Healthy Eating: Tips for mindful eating as new decade dawns

As we start 2020, I have been reading many articles that reflect on the past year and the past decade. With regards to food and eating, there seems to be a trend right now that gives more permission for people to be themselves and eat the way that works for their bodies and their situations. Believe me, this does not mean that you can give yourself an excuse to eat “bon bons” at every meal.

The movement is being called “anti-diet,” intuitive eating, moderation, no evil foods, etc. Each one of us knows what foods disagree with our digestive systems. Some of us have food allergies.  Some of us have health conditions that require a specific diet. Some of us choose to eat fast food every day. Some of us cook from scratch every day. Some of us love to experiment with different diets. Just like so many things in life, we do not know what’s going on in a person’s life and eating can be a source of joy or a source of fear. What I do know is that judging how someone else eats and telling them that they need to eat “better” or “differently” creates an unwelcome wedge in their relationship with you.

As a cancer survivor, I have many people tell me that if I eat sugar I am putting myself at risk of getting cancer again. Their comments convey fear and judgment about the way that I choose to eat and enjoy my food/my life. One of my many career hats has been as a pastry chef…so guess what? I love to bake and create beautiful and tasty desserts. Sometimes these desserts are decadent. So I share them with friends and family. I enjoy them in moderation. Sometimes the desserts are more what the judging folks would call “healthful.” So I share them with friends and family. I enjoy them in moderation. My choice has always been “everything in moderation.”

I go through phases where I cut out coffee entirely; or sugar entirely; or meat entirely;  or practice intermittent fasting. In effect, there are times when I cut out certain foods because I notice that I don’t feel well after eating them. These are phases or chapters in my eating life. Some eating habits or practices stick. Others clearly don’t work for me. What I do know for sure is that if I eat slowly and mindfully, the food always tastes better. Mindful eating allows me to listen to my body so that I stop when I am full. I leave the table feeling nourished.

As the new year approaches, I invite you to embrace your food “habits.” Listen to your body. Listen to yourself. Listen to your thoughts and feelings — particularly around food. How can you bring a sense of self-acceptance to your body and your foodways? Food is part of life.How can you nourish your body, mind and soul with the foods that you choose to eat? What needs to change (if anything)? Become aware of your relationship with food without judging yourself.

I welcome the new year with all the changes it promises to bring. I welcome it with an open mind and an open mouth to new food experiences, nourishment and healing. Best wishes for whatever 2020 brings to you.

I offer you a simple recipe for a homemade energy bar that you can enjoy anytime. Share it with your friends and family. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Chocolate Nut Energy Bars
2 oz. dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao content), finely chopped
1 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, finely chopped
⅓ c. shelled pistachios
⅓ c. almonds, toasted
8 oz. Medjool dates, halved and pitted
½ tsp. vanilla extract
⅛ tsp. sea salt
⅓ c. dried cherries or dried cranberries (or a dried fruit of your choice!)

Line an 8-inch square pan with two pieces of waxed paper long enough to overlap on all four sides. Lightly oil the waxed paper, then line the bottom with another piece. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water. Heat, stirring often, just until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.

Put the pistachios and almonds in food processor and pulse three or four times to coarsely chop. Add the dates, melted chocolate, vanilla, and salt. Pulse until the ingredients begin to hold together, almost like dough. Add the cherries and pulse a few more times, until the cherries are coarsely chopped and evenly distributed. Transfer to the prepared pan and press in an even layer using your hands. Smooth the top with a spatula. Cover with a piece of parchment or waxed paper and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Remove from the pan by lifting the edges of the waxed paper, and place on a cutting board, still atop the waxed paper. Using an oiled knife to prevent sticking, cut into 16 squares. Put the bars in a container, with waxed paper between the layers if stacked, or wrap the bars individually in foil. Store in the refrigerator or freezer. Warm to room temperature before eating.

STORAGE: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days or tightly wrapped in the freezer for up to two months.

—  Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at


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