You know that time of year – the holidays. The time of year that brings families and friends together accompanied by a huge spread of food! In all cultures, all religions, all backgrounds, food is a central part of our lives, and sharing a special meal is one of our most basic, yet most enjoyable traditions. While it’s a wonderful time to relax and enjoy, it’s also a fitting time of year to reflect on your family’s traditional meals and be more mindful of what they include.

Did you know a typical Thanksgiving dinner contains 3,000 calories? That is 50 percent more energy that the average American adult needs in one day! Eating mindfully during the holiday season can help curb mindless overeating and weight gain. Read on to pick up some tips to help keep your eating habits in check this season.

While standing around the buffet table waiting for a meal to be served, go for the low-calorie appetizers. Veggies, fruits and lean proteins are great options. Also, decide on your top three favorite high-calorie foods and resolve to eat only those. For instance, if you know you love stuffing and gravy, then save your calories for those by skipping the olives and cheese; go for carrot sticks instead. Save your calories for the foods that you really enjoy, and forgo the high-calorie foods that you won’t miss.

Did you know mint helps to curb appetite and settle stomachs? Take some mints or gum with you to the festivities. Instead of munching appetizers at all, try a few mints. It’s also a good idea to have a mint after the meal and before dessert. Once again, this curbs your hunger and settles your stomach.

Think smaller. Smaller plates can have a big impact on calorie intake. Using a salad plate can actually reduce what you eat by up to 1,200 calories! By using a smaller plate, you will take smaller portions, and will likely only have room for your favorite dishes on your plate. Once you finish a whole plate, you may be less inclined to go in for seconds. Also, it’s important to listen to your body’s cues while eating. Chances are, a smaller plate of food is going fill you up a lot more than you expected!

Take smaller bites. Think about the food as you are chewing it. Think about its texture, flavor, and the nourishment it is providing for your body. Think about why this particular food is part of your family’s traditional meal. Chew slowly and mindfully. Enjoy each bite. The longer you take to finish your plate the more time you give your brain to sense satiety. You will feel full and reduce overeating.

Try drinking only water during the meal. Then, have a full glass of water after the meal as well, while your food settles. This will allow your brain time to sense “fullness.” As you finish your water, take note of how you actually feel – are you truly still hungry? Try a mint before opting for second helpings.

Also, wait awhile before going for dessert. Talk and have some laughs before digging into the sweets. You can also go for healthier desserts, like baked apples, cranberry sauce and other fruits versus the pies and cookies. While still high in sugar, fruit desserts have fiber and vitamins and minerals that carb-based desserts lack. Take smaller sips of high-calorie drinks, especially alcohol. A half a glass of wine has up to 250 calories! That adds up quickly.

This season, eat mindfully and stay on a healthy path. This is a time for home, health and happiness; enjoy!

-- Erin Plumberg is a Clinical Dietitian at St. Mary’s Medical Center and can reached at 816-655-5597.