Sticking to schedule during a pandemic when stay-at-home orders are in place for all family members can be a challenge, to say the least. Erratic schedules can often lead to erratic eating. Timing of meals may be off, snacking changes from once a day while at work to all-day snacking, and planning goes out the window. Mindful eating and mindful planning can help to keep wellness goals on track and your body and mind energized and feeling good all day.
Mindful eating has recently been in the limelight for its focus on removing the diet mentality. It is the process of paying attention to our food, in the present moment purposefully without judgment, to appreciate and to be aware of our food instead of restricting it.
Oftentimes, we find ourselves starving then mindlessly reaching for anything to fill our bellies. The average American spends two and a half hours a day eating, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But, oftentimes, we're doing other things simultaneously while eating, such as watching television, scrolling the phones, or driving the car. We rarely allow ourselves the time to truly enjoy and be present with a meal.
Below are seven key steps to mindful eating.
1. Make a grocery list and stick to it.
Create a plan by deciding which recipes you'll make for the week and make a grocery list before heading to the store. Think of the health benefits and how these meals will make you feel instead of grabbing last-minute unhealthy meals. Avoid going to the grocery store hungry, which results in impulsive purchases (looking at you, ice cream).
2. Don't wait until you're starving to decide what to eat.
When you wait until you're ravenous, oftentimes it results in last-minute unhealthy food purchases and devouring food before you can say "swallow." Instead, make a plan and eat meals at regular times so that you can enjoy your food slowly and mindfully. Check out these plant-based snack ideas to avoid deep-rooted hunger pangs throughout the day.
3. Give gratitude for your meal
If you cooked your food, you put lots of love into it — appreciate the fact that you made this meal for yourself. If you didn’t cook it yourself, think about the hardworking folks who prepared this meal to nourish your body. It takes lots of love, effort, and intention to make something delicious.
4. Start with small portions and bites
We tend to eat with our eyes and may load more onto our plates than we actually need. Start with small portions, eat until you're 80 percent full and wait several minutes after eating. If your body still feels that it needs more then you can certainly have more! This practice helps you to be more mindful of "hunger" versus "full" cues and can prevent overeating. Taking smaller bites also allows you to truly savor and be present through each moment of your meal.
5. Chew slowly
Chewing slowly will help you to enjoy the taste of the food, as well as identify the different flavors and seasonings. Chewing aids in digestion by breaking up the food, allowing you to really taste it. Want to feel a sense of euphoria? Feel-good hormones known as endorphins are released when you chew, giving that sense of satisfaction.
6. Use all of your senses
Use all of your senses from when you are cooking to when you are eating. Use your eyes to analyze the vast colors of your meal. See the greens from your vegetables and the vibrant colors of the fruits. Take your time to feel the textures of your foods. Enjoy the smoothness of an apple or the prickliness of dragon fruit. Take deep breaths while cooking. Notice the fragrance of the garlic and onions cooking in the pan. Hear the crisp snaps of the snap peas and the slices from your knife hitting the cutting board. Lastly, taste and savor the incredible flavors bursting in your mouth.
7. Remove negative thoughts towards food
Allow yourself to indulge sometimes. When having a slice of pizza or your favorite dessert be okay with it. Remove the negative thoughts around food and enjoy what you're eating at that moment. Of course, moderation is key!
Lastly, keep foods on hand that make you feel good so that, when you're in the house all day, you have available (delicious, plant-based) foods that serve your body.
Hi! My name is Destiny Gresham and I am a student in Georgia State University's coordinated program for dietetics. I've always had a love for food. I started off in the field of culinary arts and quickly learned that I wanted to use food to help others. Food, nutrition and health go hand & hand and I aspire to make sure people understand the connection. I am excited to become a Registered Dietitian and to make positive impacts on others!