mindful multi-colored potato salad

by Stacy

Have you ever heard of mindful eating? The first time I heard about the concept was from an article my acupuncturist posted on Twitter. I was eating an ice cream sundae at the time despite her advice to avoid both sugar and dairy. As the dessert turned to creamy ash in my mouth, I replied to her with my dilemma. Laughing, she assured me that so long as I was eating the ice cream mindfully, it was actually OK!

To be honest, I was not eating the ice cream mindfully; I was shoveling it in as a reward after a stressful day. As I polished off my bowl of naughtiness, I sullenly wrote off mindful eating as a crazy hippie idea that was too time-consuming and no fun. I closed the article and swung by the fridge for an extra spoonful of hot fudge en route to the dishwasher. Did I feel better after the ice cream? No, I felt guilty, bloated, and insomniac after a dose of sugar and chocolate that late at night.

Let’s just say I’ve seen the error of my ways.

Mindful eating is about not feeling guilty. It’s about acknowledging the real reasons behind wanting to eat, accepting them, and making a choice to eat or abstain with full knowledge of the cause and consequences.

That’s a fairly simplified explanation, but it’s a start. The best reason to eat? You’re actually hungry. Not because it’s mealtime, not because your spouse is hungry, but because your body actually wants more food. This isn’t always possible to schedule, but when it is, you’ll feel better. Try it on a day off when your meal times are more flexible. Learn to listen to your body’s actual signals for hunger without checking the clock. When you start to feel hungry, drink a glass of water and wait five minutes. Still hungry? Time to eat. I used to be ravenous for breakfast as soon as I woke up in the morning; now I drink a glass of water and eat about an hour later. My body was dehydrated after sleeping and was actually thirsty.

multi-colored potato salad

What about all the delicious food on your plate? Start by slowing down and actually chewing your food. Really take the time to taste what you’re eating. Think about the last time you said, “Ugh, I ate too fast,” and how you felt. Slowing down helps your body process your meals more effectively and helps you feel better. It also gives your body a chance to signal fullness before you’re uncomfortably stuffed. If you’re not sure, take a breath and think about that overly-full sensation before you decide if you need another bite or serving. Give back your membership to the Clean Plate Club guilt-free.

Just try it for a day or two. See how you feel.

  • Drink more water (as soon as you wake up).
  • Only eat when you’re hungry.
  • Slow down and chew.

A few weeks ago I did this experiment myself. For someone who thought I don’t snack a lot, I was surprised to learn that I actually do. And as someone who isn’t overweight, I didn’t expect to lose a few pounds without adding any exercise and without going hungry. When really forced to look at why I was eating, I saw most of my food cravings disappear in just a few days. Not bad for a week.

So make this potato salad and eat only as much as you actually want. The gorgeous multi-colored fingerling potatoes are tossed with onion, bell peppers, and zucchini for a bright, hearty, crunchy, mayo-free side dish perfect warm or cold for a picnic, backyard barbecue, or just lunch. These potatoes were organic so I left the delicate skins on for structure and fiber. The other veggies are a mix of sauteed and raw for variety and texture. It’s not assertively-flavored which really lets the freshness of the ingredients shine through. Savor the natural sweetness!

Are you a mindful eater? If so, what do you like about it? If not, what’s stopping you?

multi-colored potato salad

Multi-Colored Potato Salad

Serves 6-8 as a small side

This mix of fingerling potatoes was sold together at the farmer’s market. The color matters less than getting waxy potatoes that won’t fall apart: Yukon gold, red, or purple. For a less intense garlic flavor stir the garlic into the vegetables in the last minute of cooking. If the garlic isn’t pungent enough, add a second clove.


  • 4-5 cups small waxy potatoes, preferably multi-colored and organic, cut into uniform pieces
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 2/3 cup) and divided
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup diced zucchini (I used 3 tiny ones)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • optional: fresh minced parsley, chives or basil


  1. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil about 10 minutes (depending on how small your pieces are) until easily pierced with a knife but not falling apart. Drain.
  2. While potatoes are cooking heat a splash of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add half the onion, the bell peppers, and the zucchini in that order about a minute apart. Cook until zucchini has softened. Add to drained potatoes. Add rest of onion.
  3. Whisk together vinegar and mustard. Add minced garlic. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking until an emulsion has formed. Add salt and pepper. Pour over potatoes and vegetables and toss gently to combine. Serve warm, cool, or room temperature, topped with fresh herbs if using.

multi-colored potato salad

little blue henKeep up with Little Blue Hen: get updates via email, subscribe through an RSS feed, connect on Facebook, or say hello on Twitter.
Comments? I love feedback and suggestions! Leave them below or email me.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin Conroy July 25, 2010 at 8:01 am

Love this post Stacy…both the recipe and the message. Mindful eating seems to be such a challenge in our busy, fast-paced society. With TV, internet, books, smart phones, etc., most people–myself included sometimes–have no connection to what they’re eating. How much we’re eating, how it tastes, how our bodies are responding to the food…all lost in our mindless, rushed act of “eating.” But it is so important to practice mindful eating as you explained in this post. And getting in tune with your hunger for food leads to getting in tune with your body as a whole. You start to notice little things you never would have picked up on before, and this can expand into your daily life and beyond yourself. I think mindful eating can actually lead to mindful living. I’m certainly not there yet, but I hope one day mindfulness will become an effortless, automatic part of my everyday life!


Stacy July 25, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Thanks, Kristin! It’s something I resisted for a long time because it sounded restrictive, but I actually found the process sort of liberating in an odd way. And it’s not a diet to screw up, it’s just an ongoing process. The end of your comment I have to slightly disagree with though — if it’s automatic, it’s not mindful, is it? ;p


Bridget July 25, 2010 at 9:23 am

Hm…can I brag a bit here? Because I think I eat mindfully nearly all of the time, and I think that’s the one thing keeping me slim with my questionable dessert and alcohol habits. I do have a habit of mindlessly stuffing pizza toppings and cheese bread in my mouth Friday evenings while I make pizza, but it’s one of the only situations in which I eat without carefully considering whether the calories are worth it.

Okay I need to go start making breakfast – using some pretty multicolored potatoes I happen to have around!


Stacy July 25, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Brag away! I think that’s fantastic. Maybe on Fridays you could take an extra second to really savor your pizza this week and see if it’s different.

Woo! I can’t say that the colors of the potatoes matter much for taste, but they’re awfully pretty.


Bridget July 25, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I reeeally tried this week to pay attention to the input of cheesebread into my bellah. I saw some improvement! Hopefully it just keeps getting better.


greenbird July 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm

great post, and what a fantastic recipe(especially for those of us who are lactose-intolerant and also happen to love a bit of tang in their food)!

as for mindful eating; I know what it is, and your post really kind of reminded me about it. having struggled with bulimia for the past 5 years, mindful eating is definitely something that will be key in my recovery process. thanks for the reminder!


Stacy July 25, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Thank you, and thanks for both visiting and saying hello. =)


Kate July 26, 2010 at 11:16 am

I loved reading this…mindful eating is something that my husband and I are both trying to work on. I’ll be living on my own with my son during the week for the next 5 months and it has only been 1 week since we started this, but I have been trying very hard to pay attention to portion size, speed of eating, and my evening snacking (which has always been my downfall). The biggest change I can already see is that I’ll start cooking appropriately sized portions, instead of cooking to a recipe (and ending up with lots of leftovers that end up being 2nds or 3rds or midnight snacks). We all end up eating what is there, because…it’s there. And when my son was born I ended up eating much faster, because I had distractions to deal with. Now that he’s older I have tried to slow down our meals. More conversation. Less focus on the food, in a way.

I’d be interested in your opinion on good snacks to eat, for times when you do need a small snack. My husband and I were just having a discussion last night…my nightly snack is a bowl of Cheerios…a habit I’m trying to break. He suggested I try something with some healthy fat in it, to make me feel more full. I’ll be making some granola this weekend and buying a bit of yogurt, thinking that might be a good solution.


Stacy July 26, 2010 at 7:45 pm

It’s something I’m definitely working on, too! My issue with some articles on mindful eating are that they get so long that it sounds overly-complicated when it isn’t. I’m seriously considering a follow-up post in the near future, though.

Yogurt and granola is a very common snack in our house. Like you said in the first part of your comment, I also tend to eat what’s around, so I try to stock only “good” snacks. Usually it’s fruit or a handful of almonds or walnuts. Veggies and a little hummus are good when we have it, too. I really like to slice up an apple so it takes me longer to eat and sometimes I add peanut butter or a little bit of cheese (I know, not your thing) for some creaminess. Another thing to try might be a non-caffeinated herbal tea? That way you get some flavor and some liquid even if you’re not really hungry.


Annette July 26, 2010 at 11:57 am

A great post Stacey. I have heard of mindful eating thought not spelled out as you have done. A method that I will try starting now!


Stacy July 26, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Thanks Annette! Good luck. =)


Megan July 26, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Yes! Well done, Stacy! You did a marvelous job explaining and advocating for Mindful Eating… Jan Chozen Bays would be proud. And I love this thread of comments…so many chronic health issues would be resolved for people if they took the “simple” (ahem) step that you have. Love the food and love your life!


Stacy July 26, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Why thank you, aforementioned acupuncturist. It means a lot coming from you. =)


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: