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In a world where we are continually encouraged to be mindful and to prioritise our mental health, can we apply this our eating habits too? We absolutely can! Mindful eating can play a huge part in helping us change the way we view food and can help us develop healthy eating habits.
Mindful snacking can be practiced by anybody, anytime, anywhere!
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating involves focusing on the present moment while eating your meals snacks. It’s about eating with intention, savouring the tastes, smells and sensations while enjoying your food. Especially nowadays, when more people are working from home or hybrid working, we have more temptation to snack with access to food around the clock as are surrounded by our own food supply. We also have numerous options to order food to our door with the click of a few buttons on our phones or laptops – the ease of ordering a quick coffee with an added muffin or cookie!
Rather than mindlessly reaching for the packet of biscuits or buying the muffin to go with our coffee, if we make mindful choices about our meals and snacks, we will feel more satisfied, fuller for a longer period, and over time it becomes easier to maintain a healthier diet.
Before you reach for a snack, think to yourself:
- Are you actually hungry or are you connecting the desire for food with a time, place or emotion?
- Have you had enough water today?
- Do you need energy?
- Is this a treat?
- Is the snack providing a break in your day?
- Is the social situation causing you to snack?
Determining WHY you want to snack can help you choose whether you actually require the food, as well as what to eat or what not to eat given the situation. For example, if you are thirsty, this could manifest as hunger, but a glass of water may satisfy you and stop you reaching for a quick sugary snack.
Consider going for a small walk or run if you are snacking because you're stressed or bored. If you can put your headphones on and enjoy the fresh air, it will take your mind off food and allow you to get some extra steps into your day.
Fueling our bodies well
Imagine your body as a vehicle you use to get around, so you need fuel for it to function effectively in the same way you need fuel in your car. The fuel your body needs is found in the food that we eat. If we put the wrong fuel in your body, it will stop working, the same way that your car would break down.
In addition to your main meals, the snacks that keep your energy levels up are crucial, so making sure that the snacks that you choose are well balanced with the right vitamins and nutrients is essential. This can be from a variety of sources, such as fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, nuts, pulses and seeds. These will help you get all the important nutrients and vitamins into your diet such as carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.
We must be mindful of just how much we consume when it comes to our meals and snacks. It is very easy to think we are being ‘healthy’ because we are having what we deem to be healthy food but if we are cutting up an apple and having it with half the jar of peanut butter instead of 1 tablespoon….then you are likely to see the scales start to creep up!
If you can, get some snacks prepared for your week into small tubs in the fridge – portion out things like humus to go with carrot sticks, peanut butter for apples, berries ready to go in yogurt so that when you do need a snack it is easy to reach for a healthy option and you don’t feel stressed or end up reaching for a quick, lower quality option. Have items ready in your pantry like dried fruit and nuts (these can also be portioned into small tubs ready to go!), rice cakes, crackers and then plenty of fresh fruit and veg.
Take the time
Once you have decided that your body does in fact need a snack and you have decided on the food you are going to eat, enjoy the snack mindfully. Mindful eating entails focusing fully on what you are eating; the tastes, smells and textures.
When we are mindful while we are eating, we are much more likely to pay attention to our body’s signals that we are full. Distracted eating, such as snacking whilst watching tv, talking to friends or working on our laptops can lead to overeating. The food we mindlessly pick up and eat without noticing adds up over time and can result in poor eating habits, weight gain and a negative effect on our physical and mental health.
You will develop a much healthier relationship with food when you start to make choices that are beneficial for your health, and you begin to feel the changes in your body. Having more energy and greater concentration between meals, fueled by mindful meals during the day, will bring you all round happiness.
Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasure and when we fuel ourselves well it can do incredible things for not only our bodies but also our wellbeing. Feeling sluggish and slow, will bring down your mood and put you in a cycle of reaching for short term happiness in sugary, sweet snacks.
Choose your food wisely, be kind to yourself and enjoy your eating experience! Here are 13 tips for healthy eating on a budget to help inspire you to eat well despite the rising cost of living.
Download Hutton Health's free Meal Planner to help you prepare for a successful week of mindful eating!