By Candace H. Chemtob, MS, RD, LD, CSSD
The path to a healthier diet, could be as simple as taking the time to savor and appreciate every meal and every bite. As life becomes more chaotic and harried, eating “on the run” has become the norm. Whether it’s “grabbing” fast food, passing through a drive-thru, eating at your desk, or literally eating on the run, we are not paying attention to the food we eat. A growing body of evidence has revealed that our “relationship” with food, such as meal time practices and attitude, influences our food choices, and ultimately our health.
The concept of “awareness” at meal time, commonly referred to as “mindful eating”, is based on Buddhist teachings. Buddhist monks practice mindful eating through meditation, and by focusing on the sensation and purpose of each bite of food. While you don’t have to be a Buddhist monk to become a mindful eater, we should be open to the concept of mindful eating. The practice of mindful eating is to connect with the experience of eating and ultimately to have a deeper appreciation of food.
For many, becoming a mindful eater will take a shift in mind-set. It is not hard to take food for granted. Food appears to be abundant and, in fact, most are trying to avoid eating too much. Practicing mindful eating requires you to slow down and savor a meal. But just like any other habit, changing your eating habits is not easy.
Here are some tips to begin the practice of mindful eating:
1. Remind yourself that food is a rare resource. Although you may have access to all the food you desire and more, worldwide one in eight people suffer from chronic undernourishment. More than 2.5 million children die from hunger-related causes each year.
2. Learn to appreciate food again. We are so removed from the food source now, try to reconnect by visiting a farm, growing vegetables or herbs, or enjoy a farmer’s market.
3. Why do delicacies, like caviar, lobster, or filet mignon, deserve appreciation? Use the skills to savor delicacies and apply this to simple foods.
4. “Channel” your inner French self. Focus on quality of food, not quantity.
5. Make each meal an event. Or at least dinner. Set the table, sit down, turn off the TV, put away the iPhones, and focus on the event at hand—the food.
6. Consider giving thanks before a meal. Whether you are religious or not, this will give you a moment to pause, reflect, and be thankful.
7. Meals should take twenty-five to thirty minutes to eat. Eat slowly. Take small bites. Put your fork down between bites.
8. Eat with others when possible. Dining with others allows you to converse, providing the opportunity to slow down and savor your food (Marisa Moore, ADA).
I think we all realize that food deserves to be appreciated. After all, isn’t life about appreciating the small things?