With the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, family get-togethers and social events, the holidays can be a stressful time, especially for people with diabetes. So often, these events are centered around food.  It’s important for people with diabetes to know that they can enjoy their traditional holiday foods while keeping their blood sugar levels in check.

Mindful eating is a strategy that helps you to be present with your food and increase enjoyment at meals. It also helps to avoid the “Thanksgiving Stuffed” feeling that can accompany holiday meals.

There are several principles to mindful eating.


Using a hunger and fullness scale, such as the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Hunger Rating Scale, can be a great tool to get in touch with your hunger.

Evaluate your hunger level before eating by noticing how you feel. Do you feel your stomach rumbling, have low energy, or does your stomach feel empty? These are all signs that your hunger level is high going into a meal.

If you tend to eat quickly, pause mid-meal to evaluate your level of fullness. Ask yourself if you are still hungry. Does the food still taste as good as it did at the beginning of the meal?

Take time to notice your fullness after eating. Ideally, you want to stop eating once you feel satisfied but not overfull. How you feel after eating should signal the end of the meal instead of merely the visual cue of an empty plate.

Mindful eating can help you avoid the “Thanksgiving stuffed” feeling this holiday season.


Enjoy your food – and notice the colors, texture, flavors and smell. Slowing down during  meals helps you to savor each bite to the fullest.

Be in the Moment

Limit distractions – such as the TV and smart phones – while eating. Especially during holidays when you want to get caught up in catching up and lose track of what you are eating. Sit down at the table and be present with your food. Too often we eat without really noticing how much or what we are eating.

Limit judgement

Food was meant to be enjoyed, and guilt has no place at the table. All foods can fit into a healthy meal plan for diabetes.

Hunger rating scale

Rate your hunger from 1 to 10, and compare that number with the ADA Hunger Rating Scale:

10 = Stuffed to the point of feeling sick
9 = Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen your belt
8 = Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed
7 = Very full, feel as if you have overeaten
6 = Comfortably full, satisfied

5 = Comfortable, neither hungry nor full
4 = Beginning signs and symptoms of hunger
3 = Hungry with several hunger symptoms, ready to eat
2 = Very hungry, unable to concentrate

1 = Starving, dizzy, irritable

Enjoying all year long

The holidays shouldn’t be the only time you get to eat food you truly enjoy. VA’s Healthy Teaching Kitchen program is a great way to learn more about meal planning and preparing delicious foods tailored to support you in your diabetes management.

To learn more about mindful eating with diabetes, set up an appointment with your PACT Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) today.

By Jackie Roos is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at the Memphis VAMC. She enjoys teaching cooking classes as part of the MOVE! Weight Management Program and Diabetes Education Curriculum.

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Published on Nov. 20, 2021

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