Nutrition Tips and the Practice of Mindful Eating

03.26.2019
Tara Rybicki
Munson Healthcare Community Health Coordinator & Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Tara Rybicki, MS. Photo credit: Graceland Fruit

Eat this. Don’t eat that. As a society, we are surrounded by a lot of food noise. Perhaps even more frustrating is that some of the information we receive is conflicting. If you’ve ever found yourself feeling puzzled by the wealth of nutritional information circulating around, you are not alone.

We recently asked Munson Healthcare Community Health Coordinator & Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Tara Rybicki, MS, to share some nutrition tips that everyone can practice, regardless of goals, budget, and diet restrictions. Rybicki was eager to share some great tips on one of her favorite nutrition topics: the practice of mindful eating.

First, what exactly is mindful eating? As Rybicki explains, to eat mindfully means to have a focused awareness on your food while you eat it. Because we often eat on the go, in front of the TV, or while scrolling through our smartphones, there is a disconnect with our meals. Mindful eating is different. “By practicing mindful eating, you can find the balance between too much and too little and perhaps even get more enjoyment out of eating – and who doesn’t want that?” Rybicki explains.

Imagine using all of your senses to enjoy your food while respecting your internal cues for both hunger and fullness. That’s really the core of what mindful eating means. Meanwhile, you might start to choose healthier foods like vegetables, you’re more satisfied from your meal, and there’s less likelihood of overeating.

Here is a quick introduction from Rybicki to get you started eating mindfully:

Nourish your body throughout the day.

Eat healthy and consistent meals to avoid becoming overly hungry – mindful eating is more challenging if you allow yourself to get to a more famished state.

Prior to eating, use a 1 to 10 scale* to rate the hunger level of your body

Think about the rating you gave your physical hunger and fill your plate based on this. Try to separate your physical hunger from a craving or hunger related to your emotions or environment.

*1 being uncomfortably full and 10 being very hungry.

While eating, use your senses (sight, touch, smell, and taste) to appreciate the food.

Be sure to focus on your food. Pause in the middle of eating to re-check your hunger level. If your body still feels hungry then eat more. If you are comfortable, then stop – even if food remains on your plate.

Practice good self-care.

Do an activity that brings you peace or joy, such as a leisure walk, reading a book or listening to a podcast, getting some fresh air outside, or even going for a drive with some soothing music – it’s difficult to eat mindfully if you are incredibly stressed.

Create a food environment that prevents mindless eating.

For example, don’t leave bowls of candy or sweets out that can tempt you into eating when you’re really not hungry.

As you think about incorporating some of these steps into your routine, Rybicki stresses that truly mindful eating can take some practice. “If this is something that is foreign to you, it may take time to learn to be patient with yourself. Trust me, practicing is well worth it.”