Updated: Jan 30
The wait is over. You are off of work and ready to go home and relax. You want to eat a healthy dinner, but you forgot to go shopping. Don’t beat yourself up! It happens to all of us. Consider the following choices:
Option #1: A convenient but unhealthy drive thru meal (you will be eating sooner, but may feel less satisfied after).
Option #2: A mindfully prepared meal, cooked slowly and calmly, made from fresh local, organic ingredients (time consuming, but super-satisfying).
You are probably thinking that you would ideally pick option #2, but realistically, #1 hits home more.
You can make option #2 your NATURAL response, though. Using mindfulness, it’s possible to re-condition your brain and how you think about food. Holistic nutrition consists of a series of mindful choices which all add up to healthy eating habits.
Mindfulness is defined as paying close attention to the present moment, without judgment. Mindfulness is the foundation for a better relationship with food. Removing judgment and guilt around food choices is a huge step towards healthy eating.
This article will discuss how to apply mindfulness techniques to the following areas:
Following these steps can help you improve your health and wellness! It’s time to get mindful. For more tips on how to use mindfulness in your everyday life visit www.mindfulwaystowellness.com.
The first mindful step to holistic nutrition is in the planning. Having a plan is the key to successful food shopping! Before you even get to the store, there are opportunities to make mindful choices.
Let’s say, for example, that you want to plan to cook one meal mindfully. Pick a healthy meal, any meal you like. Hooray! You made your first mindful choice by simply choosing what you would LIKE to cook. Now ask yourself some questions about this meal. What ingredients will you need? What is in season? What can you get for cheap, locally? Asking these questions means you are paying attention closely to your habits of meal-planning. Perhaps up until now your habit has been “buy food when I am hungry.” That does not have to be your NATURAL response. Having a plan leads to a more successful outcome!
Set aside fifteen minutes for this exercise: Try writing out the days of the week and putting down a general idea of meals. (If planning a week ahead is too much for you, try just planning the next three days). Now that you have some meal ideas, pull a list of ingredients out of those.
As you create your list, think about what meals you eat regularly. You can easily make a weekly meal plan using the foods and meals you are already comfortable with. You can develop the habit of planning using the exact foods you already buy. Just write it down! Be mindful of the process. Make a list. Hold yourself accountable.
Now that you have a solid list, consider the health value of every item you added. Remember you want to fill most of your cart in the perimeter sections of the store - fruits and veggies, fresh-baked bread, meat and seafood, and dairy - and avoid the center aisles of the store, particularly the heavily-processed foods. Making mindful choices BEFORE you enter the store will help you stick to a nutrition-guided shopping trip and not a craving-driven one.
The second step to holistic nutrition happens at the grocery store, farmers market, or produce shop. These locations can be overwhelming. There are so many different choices and colors attacking your senses when you enter a grocery store. But remember, you are prepared! You have already made mindful choices by writing your shopping list. You have a map to better health right in your hand! Let your list guide you through the store.
Let’s begin by visiting the produce section. Choosing produce is another opportunity to pay close attention. Take your time to mindfully pick just the right fruit or vegetable instead of grabbing the first one you see. Try selecting the one that feels just right to YOU. This selection process helps you connect to your food.
Now make your way through the rest of the store STICKING TO YOUR LIST! We know there are countless, tempting, definitely-not-on-the-list items there. If ONE of them still ends up in your cart, let it end up there. When we mindfully choose the groceries in our cart, we get rid of the guilt that sometimes creeps up later on.
Don’t be afraid to go to a few different stores or markets. If you don’t find the exact ingredients you like at one store, try another. Pick the best of the best, and don’t settle for less. Remember, you planned to buy these ingredients already. Now it is empowering to follow through on your choices without giving in to impulsive food cravings.
The third step to holistic nutrition is to prepare the food mindfully. When you arrive home with your groceries, pay attention to how and where you put them away. Choose a spot where each item will live until it is prepared. Having an organized fridge and pantry makes the cooking process simpler.
When it is time to cook, remember the following:
“Just as food is the greatest expression of Nature’s generosity, cooking and serving food to others is a primal act of human nurture. At a deep biological level, sharing food equates to love.” (Eisenstein, The Yoga of Eating)
Food is infused with our vibrational energy as we prepare it. If we think about things and have emotional reactions during food preparation, our intentions become part of the food. If you make eggs for your child and smile at the eggs, there is love and positive intention flowing out of you. Your cells are vibrating positively. You stir the eggs with positive intention; you serve the food to your child with positive intention. Ask anyone; THOSE eggs taste better!
The entire experience of food preparation can be slowed down to a very step-by-step process. You can inject your love and positivity in every step. Each step is another mindful choice. It is very easy to rush through food prep tasks, doing them on automatic mode, not really living or enjoying those moments of chopping, peeling, or stirring.
When it is time to cook, begin by preparing your ingredients. If you mindfully selected them, you have already taken a step toward infusing your food with good energy. Pick up one of the vegetables you are going to chop. Maybe a carrot. Take a moment to notice everything about it as if you had never experienced it before. (What is this long pointy orange thing? I have never seen something like this before. Look at its color! Its shape! The way it crisply breaks in two pieces when I bend it.) This paying attention to the item in your hand, without judging it (I like carrots/I don’t like carrots) is mindfulness.
Take time to rinse the carrot. Feeling the water and moving it. Chop the carrot with the intention of feeding yourself or your family. Chop without selfishness or any reason other than the intention of feeding. It feels good right? By noticing, rinsing, and chopping this carrot you have taken control of your moment and mindfully experienced the task. Repeat this step with every component of your meal.
Once you have the food in the pan, enjoy the sensory experience of smelling it cooking. As your eyes see the food being manipulated, and you take in the delicious scents, your body prepares itself for digestion. These steps are actually the beginning of the digestive process, well before the food enters your mouth. Think about how much we lose when we disconnect by resorting to drive-thrus and convenience food.
While it may not be practical to mindfully slow down and prepare food in this way every single time, it is the golden standard to shoot for. Noticing the difference in taste and experience of a mindfully-prepared meal will be enough to have you returning to the practice.
“Essentially mindfulness in eating is about looking inward and outward at your relationship with food. Internally it’s about being aware of how you feel about food. Externally it’s focusing on the sensory effects of your food, appreciating the textures, colors, flavors and aromas.” (Zevnik, Mindful Eating)
Now it’s time for the best part of food: eating! Before you begin, slow down. Eating in a stressed state can have a negative effect on digestion. Read about the issues associated with stressed-out eating here.
Set the stage for your meal. Plating your food can help add a creative element to cooking. Set up your table. Choose to sit with no distractions. Leave your phone in the other room. Sit down and relax. Take a few deep breaths as you look at and smile at your food.
Find an upright posture; you want to be comfortable and restful but still sitting up so that your digestive tract is aligned. Take bites slowly, chewing food thoroughly. Take a breath in and out between each bite. Pause to mindfully take a sip of water and experience the sensation of drinking.
Finally, make the mindful choice to stop eating when you feel full. Often our eyes are bigger than our stomach. Don’t make the mistake of overeating just because there is food left on your plate. If you are full, allow yourself to be full. Wrap up the leftovers for another meal.
Congratulations! Wasn’t that one of the most delicious meals you’ve ever had?
Better health is as easy as getting a grip on your nutrition! If you’re ready to take charge of your life and your nutrition, we are here to help. To learn more about holistic nutritional therapy offered in St. Pete at Mindful Ways to Wellness, click here.
We offer nutrition workshops to get you started, as well! “How to Heal Yourself Nutritionally” will be offered Sunday, April 21st from 3-6 pm. This workshop is a great overview of the concept and science behind holistic nutrition, with lots of information you can apply right away to improve your health. “The Big Fat Lie about Fats” is happening on Saturday, April 27th from 1-4 pm. Here we will discuss in greater depth the importance of healthy fats for our mental and physical well-being, dispelling plenty of myths along the way! For more details and to reserve your space in a workshop, please visit our website!
Eisenstein, C. (2003). The yoga of eating: Transcending diets and dogma to nourish the natural self. Washington, D.C.: NewTrends Pub.
Zevnik, N. (n.d.). Mindful Eating. Better Nutrition. Retrieved October 10, 2018.