Savoring the Flavor of Eating Right with Mindful Eating
January has come and gone and March is here. Are you still on track with your resolutions? If not, don’t worry because this month is the perfect time to make another fresh start on eating well because it’s National Nutrition Month!
“Savor the Flavor of Eating Right”
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has chosen “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” to be the theme this year for National Nutrition Month. I especially love this theme because it not only stresses the importance of good nutrition , but also puts an emphasis on all facets of eating a healthy diet —like mindfulness, enjoying social aspects of mealtime, celebrating cultural foods, finding joy in cooking, and yes, savoring the good, healthful, delicious food you have on your plate each day. I’m thrilled to see the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics giving all these points the attention they deserve because eating is supposed to be pleasurable—not simply a means to get nutrients into one’s body.
Ways to “Savor the Flavor” at Home
There are lots of ways to bring the ideas behind this year’s National Nutrition Month into your own kitchen. Here are a few ideas I recommend:
- Make meals a social event if possible — Cooking with a spouse, partner, kids or friends turns the task into a fun event. When you cook with someone (instead of just for someone) you have help, of course, but you also have time to share, teach, learn and relax with people you enjoy.
- Take time for shared meals — Meals shared with others increase the enjoyment of the food, but also allow for catching up and bonding. Busy week? Schedule your family meals so that everyone knows which nights you plan to eat together around the table. Then turn off the TV, put away the phones and just savor your food and each other’s company.
- Choose fruits and vegetables at their peak ripeness — you deserve tasty food, and that means selecting food that tastes good! Avoid purchasing produce that is obviously past its prime—it won’t deliver the goods taste-wise or nutritionally if it’s old. And when food is underripe the flavors and aromas will be undeveloped. Sometimes frozen fruits and vegetables are the best choice, especially if there are no fresh counterparts. For example, Wild Blueberries are picked when perfectly ripe and ready, then frozen quickly to preserve nutrients and quality of color and flavor. Once you have that beautiful produce on your plate, let your eyes linger on the colors, inhale its aromas and revel in its tempting tastes and textures.
- Give your meals the time and setting they deserve — Eating in your car while driving down the highway or standing while inhaling breakfast over the sink certainly don’t make eating a pleasurable experience. To enhance your focus and mindfulness so that you can truly taste and enjoy your food, set aside enough time to eat at a relaxed (even slow) pace. A setting that’s somewhat quiet (no loud TV or loud music) can help you savor your food more, research indicates. Also, opt for eating at a table while sitting in a chair with an actual place setting and real cutlery (not at a desk cluttered with work and your computer.) This helps you to slow down, notice all the sensations presented by the food, and allows you to notice how your body feels in response to your meal.
- Bump up the sensory impact of your food — The perception of flavor is actually a combination of sensory stimuli including texture, temperature, aroma and sound. Increasing your perception of these characteristics in your meal may enhance your enjoyment of the meal (even to the point of helping you feel more satisfied with less food, research indicates). A few little touches can make your plate and meal more appealing and therefore more enjoyable. Consider these ideas: mix up the colors on your plate (nobody likes a plate of all brown or all white foods), as well as textures and food temperatures. Add a garnish. It doesn’t have to be complicated or contrived (no special knife skills are necessary!). Try a sprinkle of scallions over scrambled eggs, a scattering of Wild Blueberries over a bowl of oatmeal, or a few crumbled bacon pieces on top of mashed potatoes or cauliflower puree, for example.
Most of all, enjoy this National Nutrition Month (and a full year for that matter) of healthy, flavorful, mindful eating!