For each of us, healthy eating looks a little bit different. Regardless of the preferences with which we come to the table, eating quickly and mindlessly has become more and more common. With our busy schedules, many of us are often found cooking and eating on autopilot. This denies us the pleasure of truly tasting the food we worked so hard to prepare and enjoying the company sitting around the table with us.
What is mindful eating?
It may sound like a new fad, but it is an ancient concept which has been proven to be beneficial for many modern challenges, including the difficulty of changing eating habits. Mindful eating is eating with attention and intention. Mindful eating is eating in a supportive manner, using our body’s cues to guide us in when, what and how much to eat for satisfaction and well-being. The power of mindful eating is being present in the moment, on purpose, can help us to reconnect with our senses, our families, and the delicious meals we cook. Recent studies have also shown that mindful eating can help with weight loss, making more nutritious choices, decrease stress, and increase quality of life. By incorporating more mindfulness around mealtime, we can make positive changes to our body, minds, and relationships with friends and family.
Tips to help you practice eating mindfully:
- Eat at a table. This allows us to slow down while eating. Eating in the car, at a desk, or in a less-than-comfortable position often increases our chances of eating quickly. If eating with others, eating at a table also can help us to communicate and make eye contact with more ease.
- Enjoy meals without distractions. Make the meal the main attraction by eating without the television on, and leave the phone and computer in a different room. This allows us to dedicate 100% of our attention to the food, and also gives us the space to connect with those sitting around the table.
- Put down utensils between bites. Often times we are so excited for the next bite that we neglect to finish chewing the previous bite before taking another. By putting utensils down between bites, this allows us to slow down and enjoy every morsel. Eating quickly often results in over-eating. It takes approximately 20 minutes for the brain to recognize fullness, so eating slowly and mindfully will allow us to discover when we reach that point, and allow us to honor the physical hunger and fullness cues.
- Chew thoroughly and slowly. This will allow yourself to pay close attention to all of the flavors in your mouth. Use all 5 senses to experience the different tastes and textures with each bite, and acknowledge your feelings about the food you are eating. Also, chewing food thoroughly may ease digestion. Some sources suggest chewing at least 20 times before swallowing. Give it a try! You may be surprised how full you can be with less.
- Serve yourself smaller portions. The more food we have on our plate, the more tempted we feel to finish it in its entirety, regardless if we are full. Large portions often leads to overeating and ignoring our fullness cues. Serve yourself smaller portions by using smaller plates, bowls, and cups. After finishing the first portion, take a few moments to check with yourself and your satiety level. If you are full, you can have leftovers for the next day.
Mindful eating can help us connect with the sensory experience of eating. We can discover the many beautiful flavors and colors of our meals, and allow us to focus on our body, our thoughts, and others sitting at the table with us. By eating mindfully, we can transform a meal into a pleasurable experience, and cultivate awareness, enjoyment and health.
Hungry for more? Check out a few of our favorite mindful eating resources below:
Julie Shimko, MA & Minh Nguyen, MS RD