Talking with U of M

Talking holiday mindful eating with U of M

Portrait of Mary Jo Kreitzer
Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer

During the holiday season, many social gatherings revolve around shared meals. 

University of Minnesota Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing Director Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer shares tips for maintaining mindful eating habits during this busy time period. 

Q: How can mindful eating impact our overall health?
Dr. Kreitzer: Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment – our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. Mindful eating means that you are using all of your senses to experience and enjoy the food choices you make. This helps us increase gratitude for food, which can improve our overall eating experience. Mindful eating also helps us make healthy choices that will be satisfying and nourishing to the body.

Q: How does holiday season stress impact our food choices?
Dr. Kreitzer: People eat for many reasons other than being hungry. Emotional triggers to eat include feeling stressed, sleepy, angry, lonely and bored. Mindfulness helps us pay attention to physical sensations of hunger and our emotions. Are we eating to address a physical need versus emotional comfort?

Q: How can we keep mindful eating top of mind during a busy holiday gathering?
Dr. Kreitzer: There can be a lot of social pressure around the holidays to eat and drink in excess. Plan your eating. Offer healthy food options, don’t pressure people to eat and create family traditions and rituals that don’t include food.  

Q: Is mindful eating healthier for the whole family?
Dr. Kreitzer: We all have a food story associated with growing up. Who prepared the food, was food used as a reward or punishment, what did our family eat, and did people actually prepare food or did we eat more processed or fast food? How is our food story influencing how we eat today? Mindful eating is healthier for the whole family and is focused on what to eat, why we eat, how much to eat and how to eat.  

Q: What are a few tips to help eat more mindfully during the holidays?
Dr. Kreitzer:

  • Pay attention to why you are eating. Learn to recognize the physical sensations of hunger as well as the emotional cues that trigger eating so that you can make conscious choices. Lots of eating is unconscious or mindless!
  • Eat slowly and mindfully. Chew your food well and savor it. Notice the taste and texture. You will enjoy your food more and notice when you are full or satisfied.
  • Don’t eat while you are driving in a car, watching TV or surfing the internet. Studies show that we are likely to consume 25% more calories when we are distracted and not paying attention to what we are eating. Focus on what you are putting in your body.
  • Honor the food – where it was grown, who prepared it and express gratitude.

Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer is the director of the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing at the University of Minnesota and a professor in the School of Nursing. 

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