5 Tips for Eating Mindfully

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I think about food a lot. Partly because it’s my job, partly because I have two growing boys and feel responsible for providing them with mostly wholesome meals (with an occasional treat). To succeed with the latter, I make a meal plan for the upcoming week considering our activities, what’s in my freezer, what’s languishing in the crisper or what we’re craving. I shop, prep, cook and clean. But I’ve realized I often spend meals standing up, multitasking while helping my kids with their own plates or starting the kitchen clean up. Recently I’ve started making an effort to devote time to thinking about what I’m eating as I am eating and engaging in my meal more than just consuming. Being more mindful and intuitive. Here are five tips to try.

  1. Eat When You’re Hungry
    This sounds like common sense! (And it is, but that still doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.) Consider how hungry you really are before you reach for that snack or food on your plate instead of being guided by the clock. I try to drink water, sparkling water or fruit– or vegetable-infused water at my desk throughout the day not only to stay hydrated but to also keep those hunger pangs (disguised as thirst) at bay. I also keep snacks — a granola ball, dried fruit bar or piece of fruit — in my bag for when I do need to nosh if lunch feels far away.
  2. Take it Slow
    Sometimes meals feel like a break between meetings or something to cram in before you run out the door in the morning instead of a chance to refuel your belly and recharge the brain. If you give yourself time to enjoy the meal, you will probably feel more satiated, registering that you enjoyed some yummy food (and if you’re lucky, some great company, too). While it may be tough to squeeze an extra ten minutes in your morning schedule, plan for breakfast so you don’t spend time cooking in the morning. Make these banana muffins on the weekend for weekday mornings, or stir together oats with milk and fruit the night before for a heat-and-eat breakfast the next day. For dinner, let the slow cooker do the work for you, so that you have time to sit and enjoy the meal instead of scrambling around cooking and cleaning after a long day. Check out our awesome collection of slow cooker recipes for ideas.
  3. Savor that Treat
    While we often have a big bowl of seasonal fruit and a steady supply of bananas that are great ways to end a meal, I’m a big believer in enjoying “treat” foods every once in a while. My go-to is chocolate-covered raisins or an easy chocolate chip bar cookie. I’ve learned that indulging in a small portion of cake, ice cream or even some salty chips can achieve something important for the food-obsessed: satisfy a craving. If you avoid a little ice cream (which is easy to dole out in small portions and then put the rest of the container away), you may overeat some other food, trying to compensate for that one taste you really want or need. And when you savor that taste, often that little portion is enough: a handful of chocolate-covered raisins is so sweet, I can enjoy it and not want any more sweets.
  4. Enjoy the Silence (of Your Device)
    If you catch up on e-mails, read the newspaper (guilty!) or check out a blog while you’re eating lunch, you probably won’t remember lunch. And a review of studies on awareness while eating has shown that distracted eating (from TV or computers) likely causes us to eat a little more at that distracted meal and can result in increased calorie intakes at later meals or snacks. Instead of reading or watching TV during a solo meal, use the time to enjoy what you’re eating. Focus on flavors and textures of the dish or enjoy the view out the window. If it’s a family meal, engage in a conversation discussing the day, talking about certain dishes that are loved (or not!) at the table.
  5. GIY (Grow it Yourself)
    Our little garden in the back yard has been the stealth mindfulness tool for me. I didn’t realize it, but growing even a miniscule part of our family’s food supply has made me consider our food more thoughtfully — from the care involved in growing an edible green to the prep of a just-picked pepper or the consistent watering of the tomatoes during summer. If a raised bed scares you (or you have no idea what that is), start small with container gardening for herbs. If you want to do more, check out this post on planning a garden. My kids like to help in all the tasks — especially the watering and harvesting. And then when we enjoy the garden pesto, we can all discuss the flavors and what else we want to do with the condiment. It connects me and my kids a little more at meal times, where I hope we’re making memories and not just barreling through our evening meal towards bath time.
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