Celebrate Mindful Eating During the Holidays

By Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN

The holiday season is in full swing! This is such a joyous time, but along with the joy comes stress, expectations, and anxiety over nutrition choices. No need to stress though. You can handle this time of year with grace and ease if you have the right tools in your toolbox. Holiday parties, sweet treats, a plethora of cocktails, family meals, and stress are no match for you!

How can you survive all of this, enjoy your favorite foods and traditions, and still keep your sanity and health in balance? It’s all about taking a more mindful nutrition approach that focuses on self-care rather than punishment.

Read on for ten top nutrition tips on how you can celebrate mindful eating during the holidays in order to enjoy them with peace, grace, and self-care.

1. Be Consistent in Your Eating Habits

The holidays are not the time to significantly alter your eating habits. Don’t skip meals in hopes of saving up the calories for the big dinner. Eat consistently and mindfully. Make sure to enjoy healthy, balanced meals with foods from all food groups.

2. Don’t Overly Restrict

Healthy eating patterns come from being less restrictive and enjoying all food groups. All foods fit. Choose healthy portions—you can enjoy larger portions of healthy foods while still being able to enjoy smaller portions of the treats you love. This beats strict diets and banning entire food groups. Eat veggies at meals to help combat the effects of stress.

3. Combat Stress with Nutrition

Movement, gratitude, and eating your veggies are key in helping manage stress. Vital nutrients like vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins can be depleted when the body undergoes even minor stress encountered on a daily basis. Getting daily exercise and movement, incorporating more vegetables into your diet—even just one or two servings per meal, and practicing gratitude are some things that can be done to help alleviate stress.

4. Snack Before Parties

Here’s a simple trick to keep yourself from overindulging. Stay mindful of hunger and have a small snack before going to holiday parties like a yogurt or an apple with peanut butter. Also, try to slow down eating and enjoy each bite. Allow yourself to have a small portion of a sweet holiday favorite.

5. Get Your Blood Pumping

Let’s not forget how important movement is. Health is not only about nutrition. Physical activity or fitness is another aspect of health. Enjoy the food, festivities, and people that come with the holidays, but also stay active with whatever gets your blood pumping. Exercise is also good for your mind and helps to relieve stress and anxiety.

6. Keep the Water Flowing

Water helps combat fatigue. Stay hydrated instead of caffeinated. Grab water when you’d usually go for more coffee or soda.

7. Go Easy On The Alcohol

Too much alcohol puts unnecessary stress on the body. Imbibe mindfully at the holidays to stay healthy this winter. Not only does alcohol depress the immune system, but winter cocktails can be packed with sugar and fat. The good news is that there are some lighter options. Guidelines state that men should limit alcohol intake to 2 servings per day and women should limit to 1 per day, which can be a challenge during holiday party season. Enjoy a cocktail if you want to and then switch to soda water with a beautiful holiday garnish.

8. Enjoy Doing You

Unpleasant changes can be unsustainable. Find enjoyment in some health-related behaviors, such as consuming nutritious foods that you like, or engaging in activities that you genuinely enjoy. So often, people try to drastically change their dietary habits or their exercise routines to do what they think they should do, and these changes can be unsustainable if the enjoyment factor is lacking. Instead, add some veggies that you love, prepared in a way that you love, to your holiday table (and your daily intake) and aim to move in a way that you enjoy every day (or most days)

9. Have Some Fun in the Kitchen with Your Family

With all the stress of the season, it’s important to remember to make some room for fun. Schedule fun local activities with your family—from Christmas tree lighting to Christmas cookie baking and volunteering at your local soup kitchen. The little things make the holidays way more special and stress-free, which are all important for mental health and wellness.

10. Slow It Down

Finding time for relaxation is important this time of year. Take time for yourself. We can get pretty busy during this time, which causes a lot of stress and can lead to less supportive dietary choices. Be sure to have a timeout or two over the next month where you can relax, slow down and not be rushing.

Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN
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