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5 Tips for Mindful Eating

How many of us have judged ourselves after a meal? We tell ourselves once we lose five pounds we will feel better, or that tomorrow we will start eating healthier, but then tomorrow never comes. Now, with trying to cut down trips to the grocery store and empty shelves of meat and produce, COVID-19 has not made the relationship with food any easier to mend. How can we flip the script and practice mindful eating? Sydney Greene, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Greene Health, recently sat down with Dr. Jonathan Fader to discuss just that. For starters, mindful eating is catching our thoughts about food or meals and not attaching judgment to them. The goal is to incorporate compassion, kindness, and openness into your daily food routine and to be present with those feelings before, during, and after eating. So before you go to the freezer to grab a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at midnight, take a look at these five easy tips for mindful eating:

Eat more solid meals throughout the day – Now that most of us are working from home, it is important to get into some sort of routine with our meals, and to eat solid meals throughout the day. Solid meals are those that consist of putting food on a plate and actually thinking about what is on that plate. Is there some protein present? Can you add a quick vegetable or fruit? The goal of eating more solid meals is to eliminate the “drive-by’s” through the kitchen where you are continuously snacking throughout the day. Not only do these eliminate the ability to sustain feeling full, but it often leads to eating more of the unhealthy snacks as the day goes on.

Always Foods vs. Sometimes Foods – It is not uncommon to put foods into the categories of “good” and “bad” in terms of the way in which we think about them. Instead of attaching morality to the foods we eat, what if we instead remove the judgment and put foods into categories of “always foods,” and “sometimes foods”? For example, that serving of Ben & Jerry’s might be a “sometimes food” while the spinach on our dinner plates is an “always food.”

What to look for on the label – If you flip most of your favorite cereal boxes around, you’re going to see that there is a lot of sugar and less fiber than you think. So instead of eating a bowl of fiber for breakfast, you actually end up eating a bowl of sugar, causing a quick high followed by a crash 30 minutes later. When you crash, you eat again, and thus the sugar rollercoaster continues. Sugar can be very sneaky, as it is in 75 percent of packaged foods in the supermarket. Not just sweet foods, either. It ends up in salad dressings, sauces and condiments, with over 61 different names for sugar on an ingredients list. An easy tip to incorporate when you are reading labels is that sugar should not be within the first three ingredients on the box or bottle.

Changing our language around food – Many of us use words like bingeing, food addict, sugar addiction, etc. when talking about our food habits that we want to change. The truth is that a lot of times we put weight and power into the words surrounding food, and it becomes a representation of how we feel about ourselves and our bodies. Is eating a small cup of frozen yogurt really a binge? So then why do we call it that? If we can soften the language around food, we can actually take huge strides towards moving forward in our relationship with what we eat and ourselves overall.

Eating the Rainbow – Instead of setting your sights on a strict diet plan during quarantine, can you instead commit to starting smaller? For example, now can be the time when you start looking at your food to see if you can add more color to your plate. Can you make it your goal to eat three colors a day? It may sound silly, but when you make simple goals for your plate and meals, it can not only change the way you shop at the grocery store, but also lead to big shifts in your relationship with what goes into your body.

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