NATALIE COLLA, CDE, RDN, LDN: Mindful eating for the holidays

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I donít know about you, but I certainly love to eat. With the holidays fast approaching, itís easy to let our healthy habits go by the wayside. Itís important to enjoy the holidays and the food, tradition, and family time that it entails without compromising our health goals. You may have heard of the term mindful eating at some point, but what is it?

Do you eat more when youíre stressed or bored? How about at Thanksgiving or mindless snacking at parties? Mindful eating involves paying attention to our intuitive drive for seeking nourishment.

Appetite is the desire to eat even when weíre not hungry (think of the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking), while hunger is the physiological drive to get calories for fuel. Being able to satisfy both needs without going overboard is the essence of mindful eating. Check out these tips for mindful eating this holiday season:

Honor your hunger and fullness cues. In other words, eat when youíre hungry and stop eating when youíre full. Donít eat lunch just because itís your lunch break if youíre not hungry for a meal ó try going for a walk instead to get the blood flowing. On the flip side, if youíre full after a delicious meal, resist the temptation to go for seconds. It usually takes a few minutes for the brain to catch up with the stomach and let us know weíve had enough. We should feel satisfied after meals, but not stuffed.

Shun the clean plate club idea ó Children are born with the innate ability to self-regulate their food intake; however, society quickly teaches this out of us by making us feel obligated to eat everything on our plate, which is likely a portion size thatís too large to begin with. Dish up only what you can eat. If you have young ones at home, banish the ďno dessert until you clean your plateĒ speech and donít be afraid to let your children serve themselves ó they know how much they can eat. When youíre out to dinner, eat just half the portion and take the rest to go, or try splitting an entrťe with someone.

Enjoy your food ó This may seem like a no brainer, but too often we find ourselves shoveling food into our mouths without thinking about how it actually tastes. Keep your taste buds happy by taking the time to actually taste what youíre eating. Get a feel for the texture, mouthfeel, flavors, and aroma of your food. Enjoy small portions of rich food and savor each bite for a more meaningful dining experience. Plus, eating slowly fills you up faster!

Take time at meals ó Sit down at the dinner table to eat, not in front of the screen. Engage in conversation with family and friends. Thereís a lot to be said for gathering around a table with those who are close to us, and we tend to eat less when we do so.

Find a substitute for mindless munching ó Weíve all been guilty of this before, whether itís getting bottomless popcorn at the movies or searching the cupboards when weíre bored. Find something else to occupy your time other than your appetite. Read a book, listen to music, craft something, or go for a walk.

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Article by Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN. Natalie is a diabetes educator with Kootenai Clinic.

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