Party (Mindfully) On!

I want you to party in style this holiday season, but we have to remember, not to party party! If we go overboard—and many people feel that the holidays are an excuse to do so—we can easily wreak havoc on our gut, immune system, cognitive function, blood sugars and waistline. So here are a few tips of the trade to hopefully help you make it through without the fuzzy brain feeling this December.

Tip #1 Choose only one of the 3 “C’s”

Cake, carbohydrate or cocktails.

Don’t choose all of them, but one of them. We all know what cake is, but what is a carbohydrate?  Well a carbohydrate is one of the following…

And of course cocktails. This doesn’t just include a mixed drink, but beer and wine as well.

Tip #2 Contribute a dish

Remember, if it’s there, you will eat it—and if it isn’t, you can’t. So bring a dish that you know is better for you to fill your plate with. I highly recommend some kind of non-starchy vegetable. In the winter, we typically prefer our non-starchy vegetables cooked, but they don’t have to be. Wondering what is a non-starchy vegetable? Here is a list for you.

Tip #3 Practice mindful eating

Set your intention to feel better when you’re done than you did when you started, then eat with attention to your food and your body.

Think about how you want to enjoy the holiday. Then take yourself mentally through the food event. Imagine yourself enjoying the food and walking away when you are satisfied and not stuffed. It is quite miserable when you are stuffed: You don’t seem to enjoy the company or atmosphere as much. Plus, you typically end up falling asleep and not spending time with loved ones.

Tip #4 Use the Amazing Space Trick

As you fill your plate, maintain a little border of space between each food item, just enough so you can see some plate.

To test this, we made two plates with turkey, dressing, gravy, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and green beans. One was portioned how the average person in the United States plates their food, the other, according to the space trick. Guess how many calories were saved with the same types of food, but with space in between each food item: about 700 calories!

Tip #5 Have a response plan

Food is complicated, however the common ingredient in every person’s favorite comfort food is love. It’s the truth. There’s no substitute for thought and love and care. Not even time. So, when you eat a person’s food, they feel loved and so many times this can hinder your health goals.

As they say, “Why don’t you have more,” “There is plenty left” or “One bite isn’t going to hurt you”: Well, one bite or the second helping can. So be prepared with a few responses, such as “This is delicious, but I’m full” or “I’d love to take some leftovers” (they don’t have to know what you will do with the leftovers when you get home) or “No, thank you”—even if you have to repeat it.

Tip #6 Find something besides food to enjoy with family

One thing to remember is that children are no different from adults when it comes to overindulging during the holidays. Unlike adults, most children don’t have the understanding of how choosing a sugar cookie over broccoli can lead to weight gain. So, my personal goal for my family around the holidays is to get us out of the kitchen and enjoy other traditions together besides food.

Some other ideas may be to watch a holiday movie together, play board or card games, sing with a karaoke machine, play on a gaming system, moving around (soccer, a walk through the neighborhood, ice skating or a family tournament of Just Dance) or volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter. Activities like this can make more lasting memories than a boat of gravy.

The bottom line is:

If you are practicing the healthful, mindful eating throughout the year and being physically active, then the holidays will simply be a celebration. Once the celebration is over, it’s back to the same routine. Have a safe and healthy holiday season!