Mindful Eating During the Holidays

Lael Agard, BS Nutrition Science & Dietetics Student

Sherri Isaak, MS, RD, CDCES, BC-ADM, DipACLM

The holiday season is such a unique time of the year, often filled with lots of food and fellowship for many. This is a time to try many new dishes and recipes as well as new ways of eating, such as mindful eating. According to psychologist Joseph Nelson, mindful eating is “an approach to food that focuses on individuals’ sensual awareness of the food and their experience of the food.” [1] Rather than being as concerned with caloric intake and keeping track of macronutrients, mindful eating allows the individual to fully enjoy their eating experience by being fully aware during the entire experience.

When practicing mindful eating, one is able to increase their satisfaction and enjoyment of the food. [2] Rather than telling yourself, “I should save this for later,” or “I should not eat this,” eating that food when there is a taste for it allows the individual to experience more pleasure in that moment instead of another time. Along with enjoying your food, be aware of your level of  internal hunger and fullness as well as healthy options that may allow for the same satisfaction.

Have you ever noticed that food tends to taste better when you are hungry? This “better taste” is an important component of satisfaction. However, according to Resch, if one is experiencing extreme hunger, they may not enjoy the food as much. [3] When over hungry, it’s easy to eat too quickly and then less savoring and enjoyment of your food occurs.  During the holiday season, it is common to hold off on earlier meals to eat a larger amount at a holiday event. This may lead to overeating [2], which could cause feelings of sluggishness and feelings of guilt.

Here are some helpful questions and suggestions to consider when practicing mindful eating:

  • Try not to skip meals. Skipping meals can cause intense hunger and you may be more likely to overeat. [3] Bring portioned snacks when shopping such as some nuts, a whole grain granola bar, apple slices, etc.
  • Are you taking your time to eat? If rushing when eating, it may result in a less enjoyable experience and cause you to eat more than your body needs. [6]
  • Appreciate your food. Take a moment to observe your surroundings, including the people who may be eating with you. Use all your senses to observe how the food makes you feel. [4]
  • Eat your food slowly. Taking the time to eat your food allows you to fully take in the experience and be in tune with the way it makes you feel. [4]
  • It’s okay not to clean your plate. Many times, people feel pressured to clean their plate. If you are feeling full and still have food left, consider putting it aside and saving it for later. Remember, food tastes better when you are hungry!
  • Consider foods that are important to you. Enjoying your food is an important part of eating. Include some of your favorite foods, in moderation, in your meals.

Mindful eating may not come easy to everyone. There will be some meals where you overeat and that’s normal! Learn from your experiences and note what works for you and what doesn’t. Overall, remember to be patient with yourself throughout your journey to become a more mindful eater.


  1. Nelson JB. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectr. 2017;30(3):171-174. doi:10.2337/ds17-0015
  2. Dennett C. Holiday eating – Today’s Dietitian Magazine. Today’s Dietitian. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1116p22.shtml. Accessed November 17, 2021.
  3. Tribole E, Resch E. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. 3rd ed. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press; 2012.
  4. 8 steps to mindful eating. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating. Published January 16, 2016. Accessed November 23, 2021.
  5. Segal J, Robinson L, Cruz M. Mindful eating. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/mindful-eating.htm. Published October 4, 2021. Accessed November 23, 2021.
  6. Mirgain S. Eating mindfully can help manage holiday temptations. News | UW Health. https://www.uwhealth.org/news/eating-mindfully-can-help-manage-holiday-temptations. Published November 16, 2018. Accessed November 23, 2021.


Roasted Root Vegetables


Recipe by Shelby Huse, MS Nutrition & Wellness Student


3 whole carrots, cubed

2 russet potatoes, cubed

3 sweet potatoes, cubed

1 beet, cubed

1 parsnip, cubed

1/8 cup olive oil

6-7 cloves of garlic, minced

3 sprigs of rosemary

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper


Preheat oven to 400ºF. Wash and cube carrots, russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, beet, and parsnip and place in a large bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic and toss to thoroughly mix. Spread out on a large baking pan. Place sprigs of rosemary on top of the root vegetables. Cook for 30-35 minutes until golden brown!