Mindful Munching – A Guide to Eating Mindfully

by Abby Pratt, CHOP5 Nutrition Blogger

How many different things are you thinking about right at this moment? Maybe the laundry you need to do comes to mind. Or tomorrow’s work presentation. Or the excitement the upcoming holidays bring. Probably too many things to count! The idea of clearing our mind and focusing on one thing at a time can be tough in a society where we are constantly multitasking. If you read ahead, it may just get easier to be more present, at least at meal times. The key is eating mindfully!

What is Mindful Eating?  Mindful eating can be defined as being present as you eat by focusing on your senses in a nonjudgmental way. The main purpose is to bring attention and intention to your food choices.

The Benefits 

  • Hear your hunger cues – Mindful eating allows your brain to notice your hunger cues and avoid overeating. It takes about 20 minutes for your body to signal that you are full. If you eat too fast you may fill up before you even realize you overate. Slowing down can make a difference.
  • Improved relationship with food – The more you practice mindful eating the better you will get at noticing how food makes you feel. There will be a heightened awareness of your food and your body with less emotion and stress involved. Feelings of guilt and shame around certain foods are likely to lessen over time.
  • Weight loss – Mindful eating could lead to weight loss. As a result of slowing down, you will likely eat less and also do a better job of telling the difference between emotional eating, boredom or true hunger. Your habits around food will change for the better and stress around food may reduce as well.
  • Improved digestion – A combination of slowing down, overeating less often and lower stress levels can lead to improved digestion after meal time.

How to (*you can do one or all of these at each meal) 

  • Aim to eat for at least 30 minutes.
  • Sit down and eat at a table when you can.
  • Remove distractions such as phone, TV or loud music.
  • Serve out portions with intention. What takes up the most room on your plate? Avoid eating right from a box or bag. Bonus points for presentation! It is always more fun to eat something that is plated up all pretty. We can do that part for you at CHOP5 if you want to focus more on eating the meal and less on preparing it and portioning it out. Pro tip: get dressing on the side if you know a whole salad is usually too much for you. You can also ask for a “lighter chop” than usual so it will keep better. Aim to eat the left overs the next day. 
  • Take a second to show gratitude before you dig in. Think about who helped this meal come to be (farmers, chefs, store workers, yourself, etc.) 
  • Chew thoroughly. Some even say chew each bite 30 times, but it could be easier to start with a few extra chews per bite. 
  • Engage all five of your senses – smell, touch, sound, taste and sight. How does the food smell? How does it feel in your mouth? Does it crunch? What main flavors are coming through? Is your meal colorful? 
  • Put down your eating utensil between bites. This helps to slow things down. 
  • Know that it is actually okay to not be a part of the clean plate club. If you are full and you push on just to clear your plate you are not honing in on your body and it’s natural cues. Avoid over-serving (up in tip 4) and know you can always bin up leftovers for later – YUM
  • Take a second post meal to reflect on what you just ate. It can help to note what foods tasted best and made you feel great.

Of the tips above, which ones are you already doing? What will you try at your next meal? I think I will introduce a moment of pre-meal gratitude especially as we approach a busy holiday season. Speaking of the holidays… if you need any catering for your parties, we would love to help ease your stress! For more information click HERE. And if you wish to keep the mindful eating conversation going or just want to say hi, please reach out HERE. Have a safe and happy holiday from our CHOP5 family to yours!

Chop well, Eat well, Live well!