Healthy eating and balanced nutrition are considered two foundational elements for optimal health. Being mindful with your eating and nutrition in-take makes eating healthy easier to accomplish. Think about this: how frequently do you eat while doing something else? Such as eating while working on the computer when you take a working lunch or snacking while surfing the Internet. Both are common examples of multi-tasking that is less than optimal for your health. Another example is snacking – perhaps multiple times – during prime-time television watching. Watching television after dinner until bedtime – a time when many watch for hours a day – allows quite a few hours for mindless eating to occur. The mindlessness comes because your attention is on what’s happening on the computer or what you’re watching on the television instead of smelling, tasting, or experiencing the food you’re consuming. Think back to the moments you’ve eaten a bowl of something and reached your hand into the snack bowl for the next bite only to realize the bowl is empty. This is mindless eating. And, it happens more often than many would be comfortable admitting.
Mindfulness is being present in the moment. Mindfulness is practiced across all aspects of mind, body, and soul as you move through your day. Mindfulness is non-judgmental. It is showing kindness to yourself and not beating yourself up when you have a lapse and shovel the food into your mouth without much thought to what it tastes like or which ingredients make up the tastes on your tongue or that you’ve eaten so much.
Busy professionals are especially susceptible to mindless eating when travelling on the road where healthy food choices seem harder to find and the long hours bleed one into the other. In my recent blog post, Staying Healthy on the Road, I discuss this plus give many suggestions and tips for how travelling doesn’t have to be unhealthy.
I’m committed to helping others be more mindful when eating so I invited Alison Ozgur, a nutritionist, registered dietitian, and instructor at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies to join me in a conversation around mindful eating and how others replace bad eating habits with better choices. Listen to the full podcast here.
Being a Good Food Detective
Being on the hunt for healthy eating choices is a bit like being a mindful food detective. The food detective needs to wade through commonly tossed around words as healthy, natural, organic, and plant-based. What does each actually mean? Plus, you must be consciously mindful about what it means for your overall wellness to eat food that is good for you – mind, body, and soul.
It is key to choose your food wisely. Start the mindful process with your grocery shopping and carry it through meal preparation and enjoying delicious flavors and colors on your plate. Choose your foods with nourishment in mind. Seek out foods that are prepared and consumed the way nature intended. This means cutting out processed foods, refined foods, and decreasing your sugar intake. These are many of the same important messages being shared by nutrition-centered news reports that you’ve probably heard or read.
When you are a good food detective you are pausing to read food labels. A smart rule to follow when seeking foods as close to nature as possible is if you can’t easily pronounce the word with lengthy-letters is to skip placing that food into your shopping cart, especially if these words are the leading ingredients listed on the label. Be conscientious of nutritionally enhanced foods, too. Often times natural, healthy, or organic is being added to label for a food that is otherwise deemed less healthy such as adding nutrients to a sugar laden cookie. Be conscientious of what you’re putting in your body. If the cookie wouldn’t typically rank high on a healthy choice list adding a nutrient not usually found in the cookie will not suddenly make it a healthy cookie.
5 Steps Towards Mindful Eating
Use these steps as a guide to transforming how you have been eating. You will feel empowered about your food choices and how you’ve been eating.
- Read food labels. Be mindful of the first listed ingredients.
- Seek out foods with the least amount of preservatives.
- Look for foods that are minimally processed.
- Choose fresh foods – those without a label such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
- Surround yourself with other like-minded people who will support you in your mindful food choices.
Shifting to more mindful eating practices won’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. Shower yourself with self-compassion as you stretch and grow in your eating choices. Allow yourself to explore new foods and tastes that you may have avoided in the past. Go to different restaurants. Try new recipes.
Embracing mindful eating will bring you a fuller sense of presence in the moment. When dining with others that equals a richer experience in the moment, in the conversations, and really tasting what is on your plate. You will find your taste buds change and become more fine-tuned. You’ll recognize the tastes of specific ingredients, or lack of, in your meals. I encourage you to slow down, be mindful, read labels, and truly taste each bite you place in your mouth.
Not sure you can get started alone and you would rather have someone to guide you? Click here, to schedule a 1:1 Consulting session. From someone who has walked this journey before you, I’m here to answer your questions and support you.