Cognitive Strategies for Eating Healthy During the Holidays

The holidays mean it’s time for some delicious holiday meals. However, many holiday favorites are loaded with extra sugar, fat, and carbohydrates that can leave us feeling sluggish. While food quantity choices rely on satiation, thirst, and hunger levels, there are cognitive skills that you can teach your client to make wiser food decisions and stay healthy over the holidays. In this blog post, we discuss some cognitive strategies to help your client achieve those goals

  1. Practice Executive Functions for Overeaters

Executive functions are used for decision making and planning. We use executive functioning in regards to food choices.  Whether that is meal preparation for the week, what we may choose to consume at a large spread of food, or what size piece of pie we should have for dessert. If your client is prone to overeating, have them plan ahead the day of a holiday. Have them look into proper portion sizes and understand what they may be consuming later. Help them think of some low calorie and nutritious meals that they can have during that day to help them not overeat during that time.

2. Have your Client Practice Mindfulness and Work on Listening to Hunger Cues

During the holidays, people are overwhelmed by an abundance of stimuli. From loud noises, running children, and new locations the stimuli is abundant. For some people trying to manage their weight, this can be sensory overload and cause people to not pay attention to how their body is feeling and what they need. Some may stop eating others might overeat. Have your clients get in the habit of asking themselves “Am I hungry?”, “Have I had a glass of water today?”, “When did I eat last?” and “Am I eating because I am feeling sad, stressed, or bored?”. Asking these questions can help your client avoid impulsive and excessive eating and help your client stay on track for good health. By becoming mindful of hunger cues and signals your client can learn to be less prone to get off their healthy eating ways.

3. Help Your Client Pay Attention

Working on attention skills may help your client be more conscious of what they are eating and how much. When people eat while watching television, our brains are not processing what we are eating as well as the amount of food being consumed. This leads to overeating, and can cause weight gain. Work with your client on focusing on enjoying their meal or snack, turning off the television, and eating in a designated spot such as a dining room to help them avoid distractions. This can help your client avoid overeating, as well as help them be more aware of their food choices and eating habits.


The holidays are a time for celebration that often involve indulging in large amounts of food. Meals are often decadent, and loaded with excess sugars, fats, and carbohydrates that can cause us to feel sluggish and gain weight. Working on executive functioning skills, mindfulness, and attention can help your client be more conscious of their food choices and avoid overeating. Helping your client eat healthy during the holidays is helpful for their long-term health, and can help them become more conscious of their food choices and eating habits during their daily lives. 

Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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