Mindful eating is an approach to food and eating that you can carry with you for life. It is flexible enough to complement any type of meal plan or weight loss strategy, and it can increase the pleasure of eating.
The Harvard School of Public Health describes mindful eating as being aware of what you are eating, and the circumstances surrounding it, in the moment. These are seven ways to be more mindful when making food choices, whether you are ordering from a menu or preparing a meal at home.
1. Listen to your conscience
For many people, the conscience can be a good guide to making food choices. Have you ever found yourself rationalizing a choice (“I know that fettuccine Alfredo is high in calories, carbs, and fat, but this is a special occasion so it is okay today,” or, “I’ll just go with the fries instead of asking for a salad because I do not want to bother the server.”) that you know is not healthiest for you?
Often, the choice that keeps your conscience quiet is the one that is the right one at that moment (“I see salmon and broccoli on the menu and will just order that before looking through the rest of the temptations on the menu!”). You may not think that you are a nutrition expert, but you probably know more than you think.
2. Use a nutrition tracker
A nutrition tracker can help increase awareness around food choices. When you log what you consume, you may notice patterns such as more sugars or fewer vegetables than you had thought. Altering your choices based on these insights can help you reach weight loss and health goals.
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3. Get nutrition coaching
A calorie counter can count calories, a nutrition tracker can keep track of calories, nutrients, and food groups, and a nutrition coach can offer extra information and guidance on how to use your own data to help you. Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) lets you track what you eat and also provides feedback on it, both in the moment and on a daily and weekly basis, so you can make simple changes.
4. Notice your hunger
Using a fullness scale to help you decide when to eat and when to stop eating can keep food intake on track. Instead of waiting to eat until you are starving, you might plan to eat when you are moderately hungry. After eating slowly, you can stop when you are moderately full, and not stuffed to the gills.
5. Try a smaller plate
Using a smaller plate forces you to serve yourself less food, which helps you eat less overall. Research published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research suggests that people who use a smaller plate eat less. You might try eating more slowly when you have less food in front of you, and that can help enjoy your food more.
If you are at a restaurant, asking for a to-go box when your food comes, and putting away half of your meal for later, can help keep portion sizes down.
6. Eat at consistent times
Though hunger should dictate when and how much you eat, eating meals and snacks at regular or consistent times of day can contribute to mindful eating. When you establish a pattern of when you eat, your body gets used to the pattern, and starts to expect food at those times.
It can also help you plan ahead, which can allow you to make healthier choices. Eating at consistent meal times has been associated with benefits such as reduced chronic inflammation, lower risk for diabetes, and reduced body weight, according to a review article in the journal Nutrients.
7. Consider the planet
Eating mindfully considers not only yourself, but those around you and the greater environment. In general, plant-based foods are better for the environment than animal-based foods due to factors such as less water used in their production and a lower carbon footprint.
Having more plant-based foods in your diet can also be good for body weight and diabetes risk, with these possible benefits possible due to factors such as a higher fiber content of a plant-based diet, or a lower amount of saturated fat.
Still, it is healthiest for your body to include long-chain omega-3 fatty acids because of possible benefits such as lower risk for heart disease and type. Eating fish can help you do your best for your body and for the environment, since fish, and no plant-basd foods, have long-chain fatty acids. A sustainability index, such as at Seafood Watch from Monterey Bay Aquarium, provides information on which fish species from which sources are more versus less sustainably produced.
Eating healthier and losing weight are some of the most important steps you can take for your health, and nutrition tracking can help. Tracking your foods and beverages can hold you accountable with your good intentions and make sure you know exactly what you are eating and how much.
A good nutrition tracker can fit right into your lifestyle without weighing you down, and it is not hard to find one. Lark offers intuitive tracking features, such as recognizing favorite foods and keeping a history of your choices. Plus, Lark’s nutrition coaching includes instant feedback to celebrate the good choices you made and guide you towards any possible improvements next time.
Lark’s nutrition tracking is part of the entire coaching program for weight loss and improved health. The program may be available to you at no cost if your health insurer participates! Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark. You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to hitting your weight loss goals and improving health.
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