Healthy Living

Holidays and Food: Is it OK to Splurge?

Mar. 24, 2016

Holidays have always included the presence of food, and since celebrating with family and friends is an important part of our lives, they may not be the best times to be overly focused on what you’re eating. It’s much more important to pay attention to what you’re eating all the other days, according to UR Medicine pediatrician Dr. Stephen Cook. If you follow healthy habits for the rest of the year, it’s OK to indulge a little bit during holidays.

Mom at Easter table with little girl

However, a holiday shouldn’t turn into a vacation from mindful eating. When snacks are plentiful and sitting out in the kitchen or elsewhere around the house, that can lead to a lot of mindless overeating. To avoid that unhealthy trap, I recommend using a system of five ONLYs:

  1. Only eat in the kitchen or the dining room. Noshing in front of the television may be tempting but may lead you to mindlessly overconsume.
  2. Only eat sitting down. Don’t stand or walk around with food, which can lead to distractions and more mindless overeating.
  3. Only eat out of a cup or off a plate, not directly from the package. You’ll be more aware of how much you’re eating and it’ll be easier to keep track of your portions.
  4. Only eat while you’re eating—don’t be doing something else. Having a face-to-face conversation while sitting and eating is fine, but flipping open your tablet or phone and scrolling through Facebook or email is similar to eating in front of a television.
  5. Only eat when you’re hungry. Before you start snacking, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry? Or does there just happen to be food in front of me?”

Stephen Cook, MD

Stephen Cook, M.D., M.P.H., is an associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the Center for Community Health. He cares for patients of the general pediatric practice at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital.