Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” The tenets of mindfulness apply to mindful eating as well, but the concept of mindful eating goes beyond the individual. It also encompasses how what you eat affects your health and the world. That’s essentially the same concept that drove the development of the 2015 pro-posed U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which, for the first time, considered sustainability of food crops as well as the health benefits of the foods.
Although the ideal mindful-eating food choices are similar to the Mediterranean diet—centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils—the technique can be applied to a cheeseburger and fries. By truly paying attention to the food you eat, you may indulge in these types of foods less often. In essence, mindful eating means being fully attentive to your food—as you buy, prepare, serve, and consume it. However, adopting the practice may take more than a few adjustments in the way you approach meals and snacks. Here are several practices that can help you get there:
1. Begin with your shopping list
Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the center aisles—which are heavy with processed foods—and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.
2. Come to the table with an appetite— but not when ravenously hungry
If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food.
3. Start with a small portion
It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less.
4. Appreciate your food
Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.
5. Bring all your senses to the meal
When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.
6. Take small bites
It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full. Put down your utensil between bites.
7. Chew thoroughly
Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.) You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.
8. Eat slowly
If you follow the advice above, you won’t bolt your food down. Devote at least five minutes to mindful eating before you chat with your tablemates.