Enjoy the holiday season and control food triggers

Do not let food triggers sabotage your holiday eating.

Tis the season for lights, shopping, family, friends and food. During this busy season, it is very easy to put our health aside while enjoying holiday parties, shopping, baking and the once a year specialty foods that are out in the stores. The holiday season from Thanksgiving to News Years last about six weeks which means having a plan that doesn’t sabotage your health is a good idea.

Making healthy choices is easier said than always done. Knowing why unhealthy choices are made is a key component of being able to make small changes towards healthier choices. One important factor to be conscious of is food triggers or cues that are present in your surroundings and can affect your behavior.

Food triggers or cues are related to events, situations, or even people that lead us to eat when we are not hungry. They can be positive and negative. When they happen repeatedly, they become a habit. An example of a negative food trigger is buying and eating popcorn at the movies even when you are not hungry for it. What triggers this decision? Maybe the smell of the popcorn, other people buying popcorn or that popcorn at the movies is an expectation.

Negative food triggers can lead us to overeat without even realizing it. For example, during the holidays, we look forward to those special foods that we may only eat during that time of year. These are powerful triggers that create a sense of deprivation if we don’t indulge during the short time that these special foods are available. If we react this way for any special occasion, we are creating unhealthy eating habits that will eventually impact our health.

What tactics can be used to beat these challenging and very tempting negative food triggers?

  • First, recognize what the triggers are and know that change does not happen overnight.
  • Become aware of the events and situations that have that strong influence on your eating.
  • At home, keep trigger foods out of the house.
  • Do not eat in front of the television.
  • Limit high-fat and high-calorie foods in the house.
  • Do not eat while cooking.
  • Use small plates or bowls when eating and serve small portions.
  • For work, avoid the public areas with high-fat and high-calorie foods.
  • Take a different route to work if you are tempted by the fast food restaurants.
  • Bring low-fat and low-calorie snacks to work.
  • When shopping for food, make a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Do not shop hungry.
  • Do not be a slave to coupons. Only use coupons for low-fat and low-calorie foods.

Make a plan for yourself. The holidays will always come at the same time every year so begin building positive lifestyle cues into your daily routine to make the holidays a little less challenging when it comes to making healthy choices. One important point to keep in mind is that you can still enjoy your favorite foods, just have a plan so that you don’t overeat and feel the quilt afterwards. By practicing these healthier choices, you will begin to create healthier habits. Remember that a habit is created over time and a habit is also changed or broken over time so be patient with yourself and don’t give in or give up.

For more information on healthy lifestyles, visit Michigan State University Extension.

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