The holidays are here and 3-course menus are calling…
It’s December and you probably find that your calendar is filling up quickly with gatherings with both family and friends. Whether you are celebrating the holiday season at a restaurant, at a house party, or simply at home, food plays an integral part of most social occasions. While there will be a lot of eating involved, you do not need to worry too much about sacrificing your health, because there are lots of simple tips to keep you in check. Below are some strategies to guide you towards a mindful holiday season, filled with food that gives you energy.
Tip #1: Plan ahead
Whether or not you have a holiday party to attend, it is always a good idea to have breakfast in the morning as it sets the tone of your appetite for the day. In between your meals, enjoy a healthy snack, such as fruit with a cup of yogurt, or low fat cheese with whole grain crackers. Having a light snack in between your meals helps with warding off hunger and avoiding overeating. If you know you will be out for the day, bring a snack with you in case you get hungry while you are on the road. Planning ahead is key to making wiser and healthier choices.
Tip #2: Bounce between preference and portion size
When it comes to portion control, having a game plan during the party is as important as planning your snacks beforehand. Before you dive into the abundance of food, take a look at the choices. If the appetisers appeal to you, have a lighter meal later on instead. On the other hand, if you plan to have a fuller meal, then go easy on the appetisers. If you have a sweet tooth, you can still enjoy your treat to satisfy your craving, but a smaller portion is recommended to avoid overindulging (especially if it’s your 5th Christmas dinner so far…).
When you make a conscious effort to control your portions, you will be less tempted to get second or even third helpings of certain foods. Before you reach for your seconds or thirds, ask yourself, am I starving, hungry, or simply wanting to satisfy my palette?
How much you eat, rather than what you eat, often leads to weight gain. Therefore, practicing mindful eating is one way to eat in moderation. One practical solution is to use a smaller plate. When you eat with a smaller plate, you will only be filling the plate with the food that you need. You may still be tempted to get seconds, but you will be able to make a better judgement based on what you have already eaten.
Tip #3: Savour every bite
In addition to watching your portions, mindful eating also involves how fast you chow down your food. If you are glued to your phone while eating, you may not be focused on what and how much you are eating. Distractions often leads to overeating, which consequently can cause unnecessary weight gain.
Did you know? Our brains require at least 20-minutes to register the feeling of fullness. So eating slowly by savouring every bite will help controlling your appetite. Appreciate each flavour and sensation, and enjoy the conversations around the dining table. The chatter and laughter can help with pacing your food intake. Drinking water in between your bites also helps to fill you up and to control your portions.
Tip #4: Go easy on the alcohol
Having a drink or two to celebrate the festive season is inevitable, so practicing mindful drinking is as imperative as practicing mindful eating, especially when calories add up quickly with alcoholic beverages. Pacing yourself in between drinks by having non-alcoholic beverages such as water, soda water and spritzers can help to prevent overindulgence. As a general rule of thumb, the recommended number of drinks for women is no more than two standard drinks on most days of the week and no more than ten drinks per week. For men it is no more than three standard drinks on most days of the week and no more than fifteen drinks per week. One standard drink is defined as one 12 fluid ounce bottle of 5% beer or wine cooler, one 5 fluid ounce of 12% wine, or one mixed drink with 1.5 fluid ounce of 40% hard liquor such as gin, rum, vodka, rye whiskey, scotch and brandy.
Tip #5: Don’t forget to exercise
Feeling sluggish after all that indulgence? Include exercise as part of your daily routine. If you are not already doing so, engaging in regular physical activity helps with lifting your spirits and making you healthier in the long run. Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week, which you can easily divide into segments of 30 minutes of exercise for five days of the week. You don’t necessarily have to make a trip to the gym; there are plenty of exercises that you can do in the comfort of your home, from push ups to sit ups, from squats to lifting weights, and from pilates to yoga.
Tip #6: Start a food diary
To avoid overeating, you can also consider keeping a food diary to track everything you eat. This is a handy tool especially when you are going through a range of emotions, such as stress and boredom, and are tempted to eat. By getting into the habit of recording everything you eat, you become aware of the state of your mind at the time of eating and how much you are consuming. There are plenty of smartphone food diary apps that you can use. MyFitnessPal actually breaks down ingredients so you can make sure you’re still getting enough protein. Remember, it’s not about eating less, it’s about eating better.
The Bottom Line
All festive food and beverages can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. Being aware of what and how much you eat and drink can help with making wise food and beverage choices. Forget about putting weight loss as part of your new year’s resolution; start practicing mindful eating today for a merrier and healthier holiday season!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2017, and was updated in December 2019.