Maintaining Mindful Eating Habits Through the Holidays

Tis the season for eating. It starts out fun-size, turns into a butterball, and from there, it’s all downhill until we are wallowing in a cheese tray, promising ourselves we will get back to healthy eating once the champagne toasts are over.

The energy of consumption ramps up as high as it will go for a few months out of the year. You can avoid the mall, or at least walk away from sale racks. But you want to/have to attend some gatherings, and you can’t just walk away from the table. You do have to eat.

Let’s take the opportunity to work on this problem again this year. Let’s take the holidays one bite at a time, paying attention to each moment- the shiny, happy ones, and the tired, frustrated ones.

Are you attending a party or holiday dinner? Make something that you find beautiful and healthy. Then you know there will be at least one dish you can feel good about eating. Plan to make this ahead of time – the night or morning before – so you’re not rushing around at the last minute.

If someone is really pressuring you to eat, recognize: that’s about his or her need to control the situation. You can feel compassion, but protect yourself, too. It’s OK to say, “No, I really can’t. If I eat that, I won’t feel good.”

When faced with the laden table, go slowly, appreciate the abundance, the sights and smells, and the effort and good intentions that went into all of this food. Think for a few moments before making any decisions about what to put on your plate.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Did I, or someone else, make this with by hand and with love?
  • If I think this thing is my favorite–why? Does it bring back happy memories? Can I enjoy those memories with or without eating this food again right now? On the flip side – Have I had a bad experience eating this particular food in the past?
  • Does this choice work in balance with what I have eaten already today (and yesterday, and what I might eat tomorrow)?
  • Do I have a gut feeling that I’m moving into dangerous territory?
  • Let your honest feelings guide your choices.

And once you’ve started eating – keep paying attention!

  • Am I even tasting this?
  • Is it really that good?
  • Am I still hungry?
  • Does eating this fill me with pleasure?
  • If any of the answers are “no” – put the plate down somewhere. Now you can give yourself permission to walk away.

What we want most of all during the holiday season is to create space for peace. Make room inside yourself for that peace, with positive intentions and good decisions.

Green Bean Beet Walnut Salad

This salad is perfect to take to holiday gatherings. The colors of the vegetables shine like jewels, it’s seasonally appropriate, plus it’s filling and super-healthy. Everyone will appreciate it.

1 pound green beans (haricots vert)
2-4 beets (depending on size)
a few handfuls of walnuts
red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper
goat cheese (optional)

Set up your steaming apparatus. Trim green beans – you can take off just the stem end, and leave on the curly tail. Put them on to steam for 8 minutes. Set up an ice bath by placing a handful of ice cubes in a bowl of cold water. When the beans are done, they should still be bright green, and have a bit of a crunchy bite. Plunge them into the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain, pat dry, and refrigerate. (you can do this several hours ahead of time.)

Peel and slice the beets into bite size pieces. Steam for 10-12 minutes – testing by tasting. They are done when they are tender, but not limp. You can put them in an ice bath, too, or just place them in a colander and rinse under cold water for a minute.

Whisk together red wine vinegar and olive oil, tasting for a tangy balance, then season with salt and pepper.

Toast the walnuts in a skillet for a few minutes, just until they are fragrant. They will begin to shine before they brown. Keep a watchful eye – or skip this step. Raw walnuts will work fine, too.

Arrange the beans on a serving platter, topped with a layer of the beets. Drizzle on the dressing, then top with the walnuts. If you like, you can add medallions of goat cheese off to one side, so that people can take it or leave it, as they choose.


By Lesley Ward: Chef. Writer. Health Educator
Food Coaching with Lesley Ward



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