Did you know that the appearance of your food can make a surprising impact on how satisfied you feel at the end of your meal? Many of us don’t take much time to sit down at the table and enjoy our meals. The average American spends an average of 1.1 hours per day eating, 23 minutes of this was while engaging in another activity also. Compare this to the average of 2.7 hours watching television each day, and you can see that eating a meal at the table is not a priority for most Americans (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013). Spending time savoring our food and simply paying attention when we eat can make a big difference in our brain’s perception of satisfaction.
Some call this practice “mindful eating”. According to the Centers for Mindful Eating it is becoming aware of what you are eating and developing a positive relationship with food. It is noticing what you like and dislike and paying attention to your hunger cues. Mindful Eating is one way to re-create a positive relationship with food. The main principles I have seen help many people are: 1. Pay attention to your food! Notice the way it tastes, feels, smells, etc. 2. Don’t do anything else while eating. Sit down at the table and focus on eating. 3. Try to eliminate the idea of food being “good” or “bad”. Notice what you like and don’t like and recognize the foods that make you feel healthy.
Who knew just paying attention to your meal could help you become a little healthier?
- Use lots of colors. There are 5 main colors of foods including red, orange/yellow, green, blue/purple, and white. The goal is to use AT LEAST 3 of these colors in your meal. This will probably mean adding extra fruits and vegetables to your plate, which also adds loads of flavor and many different nutrients. Bonus! Don’t be afraid to include a steamed vegetable AND a salad.
- Incorporate a variety of textures. Use some crunchy items, and some soft items. For example, pair crispy chicken fingers with mashed potatoes. In a salad, cook the broccoli for a soft texture mixed with the crunch of the lettuce.
- Try a garnish. It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you used fresh herbs in your recipe, then save a sprig or two to place on your plate. If you used some lemon, cut a slice and save it for your plate.
- The table is important too! Your table should be a pleasant place, charming and attractive. Clear away clutter. Include a nice centerpiece. Set the table with napkins, silverware, plates, and glasses. Even if it is just you, or just the two of you, make some time to actually sit at the table! Research has shown that when we take time to sit at the table, we actually eat less!
The more visually appealing your plate is, the more satisfied you will be at the conclusion of your meal. The more satisfied you are, the less you will feel the need to eat more. Your Challenge: Take time this week to start a new habit of sitting down to enjoy a meal. Work on being mindful, enjoying your food, and making your plate pretty!