6 Mindful Eating Tips for Thanksgiving

Here’s a spoiler alert: You can have pie and anything else you’d like to eat on Thanksgiving.

Still, many people are familiar with feeling overly stuffed after Thanksgiving dinner, so if you want to leave your meal feeling comfortable and content.

Here are some ways to approach it:

1. Stay present when you serve yourself and sit down to eat.

Have you ever asked yourself what foods seem most appealing and what portions would be most enjoyable? This is a helpful exercise beyond your Thanksgiving meal. Being mindful helps you make more deliberate choices about what and how much you want to eat, and it also increases your enjoyment of the foods you choose. The truth is, some foods are probably more enjoyable to you, so, whether that’s pie or potatoes, notice what you’re eager to try and then sit down and savor your food slowly. Does it meet your expectations? What about it do you like? Take a few mental notes about the experience to get the most out of it and to determine if you’re enjoying your nibbles enough to continue eating them.

2. Listen to your hunger and fullness signals.

Most adults are out of practice with listening to hunger and fullness signals, but these cues can help you eat a comfortable amount. Think of a scale between one to ten. At a one, you’re hangry! You might feel headachy, grumpy, and like you could eat anything in sight. At a ten, you’ve eaten waaaay too much. At this point, you might want to unbutton your pants and lay on the couch. Neither extreme feels good. At a five, you’re neither hungry nor full. Maybe you’ve eaten recently. Most people feel comfortable beginning to eat when their hunger is around a three--when there are physical signs of hunger, but they aren’t too extreme. At the same time, when you reach a six on the hunger scale, you’re probably beginning to feel satisfied. That’s when you might consider whether you’d like a little more or if you want to stop eating. When you reach a seven, the physical signs of fullness start to become unpleasant. By paying attention to hunger and fullness, you can avoid getting uncomfortably full.

3. Eat regular meals.

A big reason people tend to overeat at Thanksgiving is that they’ve eaten too lightly in an effort to “save up” for the main event. It’s healthier and more helpful to eat regular meals throughout the day. If your main course is mid-afternoon, remember that you can eat again--even leftovers--at dinner time. If your holiday meal is in the evening, eat a balanced breakfast and lunch.

4. Stay consistent with other health behaviors.

Your health never boils down to one meal or one day of eating. Instead, it’s about the things you do consistently, such as controlling your sodium and added sugar intake and eating a plant-heavy diet most days. Other health behaviors include being active most days, prioritizing an appropriate amount of sleep (7 to 9 hours per night), and managing stress. Throughout the holiday season, it’s helpful to keep up with your routines as much as possible.

5. Don’t fall into an all-or-nothing mindset.

When you think of things as either-or choices, it eliminates the possibilities in the middle. For example, do you have time to exercise? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Some days you might have an hour and other days you might have 15 minutes. Meanwhile, black-or-white thinking also applies to eating. When people eat less healthfully at one meal, there’s a tendency to feel like the day is shot. But you can eat both healthful foods and less healthful foods on any given day. When you embrace this mentality, it’s easier to stay consistent with your health behaviors.

6. Give yourself some grace.

It’s okay if you ate more than intended, skipped a workout, or stayed up later than you meant to. No good comes from being over-critical of yourself, so remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can. Because you are!