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By Mackenzie Cogle

As the holiday season gets into high gear, healthy habits and resolutions often get put on the back burner until January 1. However, with the release of The Food Lover’s 12 Healthy Habits Cookbook, there is no better time to incorporate a habit that will help you live a healthier, happier life during a month when schedules are a little more than hectic.

Now that holiday treats are beginning to make an appearance, I decided to focus on the last healthy habit in the cookbook: to be mindful, purposeful and joyful while eating. After all, what’s the point of having that warm, chewy brownie if you aren’t taking the time to savor every moist bite? Plus, you’re more likely to reach for more if you feel your sweet tooth hasn’t been satisfied.

Mindful eating is a concept that has been around for years and is part of a diet-free movement of really enjoying your food and concentrating on your hunger cues.  When you focus on the flavor and texture of food, you’re more likely to feel the subtle cues that your body is becoming full, thus following the age-old dietitian rule of eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.

I decided to put this to the test at a recent holiday gathering among my fellow interns where a plethora of cookies, truffles and other goodies could be found. The result? I managed to avoid a sugar coma by only sampling the sweets I was really in the mood for and taking the time to appreciate each morsel of sugary goodness. I made sure to take smaller bites while consciously chewing slowly to really take in the moist texture and buttery, sweet flavor of a particularly delicious cashew blondie without feeling the need to grab another (or three).

When eating mindfully, keep these tips in mind:

  • Eat slowly. Really take the time to enjoy each bite while honing in on the flavor and texture of the food you are eating. Chewing your food about 40 times rather than the average 15 can help you eat about 12 percent less. Try it. It’s trickier than you think.
  • Focus on the food. When possible, turn off the TV and computer and put away your smartphone. You’ll be more satisfied than if you are mindlessly scarfing down your lunch.
  • Don’t label food as good or bad. Making certain foods off-limits only sets you up to overeat them later.  Plus, judging foods this way makes them less enjoyable because of unnecessary guilt.