Stress can often lead to unhealthy eating habits and “self-medicating” with comfort foods. These decisions may lead to serious health consequences. However, it’s not just what a person eats but how a person eats. Mindless eating — which stems from eating under stressful time constraints and while multitasking — is when mindfulness is forgotten. Communication between the mind and body are essential for mindful eating, as it can be an effective method in reducing stress and healthy eating behaviors.
Building a healthy and enjoyable relationship with food will bring mindfulness to your eating habits. Mindful eating does not involve a restrictive diet but is the practice of enjoying your food and being fully present at each meal and snack. Being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment can bring mindfulness into your relationship with food. Turn off the TV and take a step back from working or reading to limit distractions when sitting down for a meal so you can fully tune into your body’s feeding cues as these signal hunger, satiety (fullness), and satisfaction.
It takes at least 20 minutes for the digestive track to trigger the nervous system and relay the message of satiety, or fullness to the brain. Consuming food too quickly and mindlessly can lead to over-eating prior to the message of fullness being delivered. Apply mindfulness by noticing the colors, smells, flavors and textures of your food. Slow down, take small bites, and chew thoroughly, paying attention to every bite’s taste to fully reach the satisfaction factor of your food.
How to Eat Mindfully
If you tend to get hungry throughout the day, balanced snacking can help keep energy levels stable and steady. Snacks aren’t meant to completely fill us up – but they can serve as a bridge between meals. When choosing snacks, pairing different foods can help offer balance. Consider choosing a veggie, fruit or whole grain and pairing your choice with a protein or healthy fat. A few examples:
- Strawberries (fruit) and Greek yogurt (protein)
- Cucumber slices (veggie) and hummus (healthy fat)
- Triscuits (whole grain) and infused tuna (protein)
- Apple (fruit) and cashews (healthy fat)
- Whole-wheat tortilla (whole grain) with natural peanut butter (healthy fat) and banana (fruit)
- Egg muffin with bell peppers and onions in it (protein + veggies)
- Cherry tomatoes (veggies) and Laughing Cow cheese (protein)
- Blueberries (fruit) with almonds (healthy fats) and dark chocolate chips (just a sweet addition)
Conscious Eating Techniques
There are many mindful eating techniques that can help you become more present in time when fueling your body with food. The techniques discussed can help you fully enjoy the benefits of your meal in terms of bringing satisfaction to your taste buds, hunger cues, and nutritional needs. So slow down, take your time, and tune in from distraction so mindless eating does not steal pleasure from your next meal.
Giving yourself permission to have a snack may help you make more balanced choices. Tune in to when you’re hungry and when you’re just stressed and turning to food as comfort. What ways do snacking stress you out? And how can you include balanced options that help you feel your best? Consider making this easy whole-wheat tortilla option, Banana "Sushi", ahead of time for when you’re hungry and need a fun, tasty snack to serve as a bridge between meals.
All you need:
1 8-inch whole-wheat tortilla
1 medium banana
All you do:
- Spread peanut butter onto tortilla. Lay peeled banana on one end of tortilla and roll up tightly.
- Cut rolled tortilla crosswise into 8 pieces.
- Fresh cut strawberries or Crunchies freeze-dried strawberries (crushed)
- Hy-Vee unsweetened shredded coconut
- Lily's dark chocolate baking chips
- Hy-Vee pistachios, shelled and chopped
It can be hard to get out of a funk, especially when stress is involved. When we are so used to certain things along with a specific way of eating, sometimes we need help from others. Tune into our Navigating Nutrition tour with our Hy-Vee Dietitians to help you navigate the aisles on this virtual store tours. Learn the basics of eating for everyday wellness. Plus, get shopping tips and product recommendations to help add more nutrition to your cart. Don’t put this off – sign up here.
*The blog articles, recipes and recommendations found on this site are not intended as medical advice and should not replace consulting with your medical provider. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.