We’ve all done it. Eaten standing up at the counter because we were in a hurry. Had dinner in front of the television or while playing on our phone, wanting to relax after a long day. We’ve all eaten snacks in the car in between activities. This type of eating is called mindless eating. It involves a lack of awareness of the food we are consuming, including what and how much. Mindless eating can easily lead to unhealthy choices and habits. Using the concept of mindful eating, you can break these bad habits and learn to look at food in a whole new way.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is bringing your full attention to the food you eat, especially as you buy, prepare, serve and consume it. When you engage in mindful eating, you become aware of your hunger and satiety cues and acknowledge your responses to foods without judgment. You will gain awareness of how your food choices nourish and satisfy you and your body. Mindful eating involves being present while preparing, serving, and eating your food to create a unique sensory experience.
Follow these seven tips to help you become a more mindful eater:
- Begin with a shopping list
- Create your shopping list with your health and well-being in mind. Think about how each item on your list will affect you and avoid impulse buying while shopping.
- Try to shop the perimeter of the store, filling most of your cart with produce. The center aisles are laden with processed and packaged foods that contain lots of additives and little nutritional value.
- Come to the table with an appetite
- Try to eat on a regular schedule and not skip meals. Skipping meals will lead to overindulgence due to high hunger levels. Mindful eating involves taking the time enjoy your food. This is difficult to do when you are more eager to fill the void due to increased hunger.
- Start with a small portion
- One simple way to practice portion control is to use a smaller plate. Using a salad plate, instead of the traditional dinner plate is smart for several reasons. Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and we fill our plates. If you use a smaller plate, you will automatically take smaller portions of items while simultaneously tricking your mind into thinking you are eating a lot. You see, we eat first with our eyes and when we see a full plate, our brain will think we are eating a hearty amount. Try swapping out your plate for a smaller version and see what happens.
- Appreciate your food
- Take a second before you start your meal to appreciate the food, the company and the experience. This slight pause will bring you into the moment and allow a positive eating experience. We tend to try to do too much in a day and sometimes we don’t get the chance to relax. Taking time to enjoy your food and its preparation may be just the break we need.
- Bring all your senses to the meal
- Eating is a very sensory experience. If it doesn’t look, smell, or taste good, who will want to eat it? Make sure you put thought into the preparation, service, and consumption of your food. Be aware of the colors, textures, and aromas coming from your plate. As you chew, try to identify the flavors within the dish. This type of awareness takes effort and cannot be done while also watching TV, flipping through your phone, or reading a book. Turn off all electronics and put away any other distractions. Meal time should be a time when we are present and connecting with others.
- Take small bites
- It is hard to enjoy the tastes and flavors of your food as you shovel it lightning speed into your mouth. Slow down by taking smaller bites and putting your utensil down in between bites. This process will slow down meal time, but it will allow you to better tap into your hunger and satiety cues as it takes about 20 minutes for our stomach to tell our brain it is full. Eating too quickly doesn’t allow enough time for us to receive the satiation response from our brain.
- Chew thoroughly
- Along with taking smaller bites, try chewing each bite 30 times before swallowing. This will help you slow down and enjoy the experience while tasting the full essence of your food.
Eating slowly will naturally occur as you follow the mindful eating principles listed above. Try to focus on your food for the first 5 minutes after you sit down for a meal. You may then bring your awareness back to your tablemates to connect on a social level. Try having your friends and family join in for an even more positive eating experience!
Fore more tips on mindful eating, come see me for a free nutrition consultation!Schedule a Nutrition Consultation
Written by Sarah Brunner, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian
Sarah is certified in food allergies/intolerances and nutritional counseling, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; has a certificate in Dietetics from Mount Mary University; and a BA in Education and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.