Mindful Eating for the Holidays

It's the most wonderful time of the year - especially if you love good food. During the next few weeks, everywhere you turn, there will be sweet treats, gift baskets, holiday meals, party fare, special beverages and more. What's a health-aware, nutrition-first person to do to enjoy it all without coming out pounds heavier (and cholesterol higher) in January?

Take a few tips from registered dietitian nutritionists who talk about Mindful Eating as a way to fully appreciate the foods of the season, while practicing moderation and restraint.

The most important concept in Mindful Eating is reflection. This means stopping before sitting down to a meal or going to a party and thinking, just a moment, about how you really feel. Are you hungry? Are you tired? Stressed? Rushed? Excited and happy? Anxious about having to talk to people you don't know? Just be aware and think about how that feeling may affect your food choices. This simple recognition is so important.

Another tip: Make it a point to sit down when you eat. It's hard to always do that if you're at a large party where people are mingling, but it's a good way to avoid constant nibbling that comes from hovering too near buffet lines or dessert displays.

Other ideas from RDNs:

-- Never go to a party hungry. Eat an apple or some cheese and crackers first so that you don't arrive on an empty stomach.

-- If you're in a buffet line, pick up the smallest plates available, usually the dessert or salad plates. It's better to go back for seconds if you want to try something else than to overfill a plate the first time through.

-- Make a deal with yourself: dessert OR alcohol, but not both! If you choose to have a lovely holiday cocktail, skip the sweet course. Or, if you're looking forward to your favorite pie for dessert, forego (or really limit) the wine with dinner.

-- Do you receive lots of gifts of food - boxes of candy, plates of cookies, gift baskets? Pull out a small amount to serve or enjoy right away and freeze the rest.

Finally, think in terms of "calories consumed in a day" or even "calories consumed over a couple of days," rather than scrutinizing each dish and each meal. If you know you'll be attending the big office holiday lunch, finish the day with a light supper salad or soup instead of dinner. If you have a big family weekend coming up, with lots of cooking and everyone's favorite dishes, make a conscious effort a few days before and after to eat light.

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