Mindful Eating During the Holidays

Written by Anna Byrnes, MS, RDN

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The holidays can bring up many different feelings and emotions, from gratitude, stress, joy, sadness, the list goes on. With the whirlwind of food that comes with each holiday it can be easy to tune out of our meals with so much on your mind.
As always, but especially during this time, it is important to approach each day with grace and open-mindedness. Explore new ways of creating a holiday experience that works for you and your body. This year we encourage you to practice mindful eating during the Holidays with a few of these helpful tips below!

How to Stay Present During Mealtimes:

  • Breathe: Start and end each meal by taking 5 deep breaths before your first bite and after your last. Use these breaths to utilize all your senses noticing your food, settle your body to prepare to eat, and sets a definite beginning and end to your meal.


  • Satiation and Hunger: Your hunger and fullness signals are an ongoing conversation between your belly and your brain. The convos in this pathway can sometimes take 20-30 minutes to properly relay communications of involuntary muscle movements and hormone regulation from your stomach to your brain. Your stomach tells your brain how you are feeling about your meal, how full or hungry you are, and if the meal is satisfying your nutrient needs. Allowing time before getting seconds can allow you to listen to what your body is telling you.


  • Remember your parasympathetic nervous system: A well-known nickname for this is the “rest and digest” system. The more relaxed your body and mind are during mealtimes the better you will be able to enjoy and digest your food. During this bodily state, the heart rate slows, and blood pulls inward to nourish your digestive tract. This helps your body receive the nutrients from your meal. Additionally, acetylcholine is released to increase salivation and support comfortable movement through your GI tract as your food enters your stomach.


  • Set screens to the side: Try and turn off all phones/TV screens while you are eating. A meal generally lasts between 15-45 minutes, take this time to be present, eat with someone, and/or savor your food. The exception being if you are eating with someone via phone or video chat, then the screens are a welcome connection piece!


  • Create calm with Plates: Keep the plates/bowls you are eating from neutral and solid colors. This can help keep your eyes focused on the food and lets the variety of colors on your plate shine through.  I LOVE solid black, white, blue, or green plates to help channel additional digestive peace during your meal.


  • Chewing: Chewing plays a crucial role in promoting healthy digestion and mindfulness during meals. Since digestion begins in the mouth, there’s no specific magic number for how many times to chew. Instead, focus on chewing enough times to fully savor each bite, allowing your own comfort to determine the ideal number.


  • Your Fork flow: Place your fork down in between bites of food. This allows time to thoroughly chew your food and enjoy each bite to its fullest. If after every bite feels redundant or unrealistic, start by setting it down every few bites. This will help you feel comfortable during your meal while setting a pace your body will thank you for.


As you approach a large holiday meal remember…

Eat your usual meals, even when you know you will be having a large meal later, it can be tempting to skip breakfast or lunch. However, this can leave you in a ravenous state when the big meal comes along and inevitably it is harder to stay present and mindful at the meal. Include the following in each of your meals:

    • Proteins (like eggs, meat, fish, beans/lentils, Greek yogurt, etc.)
    • Carbohydrates (like oatmeal, whole grain bread, crackers, white/brown rice, potatoes, etc.)
    • Color (fruits/veggies)


If you are planning to eat Thanksgiving dinner earlier, perhaps 2pm before any football starts! Try going for a lighter lunch that checks off your nutritional boxes, ideas could include:

    • Tuna salad with crackers and cucumber ships
    • Pita, hummus, and carrot sticks
    • Greek yogurt with granola and berries
    • Green leafy salad with croutons, chicken pieces, and dressing
    • Smoothie feat. 1 cup frozen fruit, 1 cup frozen cauliflower, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp nut butter (optional), 1 scoop protein powder, and 1-2 dates, blended with milk to reach desired consistency.
    • Quick quesadilla feat. tortillas stuffed with cheese, shredded chicken, and spices, heated in in a pan or the microwave for 30-60 sec and topped with salsa or guac.


This is one day; it doesn’t have to follow all the usual systems and routines. You have done and worked all year to enhance your nutrition/health. One day with a change in your nutrition routine will not set you “off track.” Take the next day as a new day to refocus on your goals, but before then, be present and enjoy your holiday. Catch up with friends and family, make memories, and share delicious food!

Want More Tips for Living a Nourished Lifestyle?

Stay tuned for more insightful blog posts, where you’ll find a wealth of knowledge about holistic well-being and nourishment. For personalized guidance on your nutritional journey, we invite you to Book a Free Discovery Call with an Integrative Dietitian. Sanare Today’s dieticians will align your nutritional goals with a plan that nourishes your body and soul. We are here for you in any way we can to support your nutrition + wellness journey.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!