Mindful Nutrition

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As a certified mindful eating instructor, I help people practice mindfulness to improve their eating habits and nutrition choices. Mindful eating has nothing to do with calories, vitamins or minerals. But eating mindfully can benefit your nutritional status.  

How can mindful eating help with nutrition?

When you eat mindfully, you become more aware of what, when, and how you are eating. In turn, that may help with basic healthy eating habits, including:

  • Eating more balanced meals
  • Decreasing mindless snacking and emotional eating
  • Enhancing stress management
  • Supporting weight management efforts
  • Improving digestion

Mindful eating isn’t something you achieve—it’s something you practice. So to reap the benefits, you must do it consistently. Here are three techniques you can start practicing to become a more mindful eater.

Tune in to your body signals

An important part of mindful eating is the ability to observe your body’s messages around food. By doing so, you increase your chances of eating the right amount of food for your needs. Practice eating according to internal cues instead of external ones (e.g., time of day, aromas from the bakery). This will strengthen your connection with your body and also help develop your ability to wait.

Mindful eating doesn’t forbid eating without physical hunger. But many people have developed a habit of answering every external cue or emotion with food. And this can lead to eating too much food overall or an unbalanced diet. Get back in touch with what it feels like to actually feel hunger. Know what your body feels like at different levels of fullness. These are mindful eating skills that you can learn. Tune in to your body in other ways too—away from the table—this is also a beneficial mindful practice.

Eat with intention

When we eat with intention, we operate from a place of informed consideration instead of fleeting cravings or emotion. Learning to eat intentionally takes time, and isn’t the same as setting a goal, which is measurable and frequently outcome-focused. Your eating intentions are unique to you, of course, but here are a few ideas:

  • Start by setting intentional mealtimes. This cuts down on random snacking (or “grazing”) throughout the day and allows you to develop hunger between eating occasions.  
  • In the evening, draft a plan for what you’ll eat the next day (you can start with just planning dinner). Take an inventory of your food options and make thoughtful choices, putting together meals that deliver nutrition and satisfaction.
  • Consider intentional eating as a form of self-care. Ask yourself, “What does my body need?” and “How much of this food is enough for me?” This will make you more aware of your hunger and fullness signals.
  • When shopping for food, consider your choices in terms of both taste preference and nutrition content. Use Guiding Stars to help you make nutritious choices quickly and bring good nutrition to your plate.
  • Start with “I want to practice…” when stating an intention—in your head, on paper, or verbally. “I want to practice eating balanced meals.” “I want to practice staying hydrated.” These are good examples of intention statements that can guide your food and beverage choices.

Eat slowly to savor your food

The hectic pace of life often prompts us to eat faster than we intend. And once we’re in the habit of eating quickly, it’s hard to even notice unless we’re with a slower eater. But there are many important reasons to take your time at mealtime. Eating at a slower pace helps with food enjoyment (you can actually savor it). Chewing your food thoroughly is a healthy habit and also a good way to slow down your eating. And slowing down gives your body and brain a chance to communicate with each other about your fullness level. So you’ll naturally eat more moderate amounts of food that are in line with your body’s signals. (This takes around 20 minutes, so aim to have your meals last at least that long.) As a bonus, your digestion may improve, and your risk of reflux after eating will decrease with more leisurely meals.