Mindful Meal Preparation and Eating
Last updated: April 30, 2020, at 10:10 a.m. PT
Originally published: April 13, 2020, at 6:51 p.m. PT
Mindfulness while preparing and eating meals helps support the body and mind with good nourishment for all of the senses. During the process of planning and preparation, mindfulness provides an avenue for making healthy choices, creating increased food satisfaction, and improving digestion.
Meal Planning and Shopping
Plan meals ahead of time and make a menu for the week.
- Brainstorm and research new ideas, if you like variety.
- Bring a meal back that you enjoyed in the past.
- Take into account allergies and the season. For example, soups are enjoyed more in the winter and barbecue in the summer.
- Think of the rainbow diet to include multiple colors of food for nutrients and visual appeal.
Create a shopping list. Remember to bring it or take a picture.
Choose the store where you can get what you need with the quantity and quality you are looking for.
Stick to the list. This is a mindfulness practice. If you find yourself buying items not on your list, impulse may be driving the shopping choices.
Evaluate. Are the items in your basket or cart truly what you need and want? When you get to the checkout, evaluate your purchases.
Now that you have the food you need to prepare a meal, the next steps depend on your schedule. Do you have time to cook before every meal or would you like to prepare meals ahead of time? Assess at the end of the week. Did you prepare the meals you planned? If not, why not? Schedules change and good intentions may fail. Make adjustments for the next week.
Allow enough time to prepare the meal, so you can be present during the process.
Practice being in the moment while preparing the meal. Do you enjoy cooking? This joy becomes part of the energy of the meal. If you are angry or stressed, this becomes part of the meal also. Ask someone else to cook, if possible, or put on music or take a break to reset to lighten the mood. Notice how your stomach reacts while preparing the food or while someone else is preparing the food. The sense of smell begins the digestive process.
Place the meal in serving dishes and set the table. Sit down with the intention to be fully present and eliminate any distractions. Make your meal the focus of your enjoyment.
Take time to enjoy the five senses: sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch.
- How does the food sound? There may not be a lot to the food, but in preparing the food, you may have noticed the banging of pots and pans, chopping, sizzling or opening and closing of doors.
- How does the food look? Notice the texture, colors, size, shape and anything unique about it.
- How does the food smell? By this time, it may be hard to resist.
- How does it taste? Take time to chew multiple times, get the salivary glands moist to aid digestion and swallow.
- How does the texture feel in your mouth? Is it rough, smooth, soft or hard?
Mindfully think about the food you are eating. If you are eating with others and talking, choose topics that you can relax and enjoy talking about. If the body is stressed, the digestive process is compromised and takes away from the flavor of the food.
Once you are finished eating, notice how your stomach, and heart feel and your mental focus.
- Are you sufficiently satisfied, did you under eat or overeat?
- Do you feel different after eating?
- Is there a sense of energy, improved focus, sluggishness, gas or bloating?
Ideally, sit for a few minutes to aid the digestive process, then leave the table with more energy and focus. Mindfulness practice can improve health, digestion, and overall well-being. You are a unique and beautiful human. Food choices may change as you age, your level of activity, the season, and the introduction of more foods.
Mindfulness practice and being present while planning, preparing, eating and digesting meals can create increased food satisfaction, improved digestion, boost your immune system and make eating more enjoyable and fulfilling.