Welcome to the final week of the Healthy Eating Habit Challenge! If you’re new to the challenge, welcome! Check out THIS post for some background info and click HERE to download the free challenge guide. Today’s post will be dedicated to mindful eating, which is one of the focus areas for the challenge. Given the importance of diet to our health, it’s always a good idea to practice more mindfulness when it comes to what we eat. But what is mindful eating?
Mindful eating relates to your food environment. A food environment is any place where you store, cook and consume food. Therefore, this is not limited to your kitchen! Several external factors are always at play.
It’s important to talk about your food environment because it:
- Impacts the quality of food eaten, meals cooked, and whether or not you will actually cook.
- Impacts the act of eating, and whether or not you are present and mindful when eating.
- Impacts when you stop eating and when you start eating again. It can be an indirect regulator of energy (i.e., caloric) intake.
Adjusting your food environment to align with your health and wellness goals will have a major impact on mindful eating and how you navigate food-related behaviors such as cooking and eating. For that reason, you must ask yourself some questions to paint a full picture of your food environment and related behaviors. Once you do that, you can achieve your goals with more specific guidelines.
- Where do I eat?
- Do I cook?
- What is around me as I eat?
- Do I use technology while I eat?
- Where is my attention directed when I eat?
- Do I “taste test” more than once when I cook?
- Do I plan my meals?
- Where do I shop?
- Do I make a shopping list?
The Kitchen: The Major Food Environment
For most people, the kitchen is the main environment of cooking and food consumption. Therefore, you should ensure that this environment is organized to best suit you.
Here are some mindful eating tips to focus on:
- Make sure the kitchen area is free of clutter.
- Keep countertops clean and open with space.
- Maintain a welcoming environment within your kitchen.
- Organize kitchen drawers and utensils so that everything is easily accessible.
- Set aside time for cooking. Look at the week ahead and identify the best time to cook. Batch cooking can save time and money.
- Plan and organize your morning habits the night before. Organize food and utensils so you can sleep for an extra few minutes in the morning.
- Make sure you have basic kitchen tools ready and available for you to use. HERE are some of my favorites.
These aspects may seem silly but the likelihood of you completing behaviors such as cooking depends greatly on the conditions of your environment.
The Workplace: The Second Major Food Environment
Whenever you eat away from home, it can be challenging to make good food choices. Meals are more expensive, and they can be higher in calories. For this reason, being organized with respect to lunches from home or from a meal prep company are a great way to improve diet quality outside of the home environment.
Keep these mindful eating tips in mind:
- Avoid eating and working at the same time (being distracted while eating can lead to mindless overeating and a lack of awareness of hunger signals).
- Eat in a designated lunch space.
- Eat slower and be mindful about what you’re eating.
The Grocery Store: The Third Major Food Environment
Learning to shop better is one of the most influential tools you can acquire to improve diet quality. It will help you reach your health and wellness goals. Shopping can be challenging due to the marketing of food, the physical layout of grocery stores, and the enticement of our 5 basic senses.
Here are some mindful eating tips to help you overcome these grocery store challenges:
- Assess your activity level for the week ahead and plan meals accordingly.
- Make a shopping list and set a personal rule to buy only those items.
- Eat before shopping! Shopping when hungry can be a bad idea.
- Shop online if desired. This reduces the chance of impulse buying when walking the shopping aisle.
- Be consistent with where you shop because this will help stop food browsing.
The Food: Evaluate What You Eat
You’ve heard the saying “out of sight, out of mind”, right? Well, it definitely relates to the food environment dilemma. Food is really powerful. The smell, texture, taste, color, and availability/access are all factors that impact our eating behaviors.
Simple mindful eating tips to follow:
- Keep desirable food more visible (i.e., kept in a fruit bowl), and undesirable food less visible (or discard).
- Keep your fridge well organized.
- Food that is immediately in your eye line should be the healthier food (fruit, vegetables, yogurt, milk)
- Less desirable food (calorie-dense/nutrient sparse – butter, chocolate, spreads & condiments) should be kept more out of sight in the bottom half.
The Act of Eating: Evaluate How You Eat
Almost everyone can practice being more present while eating. We can appreciate our food more by focusing on digestion, which is often overlooked. The processes of digestion and absorption begin in the mouth. There are a few practical things we can do to aid our digestive system, such as:
- Eating should take place free of technology (tv, mobile phone, etc.), and try not to eat in places not designed for eating (bed/sofa/toilet).
- Take your time when eating–don’t rush. Instead, take 15 to 20 seconds between mouthfuls.
- Mindfully chew your food. Aim for 15 chews minimum per mouthful. Chewing food increases the surface area to break down food properly and allows for better absorption rates.
- Breathe and think. After each bite, take a breath and think about how you feel. Recognize the tastes and emotions you feel. Food is part of your culture, allowing you to experience amazing tastes. This helps you to slow down.
- Eat until you’re satisfied (not until you’re stuffed and can’t fit more food in). This is part of self-awareness and being present when eating. We are often too concerned with eating as much as we can, and as quickly as we can. Don’t be afraid to leave food on the plate. Listen to the signals your body is giving you.
- Use smaller spoons, knives, forks, plates, and bowls so you eat smaller amounts each time. You’ll be less concerned about leaving food on the plate as there will be less food to eat.
Friends, I hope you have found this challenge to be not only beneficial but impactful. It’s so important to establish heart healthy eating habits, and there’s no better way to do it than with a community of like-minded people! If you weren’t able to do the challenge with us, you can do it on your own time, anytime. Simply download the free challenge guide by clicking the button below.
Here’s to your health, and we’ll speak soon!
Mrs. Traylor is a Fitness Instructor, NASM Certified Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach, AFPA Certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, wife, and momma who provides actionable advice for positive lifestyle changes with fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Read about Wendy’s inspiring entrepreneurial journey, and subscribe to Wendy’s newsletter here!