The holidays in New Mexico are full of tradition and delicious food, such as posole, tamales, and of course bizcochitos. While all this food tastes amazing, it can make it difficult to focus on your health goals. UNM Employee Health Promotion helps our faculty and staff stay on track by focusing on mindful eating, using small changes to make a big difference.

Mindful eating involves eating with intention and attention. By focusing on experiencing and enjoying food you get the best of both worlds—you can fully enjoy the tastes of the season and still meet your health goals. Here are our top 10 tips for bringing mindfulness to your holiday:

  1. Choose water 
    Try not to waste all your calories on caloric beverages like alcohol and soda. Enjoy these in moderation and alternate with water. Our brain sometimes confuses thirst for hunger, so stay hydrated throughout the day.
  2. Snack throughout the day and don’t skip meals 
    Skipping meals to “save yourself" for a large dinner can set you up for overeating later. Instead, eat conservatively throughout the day to help manage your cravings.
  3. Modify your favorite dishes 
    Top your green bean casserole with almonds instead of fried onion rings, make mashed potatoes using sweet potatoes, or replace sour cream with plain Greek yogurt in recipes. These small changes can make a big difference nutritionally.
  4. Use a smaller plate 
    We tend to crave less when we see less. This is a great strategy for all-you-can-eat buffets.
  5. Fill your dish with healthy options first 
    Add vegetables and whole grains to your plate before reaching for the mashed potatoes and gravy. This will ensure you have room for healthy choices while still enjoying your favorite dishes.
  6. Mind your portions 
    Eat to satisfy, not to stuff. Focus on moderation. You can enjoy a little bit of everything, but portion size is key.
  7. Savor every bite 
    Set down your utensil between each bite and take time to enjoy the aromas, tastes, textures of your food. This is beneficial as it takes 20 minutes for the brain to register that the stomach is full.
  8. Be picky about your indulgences 
    Take time to scan the dessert table and choose one you’d really like to indulge in. Have more than one favorite? Enjoy a few bites of each.
  9. Quit the Clean Plate Club 
    Cancel your membership and acknowledge that it’s better to save some leftovers, or just leave those last few bites on your plate. Remind yourself this is not the last time you’ll eat.
  10. Plan time for exercise 
    Exercise often gets put on the back burner during the holidays. To keep up with your fitness, plan exactly when you’ll set aside time to exercise. It can be as simple as a 20-minute walk after lunch. More movement gives you more energy during the holiday hustle.

Mindful eating is all about fully enjoying your food and being conscious of your choices. So pick the tips that work best for you and put them into practice. The more you use them, the more you’ll bring enjoyment, health, and celebration to your holidays.