How to mindfully navigate the holiday season

Navigating the Holidays a Healthier Way: Mindfulness at Holiday Parties

In the last “Navigating the Holidays” tip, I shared three steps to follow before the party to help you stay on track:

  1. Step one: Don’t skip meals
  2. Step two: Hydrate with plenty of water
  3. Step three: Bring a healthy dish to the party

In this last tip you will learn how to bring a bit of mindfulness to the celebration so that you may enjoy the bounty of delectable holiday foods without overindulging.

What exactly does it mean to be a mindful eater? Mindful eating is a discovery process of how, what and why you eat.

  • How you eat: Make a closer connection with your stomach—know what it feels like to be hungry and recognize the first signs of fullness. This also means tasting and enjoying your food—not shoveling it in by the forkful without appreciation of its textures and flavors.

Holiday tip: Picture your stomach with a gauge connected to it that moves from empty to full as you feed it. Better yet, pretend it goes from zero to ten. Your stomach, when empty and growling (level 0), is about the size of your fist. As you fill your stomach with food and liquid, it expands just like a balloon. At full (level 5), it is filled to its natural capacity—32 ounces. Level 10, or “Thanksgiving day full”, means your stomach is at maximum capacity, or 128 ounces—that’s the size of a gallon of milk! Keep this visualization in mind during your next holiday meal and know when to say when.

  • What you eat: Pay attention to what you eat and build awareness that every piece of food you eat affects every cell of your body in some way. Some foods are supportive of your health while others, when overeaten, can contribute to health problems.

Holiday tip: Commit to only two trips to the buffet while keeping the 80-20 rule top of mind. On trip one, fill your plate with raw veggies and sweet potato hummus (see recipe below) or a leafy green salad to take the edge off of your hunger. For your second trip, draw an imaginary line down the center of your plate and fill one half with non-starchy vegetables. Divide the second half of your plate in two and fill one side with lean protein and the other, a starchy vegetable or grain. Remember, the 80-20 rule means making smarter choices for 80% of your meal while reserving 20% for some fun, like a little gravy, glass of wine or stuffing. Depending on the event, sometimes I’ll choose to follow a 75-25 or 70-30 plan. And I still feel good!

  • Why you eat: Being a mindful eater means understanding why you are eating. Don’t be surprised if you discover that you eat for reasons other than hunger, like boredom, stress, anger and even happiness. I call this feeding your “head hunger.”

Holiday tip: When eating more than your share, stop and ask yourself: “Why exactly am I eating?” Bringing a little awareness to your head hunger is often all it takes to put the fork down.

When you make the connection and begin to eat more mindfully, you’ll discover a sense of peace that comes with realizing you can trust your body to tell you what it needs.

May you have a peaceful and enjoyable holiday season!

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus
Source: Adapted from


2 medium sweet potatoes
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained)
3 tbsp. tahini
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of ½ lemon
Ground sea salt, to taste
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. smoked paprika
¼ tsp. cumin


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the sweet potatoes on the middle oven rack or in a baking dish for 45-60 minutes. They should yield to a gentle squeeze when done.
  2. While the sweet potatoes are cooling, toss all of the other ingredients into a food processor. Once cool enough to handle, use a knife to peel the skin from the sweet potatoes. Add sweet potatoes to the food processor and blend well.
  3. Serve with raw veggies, crackers or pita wedges. Looking for gluten-free pita bread? Try MyBread pita in the freezer section at Heinen’s.
Melanie Jatsek RD, LD
Melanie Jatsek is a registered dietitian with over 15 years of experience in the health and wellness field. She is a published author of two books and Heinen’s Corporate Wellness Specialist. Her mission is to help you build the healthy body you were meant to live in…without dieting!

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