As the holidays approach, we are busy buying presents, decorating, baking and going to parties. All these activities take up precious time in our already full schedules. When we get a chance to eat, it is normally on the run between going to the store to shop and getting home to wrap gifts.

As we shovel the food in, there is not time to think about what we are eating or how much we are eating. As this cycle progresses through the holidays, by the time we get through New Year’s we have put on 10 pounds! If we take a few minutes out of our schedule to mindfully eat our food, it will help solve this problem.

What is mindful eating? Mindful eating is a choice we make to slow down and become aware of our senses (sight, smell, taste) when we choose, prepare and eat food. This gives us time to let our stomach catch up, because it takes the stomach 20 minutes to realize that it is full. If you take the time to slow down, eating mindfully, you will not eat as much and your stomach will still be satisfied. Choose foods that are satisfying and nutritious.

Eating mindfully means that we pay attention to the food we eat, including the smell, taste and texture. We observe what our body is telling us and are aware of when we are hungry and full. Pay attention to the environment and minimize distractions while eating.

By slowing down to enjoy our food, we will know when we are hungry. It helps to sit down and avoid distractions that take our attention away from our bodies. Even if you are eating fast food in your car, you can pull over, park, turn on some holiday music and enjoy the food. By taking the extra few minutes to enjoy your food, you will avoid overeating.

One way to be mindful is by taking a “mindful bite.” A mindful bite is the act of slowing down and savoring your food.

Take these steps:

• Choose a small piece of food.

• Notice the color, shape, size.

• Notice the smell of the food.

• Bite the food but don’t chew.

• Notice how it feels in your mouth.

• Chew the food slowly.

• Swallow and give gratitude.

If you go through this process with each bite, you will automatically slow down and really appreciate the food you are eating. The last step is giving gratitude. Be thankful for the food that was prepared for you and the nourishment it provides for your body.

“Holiday meals are a perfect time to stop and give thanks for all of the abundance in our lives and for the many people whose efforts went into providing the meal before us: the farmers who grew our food, the truckers who transported it to the grocery store, the artisans who crafted our plates, the cooks who prepared the dishes,” wrote Jill Suttie from Greater Good.

Here are some other tips to assist you in your mindful eating journey. Try to sit down at a table to eat. Minimize multitasking during meals. Turn off distractions like phones and TV. Eat more slowly and remember to chew! Stop eating when you feel almost full, not stuffed.

Mindful eating allows for us the time to appreciate the food we have before us, especially those special dinners and treats baked by friends and family. It allows us to take a moment to slow down and appreciate what we have. This is a great way to model positive eating habits to children. By walking them through the mindful bite exercise, it teaches them to slow down and savor their food and build healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime.

Adrian Kohrt is a family nutrition coordinator for Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at [email protected] or 907-474-7930.