Eating Strategies From the Holiday Challenge

— Written By and last updated by Meghan Lassiter
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The 2022 Holiday Challenge has begun. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, this is an annual online program from N.C. Cooperative Extension and the Eat Smart Move More Weigh Less folks.

The whole concept of the Holiday Challenge is to help participants weigh the same on New Year’s Day as they did in early November. The Holiday Challenge is free of charge, all you need is an email address and all materials will be sent to your inbox. There are weekly newsletters, weekly challenges, healthy recipes and daily tips.

Registration never closes, you can sign up any time between now and the end of the year. It’s never too late. For those that haven’t joined, here’s a “sneak peek” from the first few weeks so you can “catch up.” These mindful eating strategies can be helpful year-round, but especially as we face this busy food-filled time of the year.

  1. Make eating an exclusive event. When you eat—only eat. Give eating the attention it needs to fully enjoy your food and be mindful of every bite. Eating
    without distraction can help you better recognize when you are full.
  2. Check your stress level. Eating is a common response to stress. During times of stress, you may find yourself turning to food even when you are not hungry. Try to get your mind off of food and deal with stress in other ways, perhaps a few deep breaths or a short walk.
  3. Appreciate food. Acknowledge the gift of food and the effort needed to grow
    and prepare it. Enjoy your food with gratitude.
  4. Eat slowly. Eating slowly may help you better recognize your hunger and satiety cues. Try to put your fork down between bites, chew your food well, and make each meal last at least 20 minutes.
  5. Be mindful of the taste, texture, and smell of food. Savor your food. Notice
    the flavor, shape, and texture of each bite.
  6. Be mindful of portions to enjoy quality, not quantity. When more food is served, we are tempted to eat more. Be mindful of the portion sizes being served on your plate.
  7. Be mindful of how hungry you are. External cues such as seeing or smelling food, may be signaling you to eat, but are you really hungry?
  8. Eat before you get too hungry. When you get too hungry, you may be tempted to make impulsive choices instead of mindful selections.
  9. Be mindful of your protein. Choose plant-based proteins such as beans and legumes often. Try Meatless Mondays.
  10. Be mindful of your calorie budget. Everyone has a number of calories that can be eaten each day to maintain a healthy weight. One way to be mindful of the calories you are consuming is to track what you eat and drink. Tracking for even a few days can increase your mindfulness of what and how much you are consuming.
  11. Determine if the food is calorie-worthy. When it comes to special holiday foods ask yourself, is this worth the calories? If you are going to splurge on a high-calorie food, make sure it is something you really enjoy—then have just a few bites.
  12. Take one bite. Follow the one-bite rule when it comes to special foods or desserts. You will not feel deprived of missing out on a favorite food and will not feel guilty for eating too much. The maximum pleasure of eating a food usually comes in the first bite.

A printable copy of these mindful eating strategies can be downloaded from the Eat
Smart Move More Weigh Less website. While you are at the website, you can also learn more and sign up for the Holiday Challenge.

Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910.253.2610 or by email at