Mayhem to Magic: Mindful Holiday Eating

Tips to navigate food at your holiday party

Holiday cooking is a family tradition in my home—from melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies to our special cranberry sauce. The only thing I enjoy more than cooking and during the holidays is savoring these traditions with friends and family.

Many memories are formed around food throughout life, particularly during the holidays. However, the media is decorated with headlines like, “Diet Tips to Survive the Holidays” or “The Holiday Foods Naughty List.” Nothing sucks the joy out of eating festive foods like being told to scrutinize each bite during the holidays.

If you’re in a frenzy about what foods have the most calories or which diet you’re planning for January, it’s time to consider a different approach to holiday eating. If all you want for Christmas is peace with food, here are five mindful tips to get you started:

Gift yourself with permission. 

Rather than depriving yourself, choose your favorite foods and take time to savor them. Be selective and say “yes” to items you’ll truly enjoy. If that cute Christmas cookie doesn’t taste nearly as good as it looked, don’t be afraid to toss the rest.

Party with a Plate. 

Serving yourself a plate and moving away from the buffet (rather than mindlessly nibbling next to the table) provides a visual of the amount you’re eating and aids in recognizing hunger and fullness. Plating the food provides a clearer beginning and ending to meals.

Avoid too many holiday “Cheers!”

It’s easy to get distracted socializing at parties and lose track of how much you’ve had to eat or drink. Alcohol is high in calories and can lead to dehydration. Throwing back too many decreases your ability to notice hunger and fullness, often leading to overeating.  Rather than avoiding cocktails altogether, sip them slowly, spacing each one with a glass of water. Prevent too much merriment by keeping moderation in mind: 1 drink per day for women, 2 drinks per day for men.

Be Present.

Stay in the moment as you eat, periodically taking time to pause and check-in: Are you still hungry, comfortably satisfied, or stuffed? Use this time to make sure the food still tastes good and meets your expectations to prevent eating more than your body needs.

Ignore your inner Scrooge.

Say “Bah! Humbug!” to the feelings of guilt and judging food as “good” or “bad,” which ruins the fun of eating. Work on changing your self-talk to a curious and compassionate tone rather than a critical one. And definitely don’t let diet talk detract from gatherings with family and friends.

– – – – –

Time is especially precious during the holiday season. Emotions and stress can run high as pressure mounts to perfectly uphold traditions, check everything off the to-do list, and make the holidays memorable for our families. Incorporating mindfulness can lead to a calm, clear, and confident mindset with food that moves holiday eating from mayhem to magical.

Blair Mize, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN is co-owner of Memphis Nutrition Group, a nutrition & lifestyle counseling practice operated by registered & licensed dietitians/nutritionists. Memphis Nutrition Group believes in a non-diet approach that promotes overall health and optimal performance without compromising the enjoyment of food. For more information call Memphis Nutrition Group at 901.343.6146 or visit

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