Mindful eating is such an important part of our overall health and the holidays are no exception. Las fiestas navideñas are a time to celebrate with family and food. It is the season of tamales, champurrado, pozole, y buñuelos. Food is nourishment for our bodies, but it’s also an integral part of our culture, family traditions, and core memories. It’s expected to indulge a little during the holiday season, but let’s try to do it mindfully!
Mindful eating means being fully present and having a closer connection with food, how it makes you feel, and how it can affect your health. Eating mindfully means listening to your hunger and fullness cues, as well as eating slower and savoring each bite. As a Latina dietitian who focuses on mindful eating, I’m sharing a guide with 5 easy tips to help you find balance during las fiestas this year:
Avoid the Scarcity Mindset
The Scarcity Mindset is when you believe that certain foods are limited which leads to binging or overeating. During the holidays it is easy to tell ourselves “Aprovecha ahora que hay” because some foods are typically only made during this time of year. However, it’s important to remind yourself that these foods can be eaten year-round if we choose to make them. Tamales? Sure, I can make them anytime if I’m craving them! This will help reduce the temptation to overeat these foods. Switching over to an abundance mindset — normalizing those foods — can eventually get you to a place where those foods don’t tempt you as much and will be able to eat them in moderation.
Mindful Eating: Use your 5 Senses
Mindful eating means being present without distractions while enjoying a meal. Tasting, touching, smelling, seeing, and even listening to your food is an important part of the eating experience. It allows you to enjoy your food on a deeper level so that you end up feeling more satisfied with overall smaller portions. Eating mindfully will also help you eat slower to avoid overeating and feeling uncomfortable. This holiday season, turn that TV off, eat at the dinner table, and become fully present with your food.
Add Color to your Plate
Fruits and vegetables are incredibly nutritious and leave us feeling good. Remember to add colorful fruits and vegetables to your plate to help you find that balance. If you know that your family doesn’t cook vegetables, make some yourself. Many holiday gatherings are potluck-style so feel free to make a yummy dish that everyone will love! Some great options are ensalada de nopales, calabacitas a la Mexicana, or some veggie-loaded guacamole. Avocados are considered a fruit with healthy fat and fiber making guacamole a perfect way to balance a holiday meal! The fiber they contain also helps slow down food digestion, which prevents rapid rises in blood glucose following a meal. “In those with T2D (treated and untreated), avocado intake was associated with lower hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c; β=-0.36±0.21, P =0.02), and lower fasting glucose (β=-0.27±0.12, P=0.02)” (Wood, 2023). Diabetes is a prominent chronic illness in the Latine community so having healthy dishes available like guacamole at family gatherings is a great option.
Mindful Eating – Mindful Movement
Mindfulness is also being aware of how our body will feel before and after eating. On the days you know you’ll be attending a fiesta, try to get a nice walk in or make time for your favorite exercise. If you don’t have time to incorporate movement before the gathering, invite your tías or primas on a walk after dinner. Movement will help keep your body feeling good and your blood sugar stable.
Avoid Skipping Meals
Skipping meals will result in extreme hunger levels that will most likely lead to binge eating. We can sometimes be tempted to skip breakfast or eat nothing but salads on days like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but make sure you eat balanced meals instead. Eating protein, carbohydrates, healthy fat, and vegetables at each meal is important to keep your blood glucose stable throughout the day and avoid overeating. If you don’t have time, a simple taco or sandwich will do. I recommend making a quick taco con frijoles, queso y aguacate for an easy but balanced snack/meal. Beans will provide the protein, tortillas provide the carbohydrates, and avocados contribute 6 grams of unsaturated (healthy) fat!
This holiday season remember to listen to your body and honor your fullness. Reject the expectation of having to clean your plate to show respect to your tias. Remember that your body also needs respect. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite holiday foods while eating mindfully and rejecting the scarcity mindset. Food can be many things at once; nutrients, salud, cultura, good times, and core memories. Remember that the key is #balance. Felices fiestas amigas!