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Mastering mindful eating: a recipe for a healthier holiday season

Expert tips to savor the festive flavors without the guilt

An african-american family makes a healthy meal together in the kitchenAs the holiday season approaches, the allure of delectable dishes and irresistible treats can often lead to unwanted pounds. However, with the right approach, it’s possible to savor the holidays without compromising your health. Dr. Philip Collins, a physician with Rowan-Virtua Family Medicine and diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, shares expert advice on mindful eating and offers valuable insights for enjoying the season while staying on track.

Nibble on Nutritious Pre-Party Snacks: One essential tip is to nibble on something healthy before attending a party. A baked potato, a salad, yogurt, or fruit can help curb your appetite, making it easier to resist the temptation of overindulging at the buffet.

Plate Size Matters: When piling your plate with holiday delights, remember the magic of moderation. Opt for a smaller salad plate instead of the larger dinner plate, which can lead to larger portions and overeating.

Seating Strategy: Position yourself deliberately at gatherings, choosing a seat across the room from the buffet table. Sitting down while you eat not only promotes mindful eating but also helps you resist the temptation to graze your way through the event.

Slow Down and Savor: Eating slowly is a practice of mindfulness. Your brain requires approximately 20 minutes to recognize that your stomach is full. Take your time to enjoy each bite, and you’re less likely to overeat.

Mindful Beverage Choices: Alcohol, a common indulgence during the holidays, is packed with empty calories. Opt for a glass of wine, a lower-calorie choice compared to beer or mixed drinks. Alternate alcoholic beverages with diet soda or water to manage calorie intake effectively.

Skip the Calorie Bombs: Keep an eye out for high-calorie desserts and dishes made with a surplus of eggs, such as soufflés, cakes, and custards. Explore healthier alternatives for your sweet cravings.

Stress Management and Health: While mindful eating plays a crucial role in maintaining your well-being, it’s equally important to manage stress, a common holiday-season nemesis. The holidays can indeed be stressful, as we strive to create perfect parties, serve perfect foods, and give perfect gifts. However, unchecked stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, including overindulging in delicious yet calorie-laden holiday fare.

Stay Active: Don’t abandon your exercise routine during the holidays. Maintaining your fitness regimen will not only help you manage your weight but also reduce stress, a common holiday burden.

Walk it Off: Parking your car a bit farther from your destination or choosing the far end of the parking lot can provide an excellent opportunity for physical activity. Brisk walking not only burns calories but also relieves stress.

Hydrate: Carry a bottle of water when shopping or attending holiday events. Staying hydrated can help control your appetite and discourage you from opting for high-calorie juices or sodas.

Walking Fitness: Before embarking on your shopping spree at the mall, take a brisk walk from one end to the other. This mini workout can help you stay active and burn calories.

Lift with Care: When you return home with your holiday purchases, consider carrying each package into the house separately. This added physical effort contributes to staying active.

No Skipping Meals: Skipping meals may lead to overeating later in the day. Stick to a regular eating schedule and enjoy healthy snacks like baked potatoes, salads, yogurt, or fruits to keep your energy levels up.

“With these mindful eating strategies, you can confidently navigate the holiday season, striking a balance between celebrating and maintaining your health,” said Dr. Collins. “This holiday season, remember that it’s easier to keep those extra pounds at bay now than to tackle a daunting January diet. Prioritizing your well-being during the holidays will ensure a healthier and more enjoyable celebration for everyone.”