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The Art of Eating

Closeup shot of young women and men having meal. Friends looking at eachother during the lunch. Smiling young friends eating together at restaurant in a summer day.Everyone has had a period in their lives when their daily diet might have been a bit questionable.  You know the sort of thing:  busy at work or school and only stopping to eat some starch or drink multiple cups of sugar-laden coffee and then there’s the whole routine of missed meals and catch-ups with high-octane vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sprinkles.

Fortunately, there is so much information available today about a healthy diet that most people end up reforming their previous bad habits.  Health inspired food choices can lead to an experience of being nourished and feeling like you’re savouring the food – and enjoying the whole eating experience.
What kind of relationship do you have with food?  Do you reach for the fruit and vegetables or is your first impulse to buy a packet of potato chips?  How would you describe your relationship with food?  Is it companionable, warm and intimate or is it tense, hostile and challenging?

Learn to develop a friendship with your food

Being on good terms with your diet – the food you consume every day – is a good first step to mastering the art of eating.

Here are some tips to help you appreciate the art of eating:

  1. Start with a good breakfast, eat a big-ish lunch and a lighter dinner –  this tip has been around for decades, maybe centuries.  The idea behind it is that eating a good breakfast with a good source of protein and fibre to get your metabolism going and keeps blood sugar up.  Lunch should be nutritious with another source of protein, fruit, vegetables and grains and then dinner should be lighter so that you don’t go to bed on a full stomach
  2. Be mindful in preparing your food – even if it’s just for you!  Prepare your food with you full awareness and attention and serve it in an attractive way.  Eating is a sensual experience so notice the textures, colours and shapes and savour the flavours.  If your mind begins to wander while you’re eating, bring it back to your plate and your experience of eating
  3. Shop with the seasons to take advantage of the most freshly harvested and colourful produce.  Remember that the deeper, brighter colours in foods have more nutrients
  4. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables….as if you haven’t heard this one before!  The reason it’s so important to eat fruits and vegetables is that they create an alkaline environment in your body and maintain your pH balance and help prevent disease.  This offsets the effects of acid-producing foods like meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, sugar and coffee.  Acid-producing foods can pull calcium from your body to alkalise your blood, so it’s better to get your calcium from plant-based sources
  5. Be creative with your snacks and stop yourself from reaching for that chocolate bar!  Stay mindful when you’re thinking about snacks and consider the benefits of fruit and nuts or mashed avocado with lemon juice on a cracker.
  6. Know your fats and know that there’s no need to cut fat from your diet.  Focus on the good fats like the monounsaturated ones – olive, canola and peanut oil and the polyunsaturated omega-3s – fatty fish, flaxseeds and wheat germ.  Saturated fats are less healthy and should be consumed in moderation – red meat, butter, cheese and whole milk and keeping away from the trans fats is a good  idea – margarine, vegetable shortening and fried foods

Be mindful about your cravings

We all get cravings for some foods sometimes, but that craving signal is for a particular category of food, not the actual food itself.  For instance, you might have a craving for a hamburger which just means that your body is telling you that you need protein.  Substitute that burger for something healthier, for example, a piece of lean chicken or fish.  Your lust for sweets might indicate a blood-sugar imbalance, but having a few sultanas or dried apricots is healthier than eating a chocolate bar.  Retrain yourself through your mindfulness to understand that you can lessen your desire for that unhealthy snack by understanding what your body is signalling – and go for the healthier alternative.

Developing the art of eating

Food is there to be enjoyed and the art of eating healthily and well can be developed through your mindful attention to the balance between what you need and what is the best source of that food for you. Don’t succumb to eating mindlessly because you ‘don’t have the time’ to eat properly.  Eliminate that excuse from your life!  Always make time to eat properly and create an enjoyable environment for your eating experience.

Eating can be a solitary experience, but often it’s a social one.  So keep good company because you’re just as nourished by the people you spend time with as by the food you eat.

To read more about the art of eating see  Think Yourself Thin: The Psychology of Losing Weight

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