According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the average American gains 1 to 2 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with those who are already overweight gaining up to 5 pounds. Although 1 to 2 pounds doesn’t sound all that significant, the study also found that, for the most part, that weight never comes off.
The holidays are a time to enjoy festive foods and to celebrate with family and friends, all of which can be done while still keeping our health—both physical and mental—in check. As fun as they can be, the holidays can also spur a lot of stress and anxiety. Managing that stress by practicing a little self-care can ensure you don’t turn to food when those feelings emerge. Meditation, breathing and relaxation exercises, going for a walk, or simply calling a friend to chat have all been shown to reduce stress.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation can cause cravings, especially for high-sugar, high-fat foods. When we are sleep deprived, we tend to confuse the need for energy as a need for extra calories. Prioritizing sleep can help to keep cravings at bay, so practice good sleep hygiene, to include avoiding screen time before bedtime and making sure your bedroom is dark and at a comfortable temperature.
Read on for mindful eating tips to help you navigate the holiday season, plus easy recipes for small meals that will keep you full.
8 Mindful Eating Tips
Don’t demonize foods. The more we tell ourselves that we aren’t allowed to eat a certain food, the more we’ll want that food. You’d be surprised how when we allow ourselves to enjoy that slice of pumpkin pie, we don’t end up eating the entire thing.
Listen to your body. One of the first things I tell a client is to really think about how certain foods make them feel. Paying attention to how your body feels after eating can help guide us to make healthy choices.
Routine. Sticking to a daily exercise routine and/or a timed eating window can help keep you on track.
Hydrate. Studies have shown that 37 percent of people confuse thirst for hunger. Staying hydrated can prevent that. A 150-pound person needs upwards of 100 ounces of water a day; add 16 more ounces if you live in a warm climate and exercise. Pro tip: drink a tall glass of water while you get ready for that holiday soiree.
Don’t starve yourself. Fasting all day in order to enjoy that holiday meal almost always leads to overconsumption. Small meals that focus on lean protein and fiber content will ensure satiety and keep you from overeating later.
Drinks count. Did you know that the average margarita has approximately 700 calories? Stick to clear spirits sweetened with freshly squeezed citrus like lemon, lime, or orange and topped with mineral water or club soda. And always have a water on the side.
Protein. Focusing on high-protein meals and snacks throughout the day can help keep blood sugar stable and control your appetite.
Eat in order. Fill up on vegetables first, before you enjoy the non-nutritious party snacks. Fiber-rich foods will leave less space for the high-sugar treats.
Veggies with Edamame Hummus
- 2 cups frozen edamame, shelled
- 2 tbsp. tahini
- 3 tbsp. coconut aminos
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
- 1 tsp. freshly grated/minced garlic
- 1/4 cup ice water
Using a small pot, cover the edamame with water and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and add the edamame to a high-speed blender. Add all remaining ingredients except for the ice water to the blender and pulse to combine. While the blender runs on low, slowly add in ice water to create a creamy, fluffy texture. Serve with raw crudités such as carrots, cucumbers, and celery.
Greek Yogurt with Nuts, Berries, and Seeds
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt of your choice (no sugar added)
- 1 tbsp. almonds or walnuts, chopped or slivered
- 1/4 cup fresh blackberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries
Layer yogurt, nuts, and fruit. Garnish with seeds of your choice.