By: Lucette Talamas, MS, RD, LDN
Registered Dietitian at Baptist Health South Florida

Fall into healthy habits this season by practicing mindful eating.  So what is mindful eating? Mindful eating is not a diet, and there are no rules or menus. Mindful eating refers to applying mindfulness techniques to eating.

Mindful eating is the practice of nonjudgmental awareness of internal and external body cues that influence the desire to eat, selection and quantity of food, and the manner in which food is eaten. Eating mindfully creates a sense of awareness around the foods you eat and your everyday eating habits and decisions; it reconnects you to your eating experience by creating awareness of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors. You can also reconnect with your eating experience by eating with your five senses: feeling food textures, hearing the food cook and sizzle, seeing foods, smelling the aromas, and savoring the flavors. The benefits of practicing mindful eating result in positive changes to eating habits and improved relationship with food.

How exactly can you practice mindful eating to become aware of your eating habits? Hit the ‘pause’ button and ask yourself at least one of following questions before, during, and after you eat. There are no right or wrong answers.

Why do I eat? (Am I Hungry?)

Many times, people eat for reasons other than physical hunger. This question helps explore triggers such as physical hunger, visual cues, certain situations, or emotions such as stress, fatigue, boredom, or loneliness. If you identify such emotions and do not feel physical hunger, the next question is if you can address your emotions without using food. Ask yourself – how do you think you will feel after you eat the food? Will the emotion still be there? Explore the different ways you can address your emotions without food. For example, if you are bored or feeling lonely, it can be helpful to connect with a friend or family member, or to engage in a hobby or activity.

“When do I want to eat?”

The answer may depend physical hunger cues or scheduled meal time.

 “What do I eat?”

Consider which foods you feel like eating that will bring you satisfaction. When choosing foods, examine factors such as nutrition, convenience, taste- like salty or sweet, or comfort.

 “How do I eat?”

Are you eating rushed or calm, mindful or distracted, secretive or with others? By getting rid of major distractions (phones, TV, iPads, computers), it is easier to practice mindful eating and be present in your eating experience.

 “How much do I eat?”

Explore the quantity you want to eat, which may be decided based on your physical hunger and fullness cues, or the size of the food container, or habit.

“Where does the energy go?”

Food provides energy through the calories it contains, and this food energy is used to fuel work, concentration, movement and exercise. Eating may be invigorating, or may make you feel sluggish or other feelings.

Mindful eating is an important practice when enjoying sweets treats and comfort foods. While finding healthier substitutions for recipes is great, you do not always have to give up your favorite foods completely if you are able to enjoy them mindfully.

Tune into our Mindful Eating webinar and recipe demo where we discuss these mindful eating basics and more! Common Threads Program & Special Projects Coordinator Mimi Chacin also prepares pumpkin pie bites, which are perfect for this Fall season. We also discuss how this recipe plays a role in eating for energy, and why eating regular balanced meals and snacks can help you manage cravings while enjoying foods mindfully. And the good news is – you do not have to give up your pumpkin pie this holiday season as you can enjoy it mindfully!