Imagine sitting at your dinner table and enjoying the taste, texture, smell, sounds, and appearance of your food, bite by bite, with no distractions. This is known as mindful eating, which involves paying attention to your surroundings and how your emotions affect what you eat and how much you eat. Mindfulness places an emphasis on the present moment, self-observation, and how your feelings, thoughts, and whole body affect your decision-making. Eating mindfully is meant to complement your eating habits, help you transition into a mindset where all foods fit into your diet, and allow you to have a greater appreciation and intention for eating.
Practice mindful eating with a few tips listed below.
Listen to your hunger cues. Before eating, check in with yourself. Ask yourself questions such as “What does my stomach say?” or “How am I feeling?” Sometimes, you may mistake hunger for thirst, boredom, or stress. Taking time to reflect on your hunger level can help you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
Sit at the table to eat. Eliminate distractions while eating by turning off the TV and putting your phone down, so you can fully focus on the food. Take time to savor your meal, appreciate the food in front of you, and chew thoroughly. Pay attention to how the food makes you feel. Smaller portions and putting your utensil down between bites may be helpful to slow your pace. Try making family dinners at the table a weekly routine, so everyone can practice mindful eating together! For tips on how to encourage more family meals in your household, check out the CNS blog.
Use your senses. Mindful eating focuses on all 5 senses. As you prepare and eat your meal or snack, consider the texture, appearance, flavor, aroma, and sounds of your food. What flavors and tastes are you experiencing? Does your food taste sweet or salty? Is the texture crunchy or smooth? Try to identify all the ingredients and flavors of your dish! Eating mindfully gives you the opportunity to appreciate the pleasure of food through your senses. When you use all your senses to savor your food, you can help manage your food intake to prevent overeating, gain control of your cravings, hunger levels, and emotions, and have an overall better eating experience.
As you begin, try picking one meal a day to focus on practicing mindful eating. Once mindfulness becomes more natural, it will be easier to implement these eating habits into your daily routine and improve your relationship with food. Aim to meet your daily goals for fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and whole grains while enjoying each bite more mindfully! Be sure to check out American Heart Association’s infographic on mindful eating!