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With many celebrations, family gatherings, travel and delicious not-so-healthy food around you, the holiday season is extra challenging for healthy eating and portion control. So, it is no surprise that the average American gains 1 to 5 pounds over the holiday season and usually keeps it.

However, allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite foods is also healthy and a part of mindful eating. Therefore, instead of restraining yourself, practice these five tips for mindful eating during the holiday season:

1. Find Balance by incorporating Food Swaps

An easy way to enjoy your holiday favorites without compromising your well-being is to swap some ingredients or find creative ways to reimagine a holiday recipe. Let’s say you want to enjoy a warm pie, choose pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie! Pumpkin pie averages 300 calories per slice while pecan pie packs in about 500 calories. Plus, since pumpkin is the star ingredient, it is higher in vitamin A which is important for eye health. By choosing the healthier alternative you can still enjoy a sweet dessert while getting vitamins as well.

Here are some other quick swap ideas:

  • Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, mayo or heavy cream.
  • Oat milk eggnog instead of whole milk or heavy cream eggnog.
  • Cauliflower mash instead of mashed potatoes.
  • Veggie-based stuffing instead of bread stuffing.

2. Fit in Your Favorites

According to the CDC, incorporating your favorite food into your eating plan is a small but effective step you can take to maintain your normal healthy eating habits after the holidays. There are dishes you really love and can’t get any other time of year, so make a good choice and pick a few you could just not live without. Just be mindful, slow down and savor a small serving - enjoy it!

3. Take a Break Before Second Servings

An article by Harvard Health Publishing states that it takes a few minutes for the brain to receive the “I’m full signal” from the stomach. That is why it is recommended to take at least 10 minutes before getting a second round of food to really know if you are still hungry. You might realize you are full or want only a small portion of seconds.

4. Don’t Skip Meals

Often people think that if they are going to indulge in a big meal for dinner, they should skip breakfast or lunch to “save calories”, but this could actually trigger mindless eating and overeating.

Instead, choose to eat a more balanced breakfast or lunch to continue to have the healthy habits you have practiced throughout the year.

5. Be Kind to Yourself

Although mindful eating can be a helpful tool during the holiday season and throughout life, you will not always be able to practice it 100 percent of the time — and it’s okay! This season is all about gratitude and kindness, so try to apply this to yourself too. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re eating that dessert that a loved one made. If you feel like you indulge a little too much, it is okay. Get back to healthy eating for your next meal.

We hope you enjoy this holiday season with your loved ones and everything that comes with it!

Posted on December 18, 2023