Healthy eating is to choose what and when you eat to maximize the way your body processes food, so that you’re allowing your body to really feel your food and giving yourself a chance to enjoy the unique flavors and spices and tongue-tingling joy that can come when you stop and smell the flours (whole grain flour that is).
The following are six easy ways to get started:
- Make Place A Priority
Your first step is getting away from a desk or the car when you can. If you already do this, great. If not, take one meal a week to consciously pry yourself from distractions and just focus on the food. You can increase the number of meals each week; they can be alone, they can be with family, or they can be with friends. The point isn’t to sit by yourself or stay silent; it’s to eliminate distraction so that you’re not ignoring your food so much that you eat too much.
- Focus On Satisfied, Not Full
When you’re eating, slow down, so you’re more in tune with the amount of food you need. Your goal is to top off your tank, not make it overflow. When you’re not buried pupil-deep in your phone, you can notice how you feel—and you’re more likely to stop eating when your hunger has subsided. That’s a totally different feeling than eating until you’re full. And that one minor adjustment—over time—can be the game changer when it comes to keeping your weight down (and avoiding the problems associated with weight gain).
- You Can Practice It
Healthy food has its own set of delicious tastes and satisfying qualities. (This fact has been masked over the last few decades with lots of overly sugared processed foods that have collectively taught us that you have to eat a silo worth of sweets to be happy.) Frankly, this is one of the hardest things to learn; people rarely say they’d rather have a radish than an oatmeal raisin cookie.
Researchers suggest practicing mindful eating with a raisin and following these instructions: Place a raisin in your mouth; don’t chew. Close your eyes. Let the raisin sit on your tongue. Taste its flavor. Feel the texture, shape, and firmness. Begin to slowly chew. Notice how your tongue, teeth, and jaw move as the raisin changes in your mouth. Try it today. Practice it tomorrow. Integrate new foods. It only takes a few seconds, but the effects—if you keep it up—can last a lifetime.
- Realize The Relationship Between Taste And Smell
Taste and smell go together like almond butter and blueberries. In fact, smell is so much a part of taste that it’s evolutionarily vital; it once acted as an early warning system.
When people detected something was poisonous with their nose before they put it in their mouth, a life was saved (necessary in an era before labels included skull and crossbones on packaging).
Because of this, some of what we taste is actually influenced by smell. When food is placed in the mouth, some of the molecules actually move up into the back of the throat and into the nasal cavity. Your individual taste buds—and how they interact with food—certainly play a role in how you perceive food. The bottom line is that food should be experienced slowly, with all of your senses interacting with each other to fully appreciate what you’re eating.
- Eat Purposefully
Eating shouldn’t be a reflex; it should be characterized by thought and purpose. When you control the pace and duration of what you eat, you will allow your body to taste the flavors—and feel satisfied. Patience isn’t easy if you’re a speed eater, but you can tap the brakes with these tactics:
Put your fork or spoon down after every bite. This forces you to slow down, rather than shovel in. We’re not going to mandate a grandma-endorsed 45-chew rule—but yeah, you should make an effort to chew each bite a little longer than you normally would.
Take one bite of one food and then a bite of another food (rather than eating all of the chicken at once and then all of the quinoa). This allows you to move between flavors and prevent your sensory nerves from getting bored.
- Embrace The Spice
Our number one way to be more mindful about flavors is to, well, be more mindful of new flavors. Don’t rely on sugar, salt, and fat to provide your meal satisfaction; instead, go to the spice aisle (or the produce aisle for fresh herbs) and try new ones. You can use them on roasted veggies, grilled fish and chicken, and more. Our favorite spices are chili flakes, lemon zest, rosemary, fresh garlic, and basil. Some off-the-radar spices that you can also try include merkén, Aleppo pepper, harissa, za’atar, and shichimi togarashi.