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Slices of pie are seen for dessert at a recent Thanksgiving dinner. Mindless eating during the holidays can hurt our health.

Andy Abeyta QUAD-CITY TIMES

It’s that time of year again when the holiday festivities are in full swing, which in turn mean lots of eating. But why not take a healthier approach to this year’s eating habits? You can still enjoy your favorite foods, but in moderation. It’s all about being mindful of what you are eating.

Mindless eating means consuming foods because it’s there, not necessarily because you are hungry. Most often, mindless eating occurs when we are distracted, i.e. working at a computer, watching TV, or playing on a smartphone. It can also mean eating for emotional comfort, or boredom instead of actual hunger.

We all lead extremely busy lives, but when we aren’t paying attention to what we are eating it can lead to us eating more calories and in turn increase the chance of being overweight and even lead to obesity in the long run.

Most people tend to make healthier food choices when they bring awareness to what they are putting in their mouth. Here are a few suggestions I recommend following:

Control portions: You don’t have to deprive yourself, just eat smaller portions and less often.

Eat when you’re hungry: Just because the clock says its breakfast, lunch or dinner time doesn’t mean you have to eat. If you’re not hungry, wait until you are.

Plan: Pack food to bring with you wherever you go. Prepare healthy snacks throughout the day. I like to recommend putting several types of healthy snacks together so you have variety for your day. You’re less likely to choose an unhealthy option this way.

Slow down: Enjoy each bite and put your fork down while chewing, then take a drink between each bite. This gives your body enough time to trigger your brain that you are satisfied and not stuffed.

Log your food: Use a smartphone app to track your foods, or even just write down everything you eat. Take time to look at your food choices for the day and see where you could improve and incorporate a healthier option. You can also make notes on how were feeling before, during and after you ate.

I recommend keeping your exercise routine in mind during the holiday season as well. Make sure you are getting at least 30-60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on most days of the week. If you know you’re going to a holiday party and may be consuming more calories that day, increase the amount of time you exercise that day to make up for the increased calorie consumption. Always remember to consult with your primary care physician before starting an exercise program.

If you follow these tips you’ll be on your way to losing or maintaining this holiday season instead of gaining. Cheers to your good health and Happy Holidays.

Shannon Nelson is a UnityPoint Wellness Coach.

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