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4 Mindful Eating Tips for Enjoying the Holidays Without Restriction

Use these nutritionist-approved tips this holiday season and beyond.
Woman eating mindfully

Woman eating mindfully.

When it comes to holiday celebrations, let’s face it—most of them revolve around food. While we don’t believe in ever restricting ourselves from the more enjoyable things in life (like a slice of pie or an extra dollop of mashed potatoes), we are proponents of learning how to incorporate healthier practices into our everyday habits.

In order to learn more about eating mindfully during the holidays, we chatted with Francesca Alfano MS, CNS, CDN, a functional nutritionist in New York City. Here’s what she had to say about mindful eating.

What is mindful eating?

“Mindful eating is the magical practice where you learn to trust your body and allow it to dictate what, when and how to eat,” Alfano says. “Mindful eating teaches you to listen to your body and respond accordingly to increase satisfaction and joy from a meal.”

For example, connecting with your food while eating by disconnecting your electronics is a great mindful eating practice, while watching TV, using your phone or working on your computer while eating is a form of mindless eating.

“The core principles of mindful eating include being aware of the nourishment available through the process of food preparation and consumption, choosing enjoyable and nutritious foods, acknowledging food preferences non-judgmentally, recognizing and honoring physical hunger and satiety cues and using wisdom to guide eating decisions,” she says.

How to eat mindfully during the holidays without restriction

Alfano believes that the holiday season is the perfect time to practice mindful eating skills. “This is because most people haven’t learned to master these skills, which can lead to feelings of shame or guilt for eating certain foods,” she says.

She offers four specific ways for practicing mindful eating this holiday season:

1. Start the meal with gratitude.

Beginning your meal from a place of gratitude is a great way to acknowledge and appreciate the food in front of you.

“You can share with your family and friends what you are most grateful for,” Alfano suggests.

2. Be intentional.

Instead of thinking about what you shouldn’t eat, focus on filling your plate with foods that will keep you full and satisfied, advises Alfano. 

“Fill your plate to a portion size that feels right for you, without over-piling food. The idea is to create a plate that is physically and emotionally satisfying,” she says. “And remember, you can always get a second helping if you are still hungry!”

She recommends filling your plate with one protein option and one high-fiber or veggie option.

“At holiday parties or events, fill your plate first with high-fiber foods that will help to increase satiety and will help reduce cravings,” she says. “This strategy will make it easier for you to eat mindfully.”

3. Use your senses.

Alfano suggests taking the time to really notice the food on your plate and proposes taking a moment to observe how it smells, looks and tastes. 

“Have awareness that this meal is what brings you together with your family and friends,” she adds.

4. Check in with your body.

About three-quarters of the way through your meal, Alfano advises doing a mental check-in with yourself to see how your feel.

“Honor what your body is telling you at the moment,” she says.

Additional wellness tips for the holidays

In addition to mindful-eating practices, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water and finding time for daily movement are all key health practices that are vital to your overall well-being. 

“If you know you are going to have a busy week filled with holiday parties or you are traveling, take a moment to schedule your exercises or do a little meal planning,” Alfano recommends.

Mindful eating resolutions for the New Year

These mindful eating tips and healthy habits can and should be brought into 2023.

As we think about habits to leave behind in 2022, Alfano advises that labeling foods as only “good” or “bad” and associating those labels with one’s worth is something to move away from in the year ahead.

“This mindset can lead to feeling guilty and shameful about what we eat,” she says. “Instead of labeling foods with these terms, focus on adding foods into your diet that make you feel good.”

She suggests moving away from such a self-critical mindset regardless of the time of year, and instead focusing on portion sizes that feel good for you and your body, rather than restricting so-called “bad” foods.

“Mindful eating is all about finding foods that make you feel nourished and leave you feeling your best!” she says.

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