How's your relationship with food?
Mindful eating is a movement gaining popularity as a means of controlling portion sizes, eating healthier, achieving weight loss and having an improved relationship between you and food. So what does 'mindful eating' actually mean?
It's been described variously as using all your senses to savour, taste and discover what you're eating, eating with the intention of caring for yourself, and eating with the attention necessary for noticing and enjoying your food and its effects on your body.
Michelle May, a US physician and mindful eating expert, describes mindful eating as eating "with intention and attention – eating with the intention of feeling better when you're finished than you did when you started, and with the attention necessary to notice food and its effect on your body and mind."
Eating mindfully has been shown to decrease episodes of binge and emotional eating, and may help people to lose weight as a result of increased satisfaction from eating and reduced overeating.
Here are some tips for mindful eating:
1. Think about WHY you're eating – Are you actually hungry, or are you eating because you're feeling sad or anxious about something? Try writing down how you feel before you eat, and after the meal. Keep a food and mood diary. Try to only eat when you're actually hungry. When you're not hungry, try to find comfort in non-food related ways, such as watching a movie or going for a walk with a friend.
2. Ensure you're not thirsty – Take a minute to stop and think about how much you've had to drink today. If the last drink was a coffee at breakfast three or four hours ago, then it may be that you're mistaking thirst for hunger. Have something to drink, wait 30 minutes and see if you're still hungry.
3. Eat slowly – It takes up to 20 minutes for the signals from your stomach to reach your brain. Set a timer if you need to, put your fork down between mouthfuls, chew your food well – not one or two bites and down it goes!
4. Reduce distractions – Turn off the TV, put the newspaper away, put your phone away (on silent mode), and sit down to enjoy your meal. This is also important in the work setting – make sure you find at least 10 minutes (preferably 15-20) away from work to sit down, pay attention to and fully enjoy your meal or snack. Studies have shown that people who eat while watching the television are likely to eat more than they would if you were paying attention to what they're eating and their hunger cues. When eating as a family, encourage the kids to be silent for a minute or two so that everyone can be mindful of what and how they're eating.
5. Think about why we eat – Food is nature's way to nourish our bodies to function properly. Think about the benefits of each mouthful – eg yoghurt providing calcium for bone health, oranges providing fibre for bowel health and vitamin C for immunity. Food is complex providing fats, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fibre and more - all to help your body function at its best ability.
6. Stop when you're satisfied – A lot of us have grown up being told to finish everything on the plate, no exceptions. This is ignoring hunger and fullness cues and is a negative habit that we've got into. Practise eating slowly, until you're full. If there is still food on your plate, wrap it up and refrigerate for the next day's lunch or dinner. Over time you may find that you serve yourself smaller portions so that you feel satisfied, but not full and uncomfortable.
7. Avoid excessive hunger – If you wait until you're ravenous, there is a higher chance you'll eat something less healthy and/or eat too quickly, leading to overeating.
8. Concentrate on what you're eating – Savour the taste of every bite. Think about the appearance, texture and aroma – use all of your senses. Do you actually like the taste of what you're eating, or is it just habit?
9. Start small – It can take a bit of adjusting so start mindful eating on a couple of meals per week and gradually increase this to most meals.
By listening to our bodies, we can become more attune to our hunger cues, the nourishment food provides, and feel happier about our relationship with food and our body.
Easy Tomato Soup
With the abundance of tomatoes around at the moment, this is a great way to make use of the excess!
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1.5kg of tomatoes, chopped
¼ tsp salt
¾ tsp sugar
1 Tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp dry)
¼ tsp black pepper
1-1.5 cup hot water
Heat the oil in a large sauce pan. Add the onion and cook until slightly softened, then add the garlic and carrot. Cook for another few minutes to soften but don't let the onion or garlic brown.
Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, salt, sugar, basil (chopped finely) and pepper. Stir together, cover the pan and leave for 10 minutes for the tomatoes to break down releasing the juices.
Then add 1 cup of water (or more if you like a thinner soup) and stir well. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on, stirring a few times throughout.
Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Transfer half of the mixture to a blender or food processor to blend to the consistency desired and transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
Serve warm some basil as garnish and toasted fresh bread, or freeze for a later date.
200g orzo pasta, uncooked
1 tsp olive oil
3 rashers of bacon, chopped
1 Tbsp pine nuts (or pumpkin seeds)
½ red onion, finely sliced
1-1.5 cups cherry tomatoes
200g spinach leaves
Handful of basil leaves
1 cup of diced cucumber
100g reduced salt feta
Place a pot of salted water on the stove to boil. When the water is boiling add the orzo and cook until soft but still firm. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Drizzle with a little olive oil, mix through and set aside.
Meanwhile cook the bacon in a fry pan, set aside.
Lightly toast the pine nuts in the fry pan – don't burn.
Slice the onion, halve the cherry tomatoes, tear the spinach and basil leaves, dice the cucumber and mix these all together. Add to the cooled orzo along with the bacon and pine nuts and mix through. Carefully stir through the feta.
Optional: Mix through a dressing of your choice e.g. 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp balsamic Vinegar, ½ -1 tsp Dijon mustard and cracked black pepper mixed before adding.
Serve with steamed fish and vegetables of your choice.
Brenda Szabo is a registered dietitian, and Chloe Hindle a dietetic assistant.