This month marks the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual National Nutrition Month. The theme this year is “Enjoying the Taste of Eating Right.” To me, this means: slowing down to enjoy each meal, eating more whole foods versus processed foods, and preparing more foods from scratch using fresh ingredients.
We live in a fast-paced, busy world. Information is constantly being directed at us from multiple sources, whether it’s TV, advertisements, online, or phone messages. Many of us struggle to balance work, family, friends, exercise, hobbies, passions…it’s difficult to be able to do all this and have time to slow down, cook, and sit down for a meal. Who hasn’t been running from one event or meeting or errand to another, grabbed some food on the go, and hardly remembered eating it?
Taking the time to sit down, put distractions aside, and really focus on and enjoy your food can have wonderful benefits for everyone. These benefits include greater enjoyment of and gratitude for each meal, increased understanding of your body’s cues for when you are actually full vs. eating to excess, and connecting with your body to understand how food fuels and nourishes you.
Here are some tips for mindful eating whether you are eating out or at home:
- Start with a timer – set it for 20 minutes once you sit down to eat
- Take away all distractions when eating (TV, computer, phone, etc.)
- Take a moment to think about where this food came from, appreciate the time you are taking for this meal, and the work that went into its preparation
- Eat sitting down
- Slow….down. Take smaller bites, chew your food well, and listen to your body when you start to feel satiated (it can take the brain about 20 minutes after starting eating to register fullness, or “satiety”)
When you are eating out, try to buy more whole foods-based meals. Eating whole grains, fruits, and vegetables with meals will help with satiety and will provide your body with the nutrients you need to live optimally. For example, try to fill half your plate with vegetables, ask for your sandwich to be made on sprouted or whole grain bread, and eat a side salad rather than fries or chips. Processed, low fiber foods do not provide the nutrients your body craves – and your body knows it – which is why you may find yourself feeling hungry very shortly after eating a low fiber, processed meal.
When preparing foods at home, always include at least one vegetable. At the grocery store, pick up a new vegetable you don’t normally eat and find a recipe online for preparation – keep it simple. Look for recipes can be prepared in about half an hour and don’t require multiple steps, in order to prevent becoming overwhelmed. Try experimenting with different whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, or amaranth. If you typically only like white rice, try this: combine 1/3 cup white rice, 1/3 cup brown rice, and 1/3 cup quinoa with 2 cups water. Cook just as you would white rice (about 20 minutes). This may help you transition to whole grains if you are not used to the flavor or texture, and will provide fiber and other nutrients to nourish you and provide satiety. Balance out the meal with a healthy source of protein – lean meats, fish, chicken, beans, tempeh, etc.
If you are looking for inspiration, come visit the Plaza Café at UWMC and try a new food or grain that you have not yet experienced. You may even find something you want to replicate in your own kitchen. And remember, whole foods have a taste all their own – slow down and enjoy their natural flavor. You may be surprised at what you’ve been missing.
Do you have a favorite recipe or tip for slowing down and savoring your meal? Please share below!
Melissa Montalto, MS, RD, CD, works at UWMC in the cardiothoracic ICU, working with heart and lung transplant patients as well as other cardiac and thoracic surgeries, and also provides diabetes education to the inpatient population. In addition to working the hospital, Melissa teaches yoga at the UW IMA and has a background in sports and massage therapy.
This post was originally published in the RD Blog. You can visit the RD Blog and see its archives if you have a UW Medicine ID.