5 Tips for Mindful Eating
Mindfulness is the natural ability to be fully present with an awareness of emotional and physical states and surroundings. While it is a tool we are all born with, it is most functional when sharpened through daily practice. Researchers and clinicians are becoming more aware of mindfulness as a way to treat different health conditions.
Mindful eating includes a non-judgmental awareness of internal and external cues influencing our desire to eat the foods we choose, the quantity being consumed, and how it is consumed. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, mindful eating can lead to greater psychological well-being, more enjoyable meals, and overall body satisfaction.
Mindful eating does not have to be difficult. Use these five tips to get started:
1. Honoring hunger
Diet culture teaches that hunger is a feeling to be ignored – but that’s not true. Hunger cues are one of the many ways the body communicates the need to eat. It is essential to recognize feelings of hunger as soon as they appear. Get to learn your own feelings of hunger – what physical sensations arise in the stomach or mouth, and what emotions arise? Is there a “hangry” feeling?
2. Giving permission to enjoy cravings
While promoting nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is crucial to good health. It is also important to make space to enjoy foods not typically categorized as ‘health-conscious’ — like baked goods, candy, and chips. There is a place on our plate for all foods, and Vitamin P (for Pleasure) is a nutrient often forgotten. When there is permission to incorporate these foods into our meals and snacks, the work can begin on eliminating any feelings of guilt or shame that may arise when eating them. It also helps in feeling more in control of these foods when there is a tendency to over-eat them.
3. Create space to eat
If time is short, a kitchen table may take the form of a car or walk on the way to work — this is okay! Eating is essential, even if the setting is not optimal. If possible, sit at a table to enjoy food. Not only does proper positioning help with digestion, but it also allows for more focus on the task at hand: eating. Tip: Try placing food into a bowl or plate rather than eating out of the package for a more engaged eating experience.
4. Slow down and engage the senses
Take a few deep breaths before eating to aid in mindfulness. While eating, notice the food and ask these questions to ignite the senses.
- Is the food colorful or unique in shape?
- Does the food smell appetizing?
- Is the taste salty, sweet, bitter, or sour?
- Is it crunchy, smooth, creamy, or chewy?
5. Understand fullness cues
After enjoying a meal or snack, take note of physical and emotional feelings. Consider what changed both physically and emotionally after eating. Was the meal too large or perfectly portioned? Was it too spicy or lacking an ingredient?
Comfortable fullness can feel like:
- A subtle feeling of stomach fullness
- Feeling satisfied and content
- Nothingness – neither hungry or full
Cate Brennan, RDN, LDN, CLC | firstname.lastname@example.org
“I enjoy being a dietitian because I get to help people sort through all the diet noise that is out there and help them learn evidence-based nutrition strategies to optimize their well-being.”
Catherine (Cate) Brennan is a Registered Dietitian who has worked with HCSG since 2019. She lives and works in Rhode Island. Cate became a dietitian because of her love of food and desire to share that love with others. When she is not working, you can find her gardening, practicing yoga, or hiking.