‘Mindful eating’: Tips for healthy eating over the holidays

The holidays usually involve food – and lots of it! For those with health and wellness goals, navigating through the holiday season and holiday food may be overwhelming. Here are some dietitian-approved tips to help you stay on track this holiday season.

Mindful Eating 

  • Mindful eating is a great technique all year, especially during the holiday season.  
  • Mindful eating focuses on slowing down, being present, connecting with the food in front of you to truly enjoy it and be in sync with your body’s cues of hunger and fullness.  
  • When you get your plate full of food, notice the colors, taste, textures. Savor and enjoy each bite.  
  • It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to register a feeling of fullness, so slowing down not only allows you to fully enjoy the food – it also allows your body the chance to feel full.  This may help prevent that overstuffed feeling.

Eat Throughout the Day 

  • Oftentimes, people may skip other meals throughout the day in attempt to “save” for their holiday meal.  
  • I encourage you to continue eating regularly throughout the day on holidays. This will help fuel and energize your body, you will be full, and much less likely to overeat when it is time for that holiday meal.  

Be Strategic at Mealtimes 

  • Holiday meals usually mean lots of food options. Choose which foods you would like to indulge in and enjoy them mindfully. Choose foods that you may not get to enjoy all year round – such as your aunt’s sweet potato casserole or mom’s famous pumpkin pie. Make sure there are also lighter options available.  
  • I encourage patients to aim to make half of their plate fruits and vegetables. When you eat, fill up on the nutrient dense fruits and vegetables first. 
  • Fill the other half with grains, protein, and any other foods that you wish to indulge on during your holiday meal.  
  • Slow down, savor your meal. Mindful eating will help you be present and truly enjoy these foods all the while honoring your hunger and fullness cues. 

Incorporate fruits and vegetables 

  • If you aren’t sure how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your holiday meals – be creative with the foods and flavors of the season. 
  • For Thanksgiving – think roasted vegetables with herbs. For Christmas – think of red and green vegetables shaped into a fun platter. 

Holiday Food Swaps and Servings 

  • Make your favorite holiday dishes lighter with some simple swaps. 
  • Swap out whole milk for low fat or fat free milk.  
  • Swap out butter for margarine or heart healthy olive oil.  
  • Aim to eat proper portions. For turkey, a 3 oz serving is recommended. This equates to a portion that is about the size of a deck of cards. For other foods such as stuffing, a 1/2 cup serving is equivalent to the portion size of your scooped palm. Of course this isn’t to say you can’t enjoy leftovers if you are still hungry – but it is a good starting point.

Take it easy 

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you had more holiday treats than anticipated, it is OKAY. Just keep the mindset of getting back on track with healthy choices, and don’t let a slip turn into a fall. Happy Holidays!


Madeline Waters is an RDN and dietitian with UPMC in Williamsport.

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  • On the PULSE is an online media outlet in Northcentral, Pennsylvania. We specialize in in-depth journalism, human interest content and video features. Our mission is to build engagement in community through local news.

On the PULSE

On the PULSE is an online media outlet in Northcentral, Pennsylvania. We specialize in in-depth journalism, human interest content and video features. Our mission is to build engagement in community through local news.