Many of us set health and nutrition goals as part of our New Year’s resolutions, but rather than making ourselves follow a list of oppressive and restrictive rules about what we can and cannot eat, why not just think before we eat. Ask ourselves – Am I hungry or am I just bored or stressed? Do I know anything about where my food came from, how it was processed? What is really in it? Rather than reaching for the third baggie of that 100-calorie snack, make calorie choices that give you optimal nutrition and will leave you feeling full. One rule, that’s all – Think before you eat.
By Kelly Koss
Student in the Food Sciences and Human Nutrition graduate program at UMO
Have you ever found yourself eating a quick breakfast in your car on the way to work? Are your snacks consumed in a hurry before you have the chance to sit down and enjoy it at a table? Do you catch yourself reaching into the candy bowl on your coworker’s desk even though you aren’t hungry? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you have experienced mindless eating. In our fast-paced living and working environment where convenience is king, it is no wonder so many Americans find themselves not giving much thought as to what, where, and why they are eating. This thoughtless way of eating is dangerous, because it often leads to overeating and excessive weight gain.
Consider what you are eating:
In order to eat mindfully, it is necessary to understand what foods are good for our health. A healthy diet includes a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Choose whole grains like oats, barley, rice and whole wheat bread. Lean meat and protein sources should be selected, such as fish, skinless chicken, tree nuts, beans and tofu. When cooking, use healthy sources of fat, including olive oil or canola oil. Last, but absolutely not least, non-fat or low-fat dairy, including milk, cheese and yogurt, can provide a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin D and other essential nutrients. These foods support our bodies with the nutrients necessary to grow and stay healthy. Good sources of fiber, healthy fat and high-quality protein can also keep us feeling full and satisfied longer.
Mindful eating involves considering how the food we choose to eat is produced and its effect on the lives of all those involved in the growing, processing, packaging and transporting of food. An easy method is choosing local food. Purchasing local food at farmers’ markets, winter markets and grocery stores supports Maine farmers, offers an opportunity to learn where and how the food was grown, and can foster a sense of community. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has identified 20 foods that can be produced locally and are available year round including blueberries, potatoes, carrots, beets, milk, cheese, seafood, dry beans, maple syrup and wheat.
Consider where you are eating:
The best place to enjoy a meal or a snack is sitting down at a table with minimal distractions aside from a pleasant conversation with your family or a friend. Unfortunately, this may rarely be the location of choice. Brian Wansink is a professor and researcher at Cornell University and has conducted many studies regarding the factors influencing what we eat, how much we eat and why we eat. In his book, “Mindless Eating,” Dr. Wansink describes diet danger zones including parties, restaurants, desks and dashboards. In these environments it is easy to mindlessly overeat. The food table at parties is always enticing. Dimmed lighting and carefully selected music at restaurants keep you lingering at the table and requesting more food. Meals eaten at the desk or on the go are over before your brain has the chance to realize that you’re full. In these situations, it is important to listen to your hunger cues so that you don’t overeat, and to select the healthier options available.
Consider why you are eating:
Are you eating because a plate of freshly baked cookies is in the kitchen? Are you eating because you’re watching TV? Are you eating because you’re bored, tired, happy, or sad? Are you still eating because you were always told to clean your plate? Next time you reach for food ask yourself if you are truly feeling hungry and while you are eating, take your time and allow yourself to stop when you feel full.
By acknowledging what we eat, where we eat and why we eat, we can prevent mindless overconsumption. Ultimately, the key to mindful eating is slowing down and appreciating the many benefits food can provide for our health and the health of the planet.
Below is a granola recipe that can be made with local oats and maple syrup. This granola is delicious with non-fat greek yogurt and is perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack. The recipe yields plenty to share! Place a cup or two in a glass jar as a homemade gift for a loved one.
1/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.
2. Heat the olive oil and maple syrup in a sauce pan over low heat for about 2 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.
4. In a bowl, mix rolled oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, olive oil and maple syrup until the oats are coated evenly.
5. Spread on to a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until golden brown.