By Carla Oates
When it comes to fostering healthy eating habits, so often we put all the pressure on what we eat, that we don’t stop to consider how we eat.
As a result, it can be easy to forget how to eat mindfully—especially over the festive period. While it’s certainly okay to indulge over the holidays, don't be too hard on yourself and instead, strive for a balanced plate rather than perfection. So as we head towards the holiday season, here are a few simple tried and tested techniques that I use to help me be more mindful around mealtimes.
The first question I ask myself is, am I hungry? So often we can mistake thirst for hunger, so I always ensure that I stay well hydrated, but over the holidays, we also rarely consider our hunger cues when we’re faced with opportunities to indulge on a seemingly hourly basis. When I feel that I’m in need of nourishment, I stop to ask myself what would be most satisfying to me in that moment. Although a platter of festive treats may be on offer, it’s likely that I would be more satisfied with a balanced plate consisting of nutrient-dense wholefoods, healthy fats and protein.
Digestion begins in the mouth—as you eat, take the time to smell your food, feel its texture and really taste it. And most importantly, chew thoroughly! As explained in The Beauty Chef Gut Guide, the simple act of chewing helps to release digestive enzymes, kicking off the chemical digestion of carbohydrates and fats and sending your gut the signal that food is on its way. This enables the gut to prepare itself, secreting mucus, acids, juices and enzymes that will assist in digestion. During the holidays, the simple art of chewing becomes even more important as we indulge in foods that we are not accustomed to consuming on a more regular basis, meaning our digestive systems need to work even harder.
Make Space to Eat
Being mindful around food also means being mindful about your environment. Instead of wolfing down your salad while hovering over your keyboard or standing in your kitchen, eating in a relaxed state in a calm environment can also improve digestion as you’ll be less inclined to eat too quickly and subsequently overeat. As we know, stress can impact not only our microbial diversity as a whole, but also how well we digest food—so before I sit down at my table, I take a few deep breaths and try to remain aware of my hunger cues, stopping when I feel satisfied.
Lose the Guilt
Food guilt can be all too common, and a complicated issue for many. But during the holidays, it’s nice to loosen the reins a little and enjoy the opportunity to share delicious meals with our family and friends. And given the challenging year we’ve had juggling our new normal, I certainly don’t plan on feeling guilty about enjoying a good glass of red wine or some dark chocolate. I just try to maintain an attitude of balance, and if I’m hosting, I always ensure there are as many gut-friendly options on offer as possible.