Recipe for Success: Healthy Eating During the Holidays

by Laura Cipullo

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As the holiday season nears, don’t fear the food…or the scale!

As a mother and a dietitian, I clearly recognize that this celebratory time of year is much more about food - the anticipation of eating so many especially delicious holiday dishes - than, perhaps, even family and friends.

So instead of starving yourself during the day and then overdoing it at night, you can prevent any morning-after guilt by experiencing your food in a new, mindful way. Everybody wins!

Your waistline will be very happy and your children will benefit from your positive example around the dining room table. So please follow this recipe for holiday eating success:

Slow down and savor.

Because I’m a real foodie, I know how hard it is to celebrate anything without a constant flow of food and wine. But don’t fret. We moms don’t need to deny ourselves anything!

Just try changing the pace of your meal to separate it from the normal holiday routine. First, start the meal off with a prayer, a toast or even just a moment of silence to allow you and your guests to refocus, create inner calm, and engage in mindful eating. This mini break will create space from the expected chaos so you may eat in peace and actually taste your meal.

Say goodbye to just shoveling it down…and hello to truly savoring each bite!

Get each of your five senses to work for you:

Now that you are really thinking about…and ready to experience this new way of eating, it’s good to rely on your five senses. Your keen abilities to smell, touch, see, hear and taste should become your most reliable five ingredients for successful food consumption.

1. Smell the bouquet.

Just as a sommelier would have you swirl your wine and then smell its bouquet, I ask you to take a deep breath to really experience the holiday aromas. Think about the warm memories the scents may conjure up. Do they remind you of your childhood? Do you smell the sweet, pungent bouquet of cinnamon and baked apples…or possibly whiffs of leather or grass especially if you are holding your wine? Do these aromas seduce your senses so much that you can feel your heart racing?

2. Touch your food.

Is your bread hot and crusty or naturally rough with seeds and nuts? Think about the texture and how it makes you feel. Perhaps you don’t particularly care for the greasy feel a cracker leaves on your fingers. Something unpleasant like this can help you decide if this food is even worthy of your tasting it. Think about the butternut squash soup. Does it feel smooth and comforting?

3. Do you see what I see?

Really take in the visual presentation on your dinner table. Is the food plated beautifully? Are there multiple colors on your plate? Ideally, there should be. Does what you see make you want to gobble up this Thanksgiving feast or possibly eat less dinner and save room for some scrumptious dessert? Use your sense of sight to help you decide the portion size you’d like…or whether you’d prefer to skip a particular dinner option. If it doesn’t look appealing, move on to something that would otherwise call your name!

4. Listen to the “Snap, Crackle and Pop.”

Yes, listen to hear if the turkey’s skin is crispy or the biscotti crunchy. Listening is not limited to the food. Acknowledge what the guests are saying. Is there a food you may want to try after it receives high praise? Perhaps you’re the one who produced the meal; just hearing the rave reviews will make you feel satisfied. This will help to guarantee that you won’t engage in any emotional eating!

5. Taste your meal with your taste buds.

That’s right! Rather than tasting just the first bite and using your memory for each bite thereafter, slow down and identify the salty, sweet, sour or savory flavors. Many people will eat an entire meal but could never tell you what it truly tasted like. They were too busy talking or shoveling the food in because they were so hungry from dieting all day. This holiday season, you can be healthy both mentally and physically by truly tasting your food and appreciating each and every bite. A small amount of food tasted will fulfill you much more than a few plates of food you never really tasted.

Finally, don't forget to give thanks when the meal is over!

Most likely, you will have consumed less food yet feel psychologically satisfied and physically full. Teach your children to eat in the same manner; it will be the best holiday gift you could ever give them.

Not only will it help to ensure that your children develop positive relationships with food and eating, but it will help to ensure that each one of you will be at your body’s best natural weight.

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