Extension educator Kristin Bogdonas says mindfulness is usually associated with meditation and stress relief, but it can also be a powerful tool when choosing what we eat, how we're eating, and how our choices affect our health. She suggests we take a closer look at how we can apply mindfulness to our everyday eating behaviors.
To be mindful is to be aware, so while you are eating, be aware of your reason for eating, your hunger, your stress levels, your emotions, and the current events in your life. You can keep a food journal and watch for trends in your eating habits. While doing this, you might discover that you tend to eat more high-fat, high-calorie foods when you are stressed; therefore, you could look for other ways to relieve stress like going for a walk or calling a friend.
Some other tips to keep in mind:
- Pay attention to food labels and ingredient lists. The nutrition facts panel is there to help you make informed choices and it can help you identify foods that fit into a healthy eating pattern. Compare labels when grocery shopping and select items lower in sodium, added sugar and fat. Be wary of highly processed foods, which tend to be high in all three.
- Snack smart by planning ahead and stocking your kitchen with easy to prepare healthy snack options like hummus + pita, vegetable strips + Greek yogurt dip, nut butter + celery, whole-wheat toast + avocado, and fresh mozzarella + sliced tomato.
- Be aware of who is growing your food and where it comes from. Several factors affect nutrition content such as variety, production method, post-harvest handling, storage, and transportation. Local food can be higher in nutrient content simply because it has traveled a shorter distance and the varieties chosen are for taste, not shelf stability. Eating with the seasons can also help you identify foods at their peak.
- Engage your five senses and slow down to really appreciate and savor the experience. Eating is very sensual so tune in to the sight, smell and sound of your food before you take a bite. Try to imagine how that food was produced and the journey it took to get to your plate. Being more mindful can strengthen our appreciation.
How many items you can check off on the Awareness Checklist?
- Am I sitting?
- Am I eating fast or slow?
- Am I mindlessly munching or savoring each bite?
- Am I multitasking or focused on my meal?
- Am I listening to my hunger cues (hungry, satisfied, full)?
Mindful eating takes practice and should be carried out every day for best results. Kristin likes to acknowledge this Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”
Adapted from: Mindful Eating: A Conscious Approach to Health, Phyllis Picklesimer, October 2015. Updated by Kristin Bogdonas, May 2020.
Source: Kristin Bogdonas, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness. Check out Kristin’s blog Turnip the Beet: Nutrition and Wellness.