Mindfully enjoying, and eating, your way through the holiday season…one holiday at a time!

By Erin Potasnick, Nutrition Student at Yeshiva University and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
Labor Day Weekend has passed. What we consider to be the traditional summer season has ended…even though the Autumnal Equinox is weeks away! School is starting. And the Jewish New Year is beginning; the high-holiday period commences with Rosh Hashanah and ends ten days later with Yom Kippur. During the span of this holiday, customs dictate feasting on a wide variety of foods which we may not have eaten all year. For example, one symbolic practice is the consumption of apples dipped in honey to represent wishes for a “sweet” new year. As the holiday approaches, most celebrants think about all that has happened in their lives and the world during the past year as well as their goals for the coming year, what kind of life they want to live, and how to improve themselves. And, of course, there are endless possibilities for improvement. The first one for many might be changing their eating habits in a variety of ways. Because this holiday, among all the others to come during the remainder of our regular calendar year, entails a bountiful amount of traditional, very often high-calorie foods, it presents great challenges.
During all holiday seasons, it’s very easy to consume much more food than you usually do. You may spend endless hours sitting around various tables with family and friends eating large lunches and dinners. With all of this scrumptious-looking food actually surrounding you, your mind may get a little too excited. You definitely want to spoon a portion of every appetizing dish on the table directly onto your plate. This feeling is absolutely understandable! You really do want to “taste” everything—a good word to keep in mind because it should help you to be mindful about how much of each dish you are taking. You want to fill yourself rather stuff yourself. And remember that when people sit around a food-laden table for an extended period of time, they tend to take more servings just because the food is just inches away! The key to changing this behavior is learning to pace yourself.
Since you know there will be a spectacular abundance of traditional mouth-watering dishes prepared for each meal you serve or attend, you must begin by pacing yourself. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  1. There is enough food for everyone! Don’t rush to be the first one to take food.
  2. It’s not a race! Eat slowly and savor the different flavors. Your friends and family are there to enjoy not only the meal but also the time shared with one another.
  3. Try to balance out your food groups. Look for a tradeoff between lighter and heavier meals; it’s hard to eat heavy meals all the time. A light meal for dinner doesn’t mean going overboard for lunch.
  4. Try to eat only as much food as you would normally. You won’t feel so bloated or uncomfortable after.
  5. Do save room for dessert! But remember, holiday desserts can sometimes be extreme. Extremely elaborate! And extremely delicious! Just be mindful about what and how much you consume.

As noted above, we specifically eat apples dipped in honey during this holiday to represent the “sweet” new year we hope will come; the apple also embodies the scent of the Garden of Eden which was very holy. While a key symbol of this holiday tradition, apples always make a great snack or dessert because of their sweetness and nutrients like Vitamin C.  Plus, they help us feel full with the soluble fiber called pectin (the white inside) and the insoluble fiber, the skin. Incorporating apples and other seasonal fruits into holiday desserts can be a very good idea!
The holidays certainly do offer a cornucopia of sometimes conflicting choices for many people—the joys of sharing precious moments with family and good friends along with potential concerns about nutritional wellness. But trust me, if you’re mindful and attuned to what you are craving and how much you consume, you’ll feel much better about your decisions as you will feel mentally satisfied and physically full. Wisely listening to your body’s needs can take you a long way!
Happy New Year 5774 to all our Jewish friends…

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