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5 Tips for Holiday Eating

If you’re like me, you’re astounded by the fact that it’s already November. That means the holidays are fast approaching.

And that makes this a good time to start thinking ahead about how you want to eat on the holidays.

It may seem early for that, but remember, Thanksgiving is only two and a half weeks away. If you don’t think about it now, or very soon, you’ll end up scrambling and not get what you want.

And while it’s true that holidays are about seeing family, we all know that food is also an important aspect of those get-togethers. So here are a few tips to help you think about eating during the holidays.

Traditional or not?

One thing to consider is how traditional you want to be. Even if you’ve always had turkey on Thanksgiving, with stuffing and gravy and all the sides, that doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.

Think about how much – or at all – you like the foods. Try to avoid the trap of thinking that you have to have the food because it’s expected and really consider whether you’ll miss having it or not.

If you wouldn’t miss it, this might be a good time to try a new recipe or do something completely different. For example, for several years I’ve gone to an Indian restaurant for dinner with friends, and we’ve always enjoyed it.

Make or buy?

Then you should think about whether you want to make the food or have someone else make it for you – and even if you prefer a traditional meal, you can still choose that second option.

Maybe you love cooking and always look forward to this opportunity to prepare a full spread for extended family. If so, more power to you! I just hope you also have some help with the dishes.

On the other hand, you might work full-time and/or have kids or other responsibilities that make it harder for you to do all that preparation. Or maybe you simply don’t like doing it.

Happily, you have options if you don’t want to cook. Many grocery stores offer either full dinners or a la carte options, so you could get everything pre-cooked, or you could mix and match. Around here, I know Whole Foods, Market Basket, and Rosemont Market all have prepared food options (and probably so do other grocery stores).

Or you could go out to eat somewhere, though you’ll probably want to make a reservation ahead of time.

Just remember, you don’t have to cook – or cook everything – unless you want to.

Manage hunger levels

It’s also a good idea to think about the day of the holiday so you can be hungry (but not too hungry) by the time you eat. I’ll use Thanksgiving as an example.

First, find out (roughly) when you’ll be sitting down to the meal. Some people do this around noon, some later, and some much later. Having an idea of when you’ll be eating can help manage your hunger and fullness levels.

Also, while it may be tempting to think that you should be ravenous by the time you eat, I don’t recommend that approach for two reasons. One, you’ll be so hungry that you’ll eat quickly and without savoring or appreciating what’s been made. And two, you’ll almost certainly eat more than intended.

Instead, if you know you’ll be eating later than you’re used to, it can help to have a snack to tide you over. Not enough to make you full, but enough so you don’t feel like eating everything in sight.

Alternately, if you’ll be eating earlier than usual, try to eat a little less beforehand, so you’ll be hungry again for the meal.

Set an intention

Now, I know that most people take it as a given that they’ll overeat on the holidays. On Thanksgiving, you may even feel like it’s required to stuff yourself!

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Strange as it may sound, you don’t have to overeat. Or even if you choose to eat more than you need, you don’t have to get to the point of feeling sick.

So I suggest setting an intention for yourself that day, or even a couple of intentions.

If you’re okay with eating a little more than normal, your intention might be to stop eating when you’re full but not uncomfortable.

Maybe you want to do that and you want to make sure you get some of your favorite pie – without being so full that you can’t enjoy it. Your intention for the meal could be to eat until you’re satisfied, knowing that you’ll be having dessert in a little while.

But even if you end up eating more than intended, you don’t have to beat yourself up. You could instead review what happened and think about what you could do differently for the next holiday.

Plan an activity

One other thing that can help you stick to your intentions is if you plan some kind of activity for after the meal. that will get you away from the food and focused on something else, at least temporarily.

Depending on where you live and what the weather is like, you could go for a walk. This isn’t always feasible – we’ve had snow even on Thanksgiving some years – but it’s great if you can. When my aunt and uncle had a dog, I used to take him for a walk after lunch, something we both enjoyed.

Or you could play a game if others are up for it. Or perhaps go to a movie – my mom’s family had that tradition on Thanksgiving for many years, of going to a movie after the meal and then returning home for dessert.

Whatever it is, see if you can find something to do that will shift your attention so the day isn’t only about food.


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