Practicing Mindful NutritionCharlotte Singmin
May 18, 2018
Eating mindfully has become a big part of my lifestyle, but it wasn’t always that way. I have strong memories of the dining hall at my university where we trained ourselves to shovel in as much food as possible in the shortest amount of time, (does anyone else recall an unbalanced combination of unlimited soft serve and french fries, with a possible side from the salad bar?!). How many of us grab-and-go as we are running out the door and eat on the go while driving or scrolling through our phones? As a mom, I am also guilty of absentmindedly grazing in the kitchen while I prepare my son’s meal, and then filling up on his leftovers having neglected to make something for myself.
I think the thing about eating mindfully, is that for a lot of us, it is something we must teach ourselves; we may have to unlearn old patterns, and like anything new, this takes time and practice. Setting the intention to eat mindfully is the first step, and then next we can decide:
- What makes a food good?
- How are we eating our food?
- Why are we eating?
- Where is our food coming from?
These four questions are meant to guide us in making more mindful choices when it comes to our nutrition.
What Makes a Food Good?
Wading through the buzzwords and in-your-face marketing for “healthy foods” can seem overwhelming, just because a food is advertised as gluten-free or vegan for example, does not necessarily mean that it’s good for you. In my opinion, one of the easiest ways to make some good food choices is to select a colourful assortment of whole foods. A gorgeous haul of groceries means you’re adding a variety of nutrients to your diet and is a fun way to start being mindful of what you’re choosing to eat.
In making plates of kid-friendly, nutritious food for my son, I started to include a wider variety of foods at each meal in my own diet. Say for example I was making us veggie burgers with sweet potato fries, I would also add blueberries, strawberries, cucumber, and apple to his plate, and then it looked so good, I began adding it to my own! Soon our plates became a full rainbow; grilled cheeses were accompanied by dried mango, seaweed, kale chips, and raspberries, waffles were topped with nut butter, coconut chips, hemp hearts, and banana. Slightly unconventional become our new norm, and I felt all the healthier for the shift!
How Are You Eating Your Food?
Once we get in the habit of making mindful choices about the food we prepare at home, we can approach the challenge of choosing wisely on the go, and begin to consider how we eat.
Admittedly this is a tough one and takes a little prep and a fair amount of practice, but can quickly become part of a mindful routine. Doing the initial research is necessary; reading labels, choosing products from trustworthy brands, and balancing carefully chosen convenience foods like protein powders or frozen items, with that rainbow of raw and whole foods.
Let’s say you’re sitting at your desk drinking a smoothie you prepared for lunch. Instead of working and slurping, take a couple of minutes to enjoy a few sips, thinking of the intention you had to nourish yourself when you prepared it, tasting the individual flavours, or simply appreciating how the food will indeed nourish your mind and body.
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, food should always be tasted; chewing each bite slowly not only facilitates digestion, but it also encourages us to acknowledge and appreciate what it is we’re eating. My son and I love locally crafted dark chocolate; I taught him when he was little to let a single square melt on his tongue and then slowly chew it to really enjoy the flavour. He still eats those chocolate squares mindfully, asking me “is it melted yet?” – It’s cute and funny, but I hope it’s also imprinting the practice of slowing down and truly tasting your food.
Why Do You Eat?
As we continue with our mindful eating journey, it’s also important to consider why we eat.
As a mom I sometimes catch myself focusing on my little one’s needs and forgetting about my own; I’ll distractedly graze on his leftovers and realize that while his plate was full of nutrients, I’ve been standing up in the kitchen nibbling only on bunny crackers and hummus! While as parents, we have a tendency to set our own needs to the side, it’s equally important to prioritize our own nutrition. When we eat mindfully, when we set that intention, we strengthen the connection between our food and the nourishment it provides us.
As a single parent, I often find myself cooking for one, but I try to put the same effort in as if I were preparing a meal for a larger group. Whether cooking for yourself or taking care of your entire family, connecting to the act of mindfully fuelling your body can be a truly enjoyable process from beginning to end. Stimulate your appetite by using fragrant herbs, fresh ingredients, and selecting fun recipes. Enjoy the experience of shopping the ingredients, the preparation, and the finished result. You don’t even have to prepare anything fancy; a Google search for “Healthy 3 Ingredient Recipes” or “Ten Minute Meals” will yield a ton of easy-to-make results!
As for emotional eating? Personally, I have no problem with eating a bowl of ice cream to boost your mood, as long as you’re doing it mindfully; tasting it and enjoying it. Don’t feel you have to hide your treat; instead, celebrate it, and take your time to taste every bite. Use a pretty bowl, a nice spoon, and top with a handful of berries; make that dessert a work of art!
Many of us also have a tendency to snack when we’re bored, so instead of distractedly reaching for a handful of chips, pour a big glass of water (add lemon or mint flavoured chlorophyll for taste and additional health benefits) and have other non-food related options to enjoy: a bubble bath, an audio book, or listening to good music.
Where Does Your Food Come From?
Finally, when it comes to eating mindfully, I think it’s important to consider where our food comes from. Like anything, this is a bit of a balancing act. We may not always have time to ponder who made our morning muffin, but if we can consider where our food comes from as much as possible, it will greatly contribute to our mindful eating practice.
If we want to build and live in beautiful communities full of thriving local businesses, then that’s where we need to spend our money. I love that when I shop at my local fruit & vegetable markets, my money goes towards another family’s relatable expenses, like ballet lessons and soccer camps; my choices and my dollars have a direct and positive impact.
When I choose to shop at farmer’s markets and food co-ops I’m supporting individuals who are putting effort into offering me and my family the fresh whole foods that we, in turn, want to include in our diet; I like to think of it as being part of a circle of awesomeness. Chatting to the bakers at the bakeries, the chefs at the restaurants, the farmers at the market, all of this builds our connection to where our food comes from.
Growing our own garden herbs is one of our favourite ways to enjoy the warmer months. I bring my son to the local plant shops in the spring for flats of basil, lavender, mint, and other easy to grow herbs. He helps with the planting and watering and learns the names of the plants through sight and scent. Homemade watermelon mint popsicles with fresh mint from our balcony garden are a fun way for both of us to make that connection to what we eat and where it comes from, understanding and honouring the cycle of mindful nourishment.