Updated: Oct 22
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I know that none of us need MORE to do throughout the day, or MORE to worry about, but one of the main questions that I get is, “How can I be more mindful about how I am eating throughout the day? I don’t want to be on a strict meal plan, and I also don’t want to survive off leftover fries and chicken nuggets.”
I’ve noticed over the last year or two that my Mom clients are ditching diet culture all together and simply want to live their lives as stress free as possible. I know we all went through a lot of pretty toxic and harmful phases, whether we were trying to lose baby weight, “detox”, or whatever other buzzword was trending, etc. Now, we’re getting older and really want to focus on feeling good, increasing energy and longevity. Ain’t nobody got time for some idiotic trend.
We know that nutrition is important for our kids. They are growing and developing their own healthy habits, not to mention they need a lot of nutrition for their brains and bodies! So we instinctively focus on them, and forget about ourselves, not realizing that as women, we are ALSO consistently going through different life stages, with different hormone levels and varying nutritional needs.
Let me point this out, not to promote fear or shame, but as something to reflect on:
We aren’t going to be mothers of kids at home forever, right? We logically know that our kids will grow up and eventually leave the nest. Any mom with grown children will tell you that it happens so fast, but when we’re in the thick of it, like we are right now, it doesn’t seem like it will ever end. The things that we do TODAY are going to determine our future. When you are an empty nester, I’m positive that you’re going to want to be active, healthy and psychologically sound. You will have more free time than you know what to do for the first time in forever, and you are going to want to do cool stuff! Let’s make sure you can!
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful Eating as I define it, is this: a practice of being present and aware during our meals, and during the preparation of our meals. We’re paying attention to the quality of our food, the freshness, the colors, the care and love that goes into the cooking process. It’s also using your body’s natural hunger cues to schedule WHEN you eat and use the hunger to build anticipation during the preparation process. I know this sounds a little hippy-dippy woo woo psycho babble, BUT appreciating the quality of our food and the work that goes into it does a few things:
It forces us to prepare beautiful, colorful, and nutritious dishes. More color equals more micronutrients.
It builds that mouth watering anticipation that makes us grateful for our food
We eat slower and savor the food, rather than shoving a bagel in our faces while walking up the stairs
Since we are focusing on quality, the convenience food model goes out the window and we form a healthier relationship with food and reduce overeating, because we are consciously preparing it.
Ok, so all that blah blah blah was the WHY we should be more mindful about our eating habits, and here are 10 tangible ways that we can implement for the HOW.
Use the kids as your motivation: In order for the kids to develop good eating habits, Mom has to model it. More than any other factor, moms who model healthy lifestyle habits are the most likely to have grown kids who also have those habits. Use that fact as the push you need to get started. It also means that MOM needs to try the weird veggies and MOM needs to drink water over soda. The “do as I say, not as I do” era ended in the 90s.
Create a Consistent and Calm Mealtime Environment: I realize this is nearly impossible for many families in sports and other activities, but TRY to have a set mealtime a few times a week, where everyone sits at the table together, without phones or TV. When we don’t have distractions while we eat, we notice our fullness signals and appreciate our food that much more. It’s also a great time to have a real conversation.
Slow Down! Rushing your meals is not great for the digestive system and it leads to overeating.
Listen to Your Body: This is why we need to be timing our dinner times with our natural hunger cues, like I wrote about above. We gradually build the hunger and anticipation while cooking, we appreciate the food while we’re eating, and we eat slowly enough that our brains recognize the fullness signals. This way, we aren’t stuffed so that we’re uncomfortable afterwards.
Meal Plan: We need to have a plan. We all have a few meals that everyone will eat. Use those meals as your base. You can add more veggies gradually each week, or learn to cook something else similar. Add in a colorful salad! Write it all down, stick to the plan, and don’t bail when it comes down to cooking time. Once you get started, it becomes easier and you will become immersed in the process. Then the gratitude naturally pops up again and all is ok. It’s just a matter of practicing the discipline required to START cooking, and the rest falls into place. Trust me.
Don’t Overthink the Meal Choices: We don’t need to analyze the macronutrients of every dinner, or track how many carbs we had during lunch. Focus on having a good quality protein, some veggies, and something else… maybe a carb like potatoes or french bread, maybe fruit, maybe more veggies. This will all depend on your family and their preferences. Account for food allergies and restrictions, but make sure you have a protein and a veg. Easy!
Plan for Snacks: If you are a snacker by nature, you can plan for this also. I don’t like rules, especially rules about food, but when it comes to snacks, I like to limit myself to fruit, veggies or nuts. Some days, I’d rather not snack at all, some days, I’ll eat a banana, but I don’t give myself the option to eat random crap. You know yourself better than anyone else, so if you find yourself eating a bag of halloween candy as an afternoon snack, perhaps a tiny rule could be established. OR, don’t buy those things.
Recognize Emotional Eating: This is a difficult subject to write about because there is so much psychology behind emotional eating, and while I read a lot of books and suggest ideas at times, I’m not a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. I am finding in my own mental health journey (I talk with a therapist and a psychiatrist), that a lot of these issues run way deeper than any of us could possibly imagine, and I HIGHLY recommend that you get yourself a counselor, even if you think you don’t have issues. We all do. Seriously. Go to therapy. I also have several amazing book recommendations, if you prefer to self-therapize. There are a lot of other proven ways to process your emotions, like exercise, talking with a friend, journaling or meditation.
Portion Control Mindfulness: This sounds a little bit like a rule again, but I want to frame it a little different. We aren’t looking to restrict here, but we are looking to make sure everyone gets their protein requirements, their veggie requirements and THEN go for the other stuff. Protein is the building block of life, so we really do need to get adequate amounts of it, and if we are filling up on dinner rolls and leave no room for chicken, our body is going to be lacking what it needs. One or two days, not a big deal. But consistently? This is a recipe for creating insatiable sugar cravings. Eat the protein first with the veggies, then eat the other stuff.
Have Prepped Meals on Hand: no matter how careful you are with your planning and execution, there are ALWAYS going to be days where shit hits the fan and we cannot cook dinner. There are also going to be days where we are sick, or injured, or we have a sick toddler clung to us. It’s going to happen, so may as well be ready for it. This is how I prepare: Anytime I am cooking any type of soup or casserole type dish (think: chili, chicken noodle soup, stuffed pepper soup, beef stew, lasagna, fajita bake, chicken broccoli rice bake, french toast bake), I try to get triple or quadruple the ingredients I need so that I can make 3 or 4 of the dish and freeze the extras. It doesn’t take much longer to make 4 lasagnas than it does 1 lasagna, and buying in bulk is a decent cost saving hack as well. When you have your freezer stocked, the stress of “what am I going to feed all these people?” is gone… you ALWAYS have something that’s nutritionally sound, will fill everyone’s bellies. Now, I know that this method takes away from the hippy dippy woo woo gratitude of preparing the fresh, colorful veggies, but there are zero methods that are going to work 100% of the time, and we all need to set ourselves up for success! And I can’t think of anything more gratitude inducing than pulling a homemade meal out of my freezer to feed everyone, when I’m checked out for the day.
In conclusion, it's important to slow down a little bit. The hustle culture of go, go, go, do, do, do is not great for any one of us. Connect back to nature, your local food system, and try to think of food as an art, rather than a chore. I hope you found at least one tip that you can use in all these words! Talk soon!