Healthy Living

A Dietitian's Guide to Mindful Eating

How being more present and making conscious decisions at each meal can benefit your health.

The holiday season, along with its plethora of parties and gatherings, means that much of our eating routines and habits change. Naturally, indulgence abounds, and the last thing you want is to be caught up in the do’s and don’ts of food, when your focus should really be on celebrating. 

Enter: mindful eating. This is a powerful practice that can help you make conscious decisions at each meal. Mindful eating is less focused on what you eat, and more about the process and experience of eating. It’s centered around the principle of being present in the moment, which allows you to be more fully aware of what’s on your plate and each bite of food you’re having. Mindful eating can help improve digestion, promote increased awareness of hunger and fullness, and develop a healthy relationship with food. Not to mention, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite foods guilt-free.

Below are four ways to begin practicing mindful eating. Try incorporating one or all of the following habits into your meals during the holidays and beyond. 

Check in on your hunger before making food decisions

Before choosing your next meal, bring your attention to your breath to slow down and be present. Once you’re present, take a moment to identify how hungry you truly are. This can help you select the foods you truly want in the moment, as well as the portion sizes that are right for you. As you eat, check in periodically to notice how your hunger changes throughout the meal.

Chew slowly and taste each bite

When sitting down to eat, try to chew slowly and notice the taste and texture of the food. Savor all the different flavors that each of the components of your meal offers, and note what you enjoy most about each of them. Becoming more aware of your food can help you to fully enjoy your meal, and be more in tune with your hunger levels. 

Allow yourself to stop eating when you’re full

Finishing everything on your plate may have been a “rule” you grew up with, but it’s not always the most helpful. As you slowly enjoy your meal, you may notice that you’re full before finishing your entire plate. Instead of ignoring your body’s signals, give yourself permission to stop eating when it feels appropriate. 

Practice gratitude

Be grateful for the food in front of you, for the company you’re enjoying the meal with, and for all of the effort you’re putting into changing your habits around meals. Practicing gratitude can help to reinforce the importance of these mindful eating habits and how powerful of an effect they can have on your long-term health.