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Mindful Eating During The Holidays

Holidays can be a very busy time filled with events and social gathering where an assortment of foods and drinks are served. Often times it can feel like we are surrounded by food rules, and labeling food as "good and bad" which can sometimes leave us feeling either restricted or feeling guilty. Ideally, holidays are filled with joy and laughter not shame, guilt and denying ourselves foods we deem 'bad'. Here are some tips to help enjoy our food in a mindful way and tackle the sense of guilt and shame that comes with eating what we perceive as too much or the wrong foods.

What is mindful eating anyways?

According to Vinci Tsui, mindful eating is:

  • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.

  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.

  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment.

  • Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.

This practice can help you more fully enjoy a meal and the eating experience which has a profound benefit in improving eating habits.

Tips for mindful eating:

1. Stock up on nutrient rich snacks  

Stocking up your pantry and fridge with nutrient rich snacks such as cut up vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, yogurt, whole grain cracker or granola bars will help ensure you are nourishing your body. This will help you stay feeling satisfied and energized which in turn can help to curb cravings and the need to overindulge.

Some easy snack ideas:

  • Trail mix

  • Apples and/or banana with peanut butter

  • fruit and vegetable infused smoothies

  • Yogurt with granola and frozen fruit

  • Homemade pumpkin muffins

2.  Avoid skipping meals or saving calories

Many people intentionally skip meals or snacks in order to 'save' calories for holiday meals and treats. It is important to honor your biological hunger and have balanced meals during the day. This will help ensure nutrient needs are met reduce the likelihood of overeating as a result of restricting.

Breakfast ideas:

  • Yogurt, fruit and granola

  • Oatmeal, frozen blueberries and chopped walnuts or almonds

Lunch ideas:

  • Salad with a protein like leftover turkey, roasted chickpeas and a whole grain dinner bun

  • Hearty soups infused with beans, vegetables, whole grain rice or barley

3. Create holiday traditions that don't involve a bunch of food

Holiday traditions and activities can often involve a lot of food. Try to come up with some fun and exciting traditions that don't revolve around food such as attending different events like a sleigh rides, playing games, watching classic or new holiday movies or tobogganing.

4. Start with smaller portions

There's likely to be a bunch of appealing options and starting your plate with small portions of what you want. This will help avoid the potential to overeat or the guilt that some have with not cleaning their plates. Then if you are still hungry you can always go back for more.

5. Eat what you love and leave what you don't

Before filling up on food take a look at the options and decide what you think you'd enjoy or really want to try. Try not to make your decision based on calories or labelling options as good or bad. Choose what you feel most excited about and leave the rest behind. The more satisfied you feel with your choices the less likely you will be left looking for something else.

6. Listen for fullness

Listen for cues of fullness and don't feel the pressure to clean the whole plate or go for seconds if others are pressuring you to do so. You can always pack up leftovers to snack on later or have as a meal the next day. Avoiding food waste by over consuming is not benefiting anyone.

7. Bring along dishes that are nutritious

Sometimes it can be hard to find a snack or dish that leaves you feeling nourished. Offering to bring something healthy along will ensure that there will be a nutritious option.  Homemade dips such as hummus or layered bean dips with wholegrain crackers and cut up vegetables can be a nice and easy addition to a party.

8. Finding ways to destress without food

Holidays can be a stressful time that can contribute to emotional eating, and although the holidays are about spending time with family and friends, we still need to make time for ourselves! Try finding time for self care that doesn't involve just food such as reading a book with a hot tea, listening to some relaxing music, taking a bubble bath with some scented candles, bundling up and going for a walk, building a puzzle or knitting a scarf.

9. Have a good time

Don't worry about the extra treat or two, it's the holidays and you should be enjoying yourself while staying mindful and giving yourself some grace.