In today’s fast-paced society, the need to get things done in our overloaded schedules can dominate mealtimes. How can one think about preparing and sitting down for a meal when they have a seemingly never-ending to do list, laundry to be folded, bills to be paid, friends to see, and work to be done? It has become a habit in our culture to make meals fast, highly-processed, and on-the-go.
In Spain, it is the custom for mealtimes to be enjoyed for (a minimum) of an hour! That is far more than the average time it takes to eat a fast-food sandwich in the car (about 10 minutes). The adult obesity rate in the United States is over double the amount of Spain1 ; does this mean they are onto something better with their slower and more mindful eating? Spain and other European countries have been practicing eating mindfully while keeping obesity rates low for years by simply enjoying food with family and friends.
When we eat fast and unconsciously, we lose touch with our body’s fullness cues, in turn, making us consume more. A recent study done on healthy women’s eating habits showed that eating slowly can increase satiation and lower caloric intake at meals2. While in the real world, it is not always possible to eat slowly and mindfully, therefore, making an effort to practice this concept at mealtime will make it more of a habit!
5 Ways to Slow-Down at Meals
1) Turn off the Technology
Eating in front of the TV or while scrolling through social media can result in your mind being distracted from recognizing that you are full3. This can result in you eating more and not fully enjoying what you’re eating. We’ve all been there: eating popcorn while watching a movie and looking down to realize all your popcorn is suddenly gone. Focus on your food - you’ll eat less and enjoy more!
2) Sit Down at a Table
Laying on the couch with a bag of chips or standing by the fridge are often places one can find themselves eating too fast and unconsciously. Aim to be sitting down in a chair and table to eat. You will not only eat better, but your food can digest more efficiently while sitting.
Do a little check-in with yourself as you eat your meal. Ask yourself if you’re still hungry? Are you getting full? Or, are there any emotions that are driving you to eat more? This is all part of mindful eating and being aware of how hungry you really are.
4) Enjoy with Friends or Family
Food brings people together in every culture! Instead of eating a meal alone, bring a friend, a family member, or a co-worker along to enjoy their company and conversation. Making mealtime a social activity can help you eat more slowly while also making it an enjoyable experience.
5) Taste Your Food!
With all the distractions and the need to make meal times fast, it is easy to forget to actually taste your food! Practice slowly chewing your food to notice the delicious taste and texture of your meal. You’ll feel more satisfied and nourished!
- Prevalence of excess weight and obesity among the 80 varies markedly across countries. 2017. doi:10.1787/9789264279087-graph117-en.
- Andrade AM, Greene GW, Melanson KJ. Eating Slowly Led to Decreases in Energy Intake within Meals in Healthy Women. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2008;108(7):1186-1191. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2008.04.026.
- Ogden J, Coop N, Cousins C, et al. Distraction, the desire to eat and food intake. Towards an expanded model of mindless eating. Appetite. 2013;62:119-126. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.11.023.