With spring finally here, summer bbqs around the corner and brunch buffets galore on the weekend – sticking to a healthy eating plan can be a challenge. When there are mountains of amazing food right at our fingertips, moderation can go out the window and overeating easily occur. While I definitely believe in the occasional indulgence, it can be helpful to have some strategies in your back pocket for when you head into a buffet or family meal. We all want to enjoy our favorite foods every once and awhile (even if they are super unhealthy) but avoiding overeating our favorite foods can be a challenge. Here are some of my tips:
1. Fill half your plate with greens
When you head into a buffet or family style meals, one of the most challenging things is PORTION control. We often use big plates and grab heaping spoonfuls of our favorites, inevitably taking more than we need just because it looks so amazing. My favorite trick is to fill half of my plate with something green: salad, green beans, brussel sprouts…whatever veggies you have. Then I split the other half of the plate in half for a portion of meat and a portion of starch. This can be a helpful guide to keep your portions and nutrient proportions in a good range. Also, the more you fill up on veggies, the less likely you are to go back for second portions of the mac and cheese!
2. Eat slowly
One of the biggest reasons people overeat is because they eat too quickly and their body does not have a chance to signal to them that they are full. When we are enjoying time with family, and food tastes so so good – there is tendency to eat fast. Practice slowing down your eating, tasting each bite and savoring it. Pause between bites to help slow you down and help you actually enjoy your food, not inhale it.
3. Drink plenty of water, and sip in between bites
Another trick is to make sure you are drinking plenty of water along with your meal as you eat. Staying hydrated is important in general, but drinking water during your meal can help you feel full and satisfied, and help you slow down by taking some sips of water in between bites of food.
4. Check in with your body
One of the pitfalls of fun gatherings with food is we often get caught up in the conversations and enjoyment and eat not because we are actually hungry but because we are having fun and the food is right in front of us. Eating can quickly become mindless and almost disconnected from any true sensation of hunger. Make sure you check in with your body throughout the meal. Take time to see if you are actually hungry and need food, or just eating more because it is available.
5. Eat enough protein and fiber
Make sure you eat plenty of protein and fiber to help you feel full and satisfied with your meal. Sugary starchy foods tend to make us full for a little, but we quickly become hungry again for more. Choose protein and fiber filled foods to make sure your body is satisfied with nutrients that will keep you full throughout the meal and into the game of Cards Against Humanity afterwards.
6. Decide when you are done and signal that to your body
Consciously decided in your mind when you are done with the meal. If you have checked in with your body and decided you are full, make a mental note to yourself that you are done eating. Choose a way to signal this to yourself that can solidify this in your mind. For example: crossing your fork and knife over your plate, placing your napkin over your plate, pushing your plate slightly out in front of you etc. Signal to yourself and your body your are done eating and make a silent pact to yourself to stick to that.
7. Quit the clean plate club
One of the worst things we ever learned from our parents was to “finish everything on your plate”. While I completely respect and understand the importance of wanting to teach your children the value of food and to not waste anything…it is unhealthy to overeat and maybe even more important for us to learn to stop eating when we are full. Therefore, my 2 cents is to quit the clean plate club and rely on your body to signal when to stop – not a clean plate.
8. Finish your meal with tea
I love to finish a meal with hot tea to help my body digest and give myself something to sip at a party or family dinner that is healthy. Some of my favorites are peppermint tea which helps with bloating, and ginger tea that helps with digestion. There are also some amazing blends like “Stomach Ease” from Yogi which has a delicious blend of herbs that helps your stomach. Having a cup of tea to sip on an also help avoid reaching for more snacks and settles your stomach to signal that you are full.
I hope these tips are helpful – also just remember if you do over indulge or overeat…it is OK and nothing to feel guilty about. Removing the shame and guilt that often comes with food I believe is so important. We are all only human and just doing the best we can to eat healthy and keep healthy habits! Love your body, love yourself and be kind to yourself!