Healthy eating isn’t just focusing what’s on your plate — practicing mindful eating can help you better enjoy your food and those around you. Mindful eating can also lead to health benefits such as improved digestion, healthy weight management and increased awareness around food habits.
Being healthy, truly healthy, is more than just numbers. It’s more than calories-in-calories-out and the number on the scale. It’s even more than the type of exercise you choose or the specific foods you’re fueling your body with.
Mindful eating helps build healthier habits
When it comes to food, creating healthy habits is more than just the act of putting something in your mouth. There are emotional ties to food and cravings with root causes that go beyond flavor sensations. There are behaviors and patterns when it comes to food choices, some of which are subconscious.
As a health coach, it’s my job to encourage a lifestyle shift by bringing to the surface these behaviors, and reshaping them to create healthier habits for the long haul.
Here are five tips to practice mindful eating next time you find yourself wondering how you even got here [fill in the blank]
Mindful Eating Tip #1: Be present at mealtime.
One of the best ways to increase mindfulness around food choices is to remove or minimize distractions. Compare a recent time that you ate in front of the TV versus when you sat at the table. How did each scenario feel? Chances are, your TV dinner was gone before you even knew what happened or could fully experience the flavors of your food. In an “on the go” society, it’s hard to be present, I get it. But taking back 30 minutes of your day at mealtime can help you enjoy your food more, those you are sharing the meal with and hit “pause” on whatever is going on in your mind.
Mindful Eating Tip #2: Slow down.
Want to improve the digestion of your food? Put your fork down in between bites. We are meant to chew our food for a reason – to pre-digest and breakdown food before it hits our GI tract. Thoroughly chewing food can boost overall gut health, help the body better absorb the nutrients from the food and minimize bloating and gassiness post-meal.
Mindful Eating Tip #3: Focus on the flavors, not the numbers.
“How many calories do you think is in this?” I get asked this question all of the time in cooking classes. While it’s important to be aware of the numbers to make sure you’re getting a balanced meal, they aren’t the end-all-be-all. Focusing too hard on the numbers can take away from the enjoyment of food and ability to really tune into what your body needs. After all, food is meant to be experienced, right?
Related post: 7 simple swaps for a healthier morning routine
Mindful Eating Tip #4: Mindfully indulge.
This is one of my favorite tips. I’m all about that 80/20 mentality for a lifestyle shift that’s going to stick. We aren’t perfect, so why should we expect our plate to be, too? Mindfully indulge and enjoy every minute of it by having a glass of wine, bread from the bread basket, or dessert to avoid feelings of deprivation. The key is to not let the indulgence lead to a downward spiral of bad choices. Instead, allow yourself the freedom to indulge, then get right back to a healthier plate.
Mindful Eating Tip #5: Check in with yourself.
Imagine this. You’re in the kitchen going through the mail and you look over to see a box of crackers open on the counter. How did that even happen, you ask? Sound familiar? A few ways to stop the mindless grazing is to first, make it visible. Put notes on pantry door, refrigerator or temptation items to make you stop and look, first. Second, count to three. Chances are you don’t actually want that cookie. You just haven’t given yourself enough time to get over that initial pull towards what you’re reaching for.
These tips aren’t meant to lead to perfection — simply awareness. Hope they are helpful!