by Rebecca Harken, MS, RD, LD
ISU Dining Registered Dietitian


The holiday season is right around the corner, which means goodies galore! For some, this time of the year can bring on added stressors around food, so how should we approach eating during the holidays?

Tip 1: Eat Balanced Meals and Snacks – Don’t Skip Meals

If we have a big family dinner coming up, it’s tempting to want to skip breakfast and maybe even lunch to “save our calories” for the big meal. This approach often leaves us feeling overly hungry when we get to the big meal. Feeling overly hungry means we will likely feel out of control when we get to that meal, and we are more likely to make poorer food choices and feel overly stuffed by the end. Honor your hunger and respect your body by eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. This means building meals that include fiber-rich carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fruits or vegetables and snacks consisting of a carb plus a protein.

Tip 2: Honor your Hunger and Feel your Fullness

Just like how it’s tempting to skip meals to “save your calories,” it’s also tempting to ignore our hunger cues and push them off as long as we can. Our hunger cues are our body telling us that it’s low on energy and needs some nourishment. We can respect and care for our bodies by providing this nourishment when we notice those hunger cues. As we are nourishing our bodies, we also want to feel our fullness. To feel your best, aim to savor your last bite when you are comfortably satisfied rather than stuffed. And remember, you can always go back for more later.

Tip 3: Allow all of your Favorite Treats

The holidays are a time for special foods that we may only get once or twice a year. Rather than telling ourselves that we shouldn’t have something because it has “too many calories” or “too much sugar,” give yourself permission to enjoy those foods without guilt. Health is cumulative, and we shouldn’t put too much weight on one meal or snack. Savor the flavors and enjoy them to the extend that feels best for you.

Tip 4: Practice Mindful Eating

It’s easy to reach for food without thinking twice about it, especially if we have treats sitting out on the counter all day long. When we are eating mindlessly, it’s more difficult to recognize when our body has had enough to eat, and we often end up eating to the point of feeling uncomfortably full. Practice eating slowly, paying attention to smells, flavors, textures, etc. of the foods you are eating, and savor your last bite when you are comfortably satisfied.

Tip 5: Remember that the holidays are about more than Food

I will be the first to say that one of my favorite things about the holidays is the food. We should find pleasure in our food and enjoy what we are eating, but we should also find pleasure in the time we get to spend with friends and family and the memories that we make. Rather than spending so much time thinking about food this holiday season, use that mental space to practice gratitude and on enjoying your time with your loved ones.