You don’t need anyone to tell you it’s hard to eat healthily during the holidays. From family feasts, to work soirees, to parties with your besties, you’re going to indulge a lot between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
Of course, you should never feel bad about the sweets you eat and the cocktails you drink — that’s what the holidays are all about. But, by Jan. 1, you’re probably going to feel ready to get back on a healthier path. And that’s where we come in.
You don’t have to put yourself on an extreme diet plan or spend hours slaving away at the gym. Instead, take note of the following six mindful eating tips. They’ll make you a more conscious eater and, therefore, someone who’s better at listening to the body’s clues and intuitively eating based on what the body needs. In turn, you’ll become a healthier you without nearly as much effort as you might think that takes — we know, it almost sounds too good to be true.
Fortunately, though, it’s not. So, without further ado, here’s how to become a mindful eater.
Eat When You’re Hungry
Now, this mindful eating tip sounds like a no-brainer. But you might be misinterpreting what your body’s trying to tell you, and eating when you need something else. Most commonly, you think you need food when you need water instead, so start keeping track of your water intake to ensure you’re always well-hydrated and not mistaking dehydration for hunger.
Once that’s settled, start using a 1-to-10 scale to gauge your hunger. Try to hold off on eating until you feel you’re at about the halfway point on the scale. Waiting until you’re ravenous will probably cause you to overeat. No one wants that.
Dinner served in front of the TV is the definition of mindless eating. Watching the trials and tribulations of Real Housewives from any city will draw your attention away from the food at hand. And, as you watch the drama go down, you won’t pay attention to the fact that you’re satisfied, full or now uncomfortably full.
So, turn off the TV and focus on your food instead. Savor every bite of the meal over which you labored — or waited 45 minutes for it to be delivered, no difference. You just might find you’re eating less when your mind is in the right place while you’re eating. Don’t worry, your DVR will hold onto all of the drama for you until after dinner.
Choose Good-For-You Foods…
Like we said before, you shouldn’t deny yourself nights out, happy hours and dessert. But, most of the time, you should try and build a diet based on whole foods that provide your body with the nutrients it craves. By cultivating a diet that’s filling and full of goodness, you’ll be able to stave off cravings and keep on track with your mindful, intuitive eating plan.
There’s no need to track calories, carbs, fat or protein if you’re eating whole foods with proven nutritional benefits. Even when you’re traveling, you can eat mindfully: Just bring along your own meals and snacks that have these same yummy, healthy ingredients and you’ll be on the road — pun intended — to better health this year and beyond.
… And Make This Choice Easier
You know you’re hungry and you need a snack — now. In your fridge, you find a container of hummus and a bell pepper that needs slicing. You also dig up a bag of pita chips in your pantry, which are ready for dipping, making them your choice — even though the bell pepper was the better, healthier option.
If you want to get into the habit of mindful eating, it’s important to make your smart-choice foods easy to eat. It might take a little bit of food prep to make sure you always have sliced veggies, fresh fruit and healthy grains on hand, but that prep will pay off when you eat filling foods that will satisfy your hunger. Once you’ve prepped your foods, put them at the front of your fridge so you see them instead of less-than-healthy options when you’re in need of sustenance.
Indulge in What You Love
The whole point of mindful eating is that you don’t have to obsess over how many calories you’re putting into your body. Instead, you’re eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you feel full. You’re listening to your body’s clues — you’re familiar with them by now.
There are some times, though, when you’ll have to consider some foods have a higher nutritional value than others. For example, you probably love guacamole, and there’s no harm in eating avocado — the fruit has many health benefits, but it’s also naturally high in healthy fats. Avocados can do your body good when it’s one of your day’s sources of fat. If you buy a burrito bowl, don’t be shy about asking for guac.
But, perhaps you’re just “meh” about sour cream. It may be high in protein and calcium, but don’t add it just because it’s there. Frivolously eating foods with high caloric value will do nothing for your intuitive eating plan. Instead, save your small splurges for the stuff you love most — guacamole, cheese, dark chocolate, real butter, olive oil, etc. Yum. You’ll feel so much more satisfied by allowing yourself these healthy-but-high-nutritional-content foods.
Listen to Your Gut
In the end, all this boils down to you and your body. At some point, you’ll begin to recognize and respond to your body’s requests. You’ll begin to crave more than just food in general — you’ll want a nice green salad, a tall glass of water or that square of dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Mindful eating is all about paying close attention to what you’re eating and have eaten already so your diet is balanced and your body is satisfied. Listening to the cues your body gives you — the rumbles in your belly, the cravings and the feeling of fullness — is the best way to be mindful. And, with that, you’ll be eating smartly in the New Year and beyond — no crazy diet plan or yo-yoing required. In other words, happiness and health are right ahead if you just listen to your gut.