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Our Blog: December 20, 2023

Mindful Eating During the Holidays

While the holidays are often a wonderful time full of love and good food, indulging in too many treats, sweets, and special meals can silence our bodies sense of knowing when we are physically hungry. It’s far too easy to overindulge during this time of year. I am planning to practice mindful eating during the holiday season and want to share some tips to help you do the same.

  1. Put a healthy twist on traditional recipes.
    Whether you’re baking or cooking, try some of these substitutes to decrease the fat, sodium, and calorie content in your holiday recipes:
    -  Sub applesauce, avocado, or mashed banana for butter in baked goods.
    -  Sub plain fat-free Greek yogurt for sour cream.
    -  Sub lemon juice for salt. The acid in lemons can help to accentuate the flavor.
    -  Use other spices such as garlic, black pepper, onion powder, rosemary, basil, and/or paprika in place of salt in savory dishes. 
  2. Practice portion control with small plates and bowls.One of the best ways to control your serving sizes is to use smaller plates. Visually, it will look more appealing to have a small plate that is full rather than a large one that is empty. This also allows you to start small and go back for seconds if you feel your appetite has not been satisfied.
  3. Slow down.
    Eating is a full experience that we should enjoy with all our senses—not just taste. Take a moment before you begin eating to absorb everything you can see, smell, and touch on your plate. Look at the variety of beautiful colors, inhale the different notes of spices and smells, and acknowledge the different textures in your selections.
  4. Plan ahead.
    Come up with some easy, nutritious, go-to meals that you can prep and serve during the busy holiday weeks. Check out our Grow Fit holiday-inspired recipes below for a few ideas. We’re sharing three delicious options: Apricot and Lemon Chicken, Pesto Pasta with Peas and Chickpeas, and Mongolian Beef and Broccoli.
  5. Go for a walk after your meal.Walking will help stimulate digestion. Studies have shown this may also help resolve the feeling of bloating and fullness after eating. Instead of moving from dinner to the couch, try a short walk around the block or simply kick a soccer ball around outside with your kids.
  6. Enjoy special treats in moderation.
    Allow yourself grace during the holidays! Make sure you savor your family’s traditional treats without guilt. Seek to follow a flexible diet that is rich in real, whole foods but also allow yourself to enjoy seasonal foods in mindful moderation.

Apricot & Lemon Chicken

(Serves 4 to 6)

4 to 6 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 tsp. cumin
¾ cup apricot spread
1 lemon, juiced
2 Tbsp. water 


  1. Rub cumin over chicken and place in skillet.
  2. Cook on medium-high heat for 6 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
  3. Remove from pan and keep warm.
  4. Add apricot spread, lemon juice, and water to skillet. Heat and stir until smooth.
  5. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve warm.

Suggestions: Try this dish over brown rice or with steamed veggies.

Pesto Pasta with Peas and Chickpeas

(Serves 6 to 8)

Ingredients:1 lb. (16 oz.) dry pasta, any shape
1 cup pesto
2 cans (15 oz. each) chickpeas, drained
2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
½ cup pine nuts (optional) 


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and place back in pot.
  2. Mix in the pesto.
  3. Add chickpeas, peas, and sun-dried tomatoes.
  4. Optional: Sprinkle pine nuts on top before serving.

Mongolian Beef and Broccoli

(Serves 4 to 6)

1 to 1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef
1 ½ lbs. broccoli florets, defrosted and chopped
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. ginger
2 tsp. garlic powder
½ cup soy sauce, low sodium
½ cup water
½ cup brown sugar
½ to 1 Tbsp. cornstarch (if needed)
Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a large stock pot, sauté ground beef over medium-high heat until no pink remains. Drain.
  2. Add oil and spices (ginger and garlic powder) to meat and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add soy sauce, water, and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the broccoli. Let simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. If it’s not thick enough, you can add up to 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch. Bring to a boil to thicken.


About the Author

Nicole Spain, MS, RDN

Childhood nutrition has been Nicole’s passion for more than 20 years. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a Master of Science (MS) in Nutrition and Dietetics from Northern Illinois University. During her career with Learning Care Group (LCG), Nicole has assisted with developing and implementing the company’s proprietary Grow Fit program. Through her curated menus, the healthy lifestyle initiative positively impacts approximately 100,000 children daily in LCG’s 1,050+ schools. She aided in the rollout of the Veggies Early & Often campaign in 2021 and helped LCG be recognized as the 2017 Partner of the Year by the Partnership for a Healthier America. Since 2004, she’s also been an active Junior League member and developed the Kids in the Kitchen program for their Detroit and Milwaukee chapters. Nicole and her husband, John, have three children. In her spare time, Nicole competes on a rowing team with the Detroit Boat Club Crew.