Mindful eating during the holidays

Try eating mindfully this holiday season.

The holidays are upon us and this is the time of year when we find our calendars full of gatherings with family and friends centered around food. This time of year most people find it difficult to keep portion size in check as eating becomes mindless as our forks morph into shovels. We look forward to these times as a food free-for-all because this-is–a- holiday!

We should be free to enjoy ourselves during the holidays but how are we going to feel after the holidays are over? How hard will it be to lose the weight we have gained during this time of everlasting feast?  Are there ways of making it possible to not gain weight or gain very little?

Large portions are so common throughout the holiday season that I have numerous photos of my kids showing how much food they consumed during holiday meals; gluttony at its best. Holiday meals are and there are ways of making these meals a time to come together and share quality time with the people who care about, without replacing your fork with a shovel.  

Here are some ideas for mindful eating from The American Heart Association to keep weight gain to a minimum:

  • Control portions: this is a time to watch your portions because you shouldn’t deprive yourself of foods you want to eat, just remember to eat smaller portions.  With everyone bringing their favorite foods to parties and get-togethers, there will be more opportunity for tempting palate foods, just pay attention to how much you are putting on your plate.
  • Eat when you’re hungry: with all the leftovers screaming to you from your refrigerator, it is easy to tell yourself you are hungry when you are not. On a scale from 1 – 10, 1, being so hungry you are feeling dizzy to 10, being so stuffed you feel sick. Try to remember to eat when you are at about a 3 where you are feeling hungry, but not so hungry that you overeat.
  • Plan: bring healthy snacks with you to have throughout the day to ward off starving hunger so you don’t eat way more than you anticipated.  Bringing healthy snacks full of fiber can help keep you full longer and can help keep your food choices healthy.  Planning ahead helps your health all the way around.
  • Slow down: take the time to taste each bite, put your fork down in between each bite, and try to drink water in-between bites to fill you up. This also gives your brain enough time to get the signal you are getting full and satisfied with the food you have consumed.
  • Pay attention: don’t let the TV, computer, or any screen suck you in so you are not aware of what you are eating. It’s too easy to lose track of how much you’re eating when you’re paying attention and engrossed in something else. 
  • Use technology to help: there are some great apps to help us keep track of our food intake and to figure out the amount of calories in our favorite recipes. It’s easier to control portions when you see how many calories there are in each dish. Some of these apps can provide guidance for healthy food choices at the grocery store and restaurants.
  • Keep a food diary: this strategy has been used to help control portion sizes and have people be more mindful of the food they consume by writing everything you ate in a food diary. Food diaries help make adjustments when eating has become more about being stressed or bored that actually being hungry. Most people who start keeping food diaries are surprised by how much they have eaten.

It’s important to enjoy your time with family and friends during the holiday season and it is possible to be mindful of the kinds of food and the amount of food you eat. Michigan State University Extension has many programs to help make it possible to teach healthy lifestyle changes for the long haul.  

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