The holidays are upon us once again which brings an increased urge to overindulge in many things including food. Many wonder how to avoid holiday overeating. I often wonder how to avoid overeating in general. I think many of the principals that help us avoid overeating at any time of the year apply to holiday overeating as well.

Watch Your Portion Size

Being conscious of how much food we put on our plate is one of the keys to preventing overeating. Did you know that a portion of meat is equal to 3 ounces of lean meat? Can you picture how big 3 ounces of lean meat is? It is not very big at all.

As a side note, a good rule to follow with meat and portion size is this. For red meat, a portion should be approximately the size of your palm and about ½ inch (1.3 cm) thick. For chicken and pork you can extend the size to include up to your first knuckle. For fish you can include the size of your entire hand (fingers and palm). This is so much easier than a food scale, but I would encourage you to weigh a piece of lean, cooked meat on a scale if you have the chance. Most of us are visual creatures. This will help.

But back to portion size. Make sure you are conservative when filling your plate. Go heavy on the vegetables and light on the stuffing, gravy and meat. Also, use a smaller plate if possible. This has been shown in studies to help people take less food and therefore eat less. Easy, huh?

You can also try limiting yourself to one serving. Be strong.

Eat Slowly

Another way to avoid holiday overeating is to eat slowly. It takes a while for the “full signal” to get from our stomachs to our brains (this is very unfortunate, but it may have been useful long ago when food was scarce and a big score meant we should gorge ourselves). Since this is the case, eating slowly gives that signal extra time to develop and get to our brain.

Eating slowly has other great benefits too. It will help avoid gas and indigestion, and it gives us time to enjoy the company around us. A slow meal with family and friends is priceless and something we often take for granted. I think it can lead to increased well being through better relationships. You also get a chance to taste your food more and appreciate what you are eating.

Everything in Moderation—Including Moderation

Finally, remember the title immediately above. Life is about enjoying yourself and your environment. Sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and indulge. This is great. Be thankful that you can do so. Do so safely (chew thoroughly and don’t drink and drive) and with those you care about. This is a wonderful time of year, and it is entirely possible to keep up a healthy lifestyle with a bit of planning and willpower. Happy holidays!