Mindful Eating


Studying dietetics as undergraduates and nutrition in graduate school, mindful eating seemed to be a topic that was hit at least once a year. The professor would always pass out chocolate kisses and talk about mindful eating and then the class would “mindfully” eat their chocolate (eye roll). It always seemed too “deep” for me. Even though I had multiple lessons about mindful eating in college, it wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized what it actually meant and how it can make you a healthier eater.

Mindful eating does encompass enjoying and appreciating the food you’re eating, but it doesn’t end there. The aspect of mindful eating that I didn’t grasp in college was how beneficial it is to be mindful of what exactly you are eating.

What I mean by that is having an understanding of how the foods you eat affect your body and thinking about those effects while you’re eating. For example, when you eat a big salad with loads of leafy greens, beans, quinoa, and an array of colorful veggies, being mindful allows you to appreciate that all of those foods are providing your body with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. It’s appreciating that all those foods are making you healthier, making you feel better, giving you more energy, clearing up your skin, making your eyes brighter, boosting your immune system… That knowledge gives you the power to enjoy those foods more because you know how beneficial they are to your body.

On the other hand…when practicing mindful eating, those Oreos or that cheeseburger probably won’t give you quite the same satisfaction as they used to because you are aware of how they will negatively impact your body. They can only taste so good when you’re thinking about the impending blood sugar spike, the artificial dyes and chemicals that will tax your body, the refined grains, the saturated fats, etc.

I think we can all agree that food advertising and food cues for processed, sugar-, dye-, and chemical-loaded foods are everywhere. Unless you have some god-like self-control, it’s nearly impossible to avoid these unhealthy foods. Although, it can be a little easier when you practice mindful eating. Eating mindfully puts the power of food back in your court. Mindful eating allows you to play offense whereas before you were playing defense to food cravings, food advertising, and food cues.

Now don’t get me wrong…unhealthy foods will always occasionally sound appetizing. We, as humans, will always crave calorie-dense, sugar-loaded, fat-loaded, sodium-loaded foods because they provide what used to be scarce. Hundreds and thousands of years ago it was difficult for humans to consume enough calories to survive. Therefore, we’re programmed to want foods that provide as many calories as possible. The current day problem is it’s no longer difficult for humans to consume enough calories to survive. In fact, most of us consume too many, leading to weight gain and obesity. Understanding that reason behind those cravings makes it a little easier to make healthier food choices.

It’s also important to point out that typically cravings arise from a micronutrient deficiency (vitamins & minerals). When you’re constantly consuming calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods (processed snacks, refined grains, meats, fried foods, etc.) your body begins looking for those deficient nutrients by stimulating cravings. A whole food, plant-based diet is naturally loaded with vitamin and minerals. When you’re regularly consuming nutrient-dense foods, cravings diminish as all of your micronutrients needs are being met.

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