This week is the start of National Nutrition Month 2016, a nutrition education campaign which takes place every March. Widely promoted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this celebration brings attention to the importance and fun of healthy eating and lifestyle habits. While the theme changes from year to year, the current focal message is “Savor the flavor of eating right.”
Meals are a social experience meant to be enjoyed with others, and they should not be rushed or stressful. Savor the foods that you are eating and the company around you! By being mindful about your choices and your surroundings, you can maintain healthy dining habits while still enjoying delicious food and stimulating conversations with friends and family. Here are 5 tips for mindful eating that you can try at your next meal.
- Keep away from mindless distractions.
Catching up on a TV show or reading a magazine while eating may seem like a good idea, but multitasking prevents you from being able to completely focus on your food. By avoiding mealtime distractions, you remain better attuned to your needs so that you recognize when you are no longer hungry and stop eating before you are uncomfortably full.
- Take time to chew your food.
This may sound like a no-brainer tip, but instead of taking time to experience the textures and flavors of food, many people devour their food taking little time for chewing. Slow down your pace so that it takes you at least 20 minutes to eat, and you may end up consuming less food than when you rush through meals.
- Understand how to recognize hunger.
People often reach for food when they are bored, tired, dehydrated, or stressed even when they are not actually hungry. Before snacking, take a 5-10 minute walk, or drink a cup of water if you have been neglecting fluids for the day. The light exercise will energize you leaving you more focused and in a better mood, and the water will provide you with much needed hydration. You may find that you are no longer feeling the sensation that you believed to be hunger! However, if your body is telling you that you are actually hungry, eat. If it is close to mealtime, start your meal early, or have a snack if you are in-between meals. Do not ignore your body’s cravings for food; doing so will only lead to overindulging and speed-eating at your next meal period.
- Tap into your inner child.
Young children have the intuitive ability to eat when they are hungry and only as much as their bodies need. Forcing children to clean their plates at meals unfortunately disrupts this regulation process. Adults should heed this message by keeping the mindset of a child at meals. Pay attention to internal cues of hunger and fullness instead of external visual cues, such as the amount of food on your plate, and you may find that you are satisfied with less.
- Learn about your food.
Gain a greater appreciation for your food by learning who grew it, how it came to be on your plate, what its flavors are, and why it is good for your health. Not only will you discover good ways to cook and consume foods, but you will also become aware of all the hard work that goes into growing and preparing food. This may inspire you to slow down at mealtimes so that you truly savor your food both this March and year-round.