A Mindful Approach to the Holiday Party Buffet

With the holiday season in full swing, the festive e-vites have already flooded your inbox. Whether it’s a party with co-workers, a dinner with friends, or an eventful family gathering, the holidays are a wonderful time to relax and spend time with the people that you care about most.

But let’s be honest, most of us are also looking forward to the holidays as a chance to enjoy an array of seasonal foods and beverages. Before we know it, the turkeys will be roasting and the gingerbread cookies will be baking.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the array of rich foods and sweets treats.

One way to prevent yourself from overeating at holiday parties is by paying close attention to your internal hunger cues and the sensory aspects of the different foods that you eat. Below are some mindful eating tips to keep yourself from going overboard on the food and drinks this holiday season, all the while still savoring every bite of your favorite dishes.  

1. Rate your hunger: Before picking up a fork, take a moment to gauge your hunger level using the “Eat-Mojis” hunger scale.  You should also reassess your hunger level about halfway through the meal. If you rank yourself below a “6”, then begin slowly eating until you find yourself satisfied.  If you score yourself at “6” or above, it’s time to stop eating and pack up the rest as leftovers. Removing the food from your sight may help prevent you from overeating. As an added bonus, you’ll get to eat a second round of roasted meats and creamy vegetables for lunch the next day.

2. Take a break: Holidays are a chance to slow your life down for a brief moment, and your dinner courses should be treated the same way. First, fill up an appetizer plate with a small portion of whatever fruit, vegetable, or lean protein options are available. After you finish that course, spend a few minutes socializing with friends or family before making your way back up to the food table for your main course. Take a similar break before heading over the dessert table. You may even find yourself too full by then to bother with a final course.

3. Name that texture: While you are eating, take a moment to think about how you would describe the texture of that particular food. Some words that come to mind may be along the lines of creamy, gooey, crunchy, crispy, flaky, etc. You can start a conversation with other guests by asking them what terms they would personally use to label the texture.  Are they the same, or do they differ? You may find that you experience foods differently than others.

4. Savor the flavor: When practicing mindful eating, it is key to appreciate the flavor of various foods. This technique shouldn’t be too difficult to incorporate after waiting patiently all year for a taste of seasonal delicacies. Focus on chewing your food slowly to let the flavors and aromas fill your senses. Try to compare the flavors of the foods that are on your plate. Are some foods saltier or more umami than others, or what about sweeter? Thinking deeply about the flavor will help you better appreciate the experience of eating. Use this checklist to help guide your experience.    

There is no doubt that the fall and winter holidays revolve around delicious foods. This holiday season, you can maintain a healthy eating style while still enjoying your favorite foods by practicing mindful eating. 

This post was written by Alison Webster, dietetic intern at Virginia Tech.