LEWISBURG — The display of food lining the table this Thanksgiving is appealing to all of the senses, so a little indulging is normal for the season, right?

Area dietitians took on this topic and explained how we can eat, drink and be mindful — as well as merry.

Kimberly Criswell, Dietitian-Nutritionist with Bariatrics of Evangelical, Sara Meloy, clinical dietitian for Geisinger’s 65 Forward in Shamokin Dam and Milton, and Travis Bell, clinical dietitian, UPMC Lock Haven gave some festive feedback.

As you take in the aromas, the hunger pangs become real at holiday gatherings, and this is definitely normal, Criswell said. “It’s normal for your appetite to fluctuate. Also, people tend to eat more in situations where there is more variety of dishes and when the food seems more special. It helps to eat when you have a healthy level of hunger, but are not famished,” she said.

“Many times at holiday meals,” Meloy said. “We get very excited about the traditions and special foods that we eat so quickly we miss the enjoyment of eating and before we know it, we’ve eaten to the point of discomfort. We have to keep in mind that it takes the stomach about 20 minutes to communicate to our brain when it feels satisfied. So by eating slowly and savoring each bite, we will recognize better when we feel satisfied and stop with a smaller portion.”

Temporary indulgence is fine, but don’t make it a habit. Bell said it’s realistic to understand everyone has moments of overeating. “One day of healthy eating won’t suddenly make you healthy, just like one day of overeating won’t make you unhealthy,” he added.

All agreed it was important to be cautious and recognize whether overeating is a real problem for you.

“Many times we are tempted to overeat because we view food as a reward for accomplishing a goal or good behavior. We also can be tempted to overeat by categorizing a food as a bad food. Mentally, when we’re told we can never eat a particular food, the food tends to be the only thing we desire at that point,” said Meloy. She then demonstrated how to chew with enjoyment and satisfaction as opposed to gobbling.

“Good habits to practice are to take smaller bites, only one bite at a time, set silverware down between bites, and chew each bite 20 to 30 times before swallowing. It is even suggested that the best tasting bites, the ones we most enjoy, are the first three bites of any food. We would dramatically reduce our portions and calorie intake if we only took three bites of each food offered at our various events,” Meloy said.

The trio agreed it is wise to follow the My Plate rule. “A good place to start is the plate method: half vegetables, one quarter protein, and one quarter starch. I recommend increasing your intake of whole plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) because the fiber makes you feel full with less calories,” said Criswell.

“Gatherings with our family and friends are important. We need to enjoy eating together, but be mindful of your portion sizes. The majority of my recommendations are about portion control,” Bell said, which is where the My Plate scenario can also be used. The same is true, he added, about alcohol consumption during the holidays.

“Stick to a moderate amount. A lot of alcoholic drinks are high in carbs and calories. It’s even easier to over indulge calories when you are drinking them. Try seltzers or some lower sugared ciders. These are all lower in calories,” Bell said.

No one overeats food that doesn’t taste good, but “vegetables don’t have to be steamed as the only healthy option out there,” Meloy said and Criswell agreed. She explained that when preparing vegetables, you can add your favorite spice blend or dressing to make them taste better. My absolute favorite way to make vegetables delicious is grilling or roasting them in a 425 degree oven to bring out the carmelized flavor. I also love bisque soups, where the vegetables are pureed into a thick, richly flavored soup,” Criswell said.

Bell noted that Brussel sprouts, for example, are not a crowd favorite. “But they can be tasty if roasted and you add some balsamic vinegar dressing and some dried cranberries. Maybe add some nuts.”

One way people may decide to compromise their holiday overeating is by preparing their stomach in advance and eat very little in the days and hours leading up to the event.

Not a good idea, Criswell said.

“Restricting food intake ahead of time can make someone vulnerable to eating a larger volume later,” Criswell said.

Meloy agreed. “Unfortunately we can’t save calories from one day to the next so it doesn’t help us to eat less one day to make up for it on the next. In fact, we tend to eat more sensibly when we have structured eating habits.”

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