If you’re like most people, then healthy holiday eating seems like an oxymoron. With so many get togethers, parties, and tons of unhealthy food around, is it even possible? In this post, I’ll provide 7 healthy holiday eating tips that you can easily implement starting today. Events don’t have to derail you from making healthy choices. Believe it or not, you can use mindfulness as a tool for healthy holiday eating.
Mindful eating practices
While mindful eating is a simple idea, it’s not always easy to put into practice. In short, mindful eating is all about bringing more awareness to your experience of eating. You remain in the present moment and bring your mind back to what you’re doing, eating, when it wanders. That’s it. You can learn more about it in another post I wrote on the specifics of how to practice mindful eating. Let’s talk more about how to apply these mindful eating practices during the holidays.
Most people don’t bring healthy food to a party. There might be exceptions, but count on unhealthy options at the table. In this case, you can be the one who brings mindful eats. Something that you eat may be enjoyed by others too. It could be something you make, or store bought. For instance, I’ve brought mixed fruit to parties and I’m not the only one who eats it. Make sure to have enough in case it’s something that others will enjoy too. The last thing you want is for everyone else to gobble up your healthy contribution, but to not have any for yourself when it’s the only healthy option.
Holidays shouldn’t leave you in a holidaze. They can be overwhelming with high expectations. Sometimes the best strategy is to eat before a party or event. You don’t have to eat a full meal, but you can have a mindful snack. This not only means planning out what you’re going to have, but also means conscious eating. Think about how conscious you are of not only what you’re eating, but how you’re eating it. Take the time to appreciate the food through all your senses. Practicing conscious eating outside of events will help you make it into a habit.
Other healthy holiday eating tips
Can you eat unhealthy foods mindfully? You sure can! While you may not see any point to doing this, it has many advantages. For one, it can help you to not overdo it. Eating less of an unhealthy food is better than having more of it. This helps to give you a better sense of control. When you feel more in control, you’re more likely to be positive or optimistic and to get back on track sooner. Feeling like you’ve screwed up can get you down. It can easily lead to you getting even further off track. You can get caught in a vicious cycle that’s hard to get out of until much damage has already been done. Work on avoiding it in the first place.
Sit down and shut up
Other mindful eating practices include eating while sitting down. You may wonder why this is important. Have you ever heard the phrase: you are what you eat? On a literal level it means that the cells of your body get built by the foods you eat. That pizza or those vegetables become the material of your cells! But let’s take this a step further. I would add that you are what you absorb (from what you eat). To help absorb the most from your food, it’s best that you’re in a relaxed state. You’re relaxed while seated compared to standing up. Additionally, sitting down also helps you to not eat as quickly. Studies show that slower eating can reduce your appetite and increase feelings of fullness.
If possible, try not to talk while you’re eating. I know, this isn’t always practical in a social situation. This is probably easier for introverts. The advantage of not speaking is that you’re more conscious of your eating. You will notice how food makes you feel and have a more intimate connection with it. On the other hand, if you do talk while you’re eating, it can help slow down your eating. You have to take more pauses between eating in order to speak, so this can work in your favor if you approach it mindfully. The point is that you can take any situation that revolves around food and find a way to engage in mindful eating practices.
Order of operations
Think back to math class for a moment. When faced with a problem that involved multiplication, division, addition and subtraction, there was an order of operations. You always multiplied before you subtracted, for example. Think about how to eat mindfully in the same way. In this case, the order of operations is that you eat vegetables and proteins first. That does 2 things. Vegetables are usually healthier alternatives (depending on how they’re prepared and any dressings that might come with them). Studies also show that proteins are the most filling of the 3 macronutrients (fats & carbs being the others). They will help you feel fuller with less food. This is no different than eating dessert after (and not before) a meal. Better to have less room for dessert than for the meal.
After many parties, there are leftovers. You’ve probably been encouraged to bring home leftovers after a party. Sometimes the party host even has containers to make this easier. This can be a lot of pressure to take home something you’d rather not keep in the house.
When there are unhealthy options, it’s best to leave leftovers at the party. You don’t have to be rude by not taking anything home with you. Thank the host for their offer but politely decline. You can say your fridge is full. Or that you’re watching what you eat. There’s no need to offer an explanation. If you feel weird not giving one, then have one handy that feels okay and rehearse it in your head. It’s okay if it’s not 100% accurate. With time, you will get more comfortable with it. Remember, it is your body. The last thing you want is to bring home temptations that you don’t need.
Even more holiday eating tips
Have you ever heard the expression: “your eyes are bigger than your stomach?” This means that you think you can eat more than you can comfortably fit into your stomach. It tends to happen at buffets where there’s no limit to what you can put on your plate. You feel stuffed afterwards, wishing you didn’t eat as much as you did.
One tip to keep you from eating as much is to use a smaller plate. Studies show that halving the size of the plate you eat from leads to about 30% reductions in the amount of food you consume. Reducing plate diameter by 30% effectively reduces the surface area of the plate by half. Now you don’t need to bring measuring tape or work on complex equations to achieve this. The point is to use a smaller plate. When that’s not possible, consider leaving a buffer around the edges instead of filling it up completely.
Now you have 7 mindful eating practices to help promote healthy holiday eating. You can apply one, some, or all as needed.
As we get into the holiday season, how can you eat more mindfully using these holiday eating tips? Please tell us in the comments…