rich meal — maybe one of your favourites of the whole year — can leave you feeling mighty poor.

An unsettling meal can lead to nausea, abdominal pain and even symptoms such as fatigue and sadness. Conditions such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease also pose their own unique challenges.

“We all love holiday food, but we can't let the buffet get the best of us,” says Charlene Prather, a professor of gastroenterology at Saint Louis University. “It's better to enjoy a few delicious dishes that agree with you. Then, you'll truly enjoy other special parts of the season.”

A buffet, in fact, can spell a special kind of trouble at holiday time. “We don't want to take too long choosing our food and hold up the line of people waiting behind us. We don't want to hurt the chef's feelings, and we may not realise how large our portions are because the food is served in such large quantities,” says Prather.

“But for those who have food problems, it's worth it to ask what ingredients are in a dish and take our time choosing what we'll eat.”

If you have celiac disease or another kind of gluten-intolerance condition, Prather recommends that you stay away from wheat, rye and barley. Gluten-free bread is an alternative, as are potatoes, rice and soy.

She has other suggestions too: If you're worried about indigestion and an upset stomach, watch out for fat and booze. Casseroles with lots of mayonnaise and butter-filled desserts can cause symptoms; so, look for dishes with grains, fruits and vegetables, instead.

If you have lactose intolerance, you should, of course, avoid dairy products such as milk (except soy milk) and cheese (except for harder cheeses such as Swiss and cheddar, which may be softer on your stomach). Also beware of ice cream and cheesecake.

Whatever your limitations, try to find foods that will keep your stomach happy while pleasing your taste buds, too.