How Nutritionists Avoid Overeating at the Holidays

Avoid overindulging this holiday season with these expert tips and tricks.

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Eating Mindfully May Help Reduce Overeating. Here's How To Do It.

The holidays are full of friends, family — and lots and lots of food. There are plenty of opportunities where you can overindulge. We asked registered dietitians around the country to provide their best tips to help keep overeating to a minimum during the holiday season.

Eat Regular Meals and Snacks Throughout the Day

Many folks think the best way to enjoy a holiday party or feast is to save up their calories for the big meal. This technique can actually backfire and lead to overeating. Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN of Bucket List Tummy explains, "In order to eat mindfully, we don't want to go into a meal or eating experience feeling overly hungry. Instead, I recommend eating every three to four hours to keep blood sugar stable, starting with breakfast." Schlichter says that, "When you're not going into a holiday meal feeling starving, you are less likely to feel out of control throughout the eating experience, and really enjoy the food and company you're with, which makes the holiday food experience more mindful and pleasurable."

Use the 3-Bite Rule

"The three-bite rule is magical to relieve any guilt associated with mindful indulgences," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. "Choose to build your meal with the idea that savoring three bites of anything will allow you to partake in holiday traditions without derailing your diet and fitness goals."

Go for a Walk Around the Table

"Before you begin to fill your plate at parties and gatherings, take a moment to scope out all of the available food options," recommends Kara Hochreiter, MS, RDN, LD of Byte Sized Nutrition. "You may come to find that the store-bought dessert sitting at the head of the table is actually one of the least-appealing options available." Hochreiter says that once you've had a chance to fully assess the situation, begin by serving yourself small sample-size portions of the dishes that interest you most and then go back for larger helpings of your favorites.

Portion Your Appetizers

Chloe Schweinshaut, RD, LDN, founder of Riverside Nutrition recommends that "if that puff pastry brie wedge or scallops wrapped in bacon are calling your name, that’s fine — just make sure that they all fit on one cocktail napkin." With a limited amount of space, Schweinshaut says, you can still choose the foods you really want to eat without risking overindulging from the start.

Gauge Your FOMO

The fear of missing out, or FOMO, can drive you to eat more than usual or eat when you’re not hungry. "FOMO is often driven by strong social and emotional influences that can be countered by making plans to eat certain foods again," explains Michele Redmond, MS, RDN, FAND of The Taste Workshop. Ultimately, making a plan to eat certain foods again can reduce the urgency of eating more even though you're already full.

Be Present in the Moment

"With a million things running through your head this holiday season, it can be hard to stay in the moment," says Alena Kharlamenko, MS, RD, CDN, of AlenaMenko.com. "If you notice your mind racing while you're eating, or if you start to multitask, take a deep breath and commit to eating your meal mindfully. Really savor each bite and let go of distractions. It can be helpful to start practicing mindful eating with one meal a day."

Slow Down Between Bites

Colleen Wysocki-Woods, MS, RDN owner of ZEST Nutrition says to slow down your eating by simply putting the food or utensil down between bites. "This habit not only increases your gratefulness for the food (something we may reflect on during the holidays), but it also gives your body time to know when it's full," explains Wysocki-Woos, who says it takes 20 minutes for the body to read those hunger hormones and recognize fullness.

Breathe

"It’s a simple act that we all take for granted, especially during the holidays," says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN consultant culinary nutritionist and author, who recommends to take a moment to inhale and exhale deeply. "It’s a little trick that will help ground you and slow you down. Use it during meals or when you’re at your company’s holiday party!"

Sample Unique Foods

"Don’t stuff your plate with foods just because they are low in calories; instead sample those foods that are unique and special to you," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com, author of Read It Before You Eat It - Taking You from Label to Table. "Traditional holiday indulgences should be welcomed, but you may need to keep portion sizes in mind to make room for all that you choose to enjoy."

Use the Deliciousness Scale

Ashley Koff, RD CEO of The Better Nutrition Program says to use a deliciousness scale. The deliciousness scale ranks each food from 1 to 10, with 1 being ick and 10 being the most amazing bite or sip you can recall. "Eat or drink anything that scores a 7 to 10," recommends Koff who says that weight gain can result from foods in the 3 to 6 range. "So if something scores in that range after a bite or sip then pass, and hold out for your 7 to 10."