Mindful Eating

Sunita Pant Bansal

The fundamental basis of health, good or bad, is food. What we eat is what we become. It is important to be aware of what we are putting into our system. As in other areas of our life, we need to be mindful in eating too.

People are falling prey to growing urbanization and filling up their freezers with frozen pre-cooked food, and even frozen chopped veggies. With hectic lifestyles, ready-to-eat packed food has become a norm for most people, especially the youth.Years of short-cut eating results in these people falling prey to lifestyle diseases at a very young age, cutting short their lives.

Some people eat to live, while some live to eat. Whatever the category, as long as we are eating nutritious food, things are fine. But sticking to healthy eating regime requires a lot of control as tempting food can make anybody flout self-imposed restrictions. If just having a look at the refrigerator or pantry shoots up your hunger pangs, then what you store is of great importance. Stacking nutritious food is the way to stay healthy.

Mindful Buying

Random shopping for food should be avoided, as that would certainly lead to get tempted by the attractive labels of ready-to-eat foods. Food shopping should always be done with a list.

Awareness has to begin from home. We should be aware of what we need to buy, keeping in mind the nutritional requirements of our family members. For the elderly, cereals like oats, skimmed milk, light cheese, roasted nuts, multigrain flour products, citrus fruits and bananas should be on the list. Fresh fruits and veggies, as colorful as possible, as well as sprouts are rich in vitamins and antioxidants.They are vital for boosting up the family’s immunity, and hence should definitely be on the list.

Pre-cooked, frozen foods or snacks should be avoided. If that is not possible, their consumption should be reduced to once a week. Gradually the time can be extended to once in two weeks, then once a month, and finally, the consumption would trickle down to once in a while or barely at all. So, the number of frozen foods on the list should be minimal. Buy organic as much as possible and stick to Himalayan pink salt and brown sugar.

Avoid all kinds of refined foods, including refined oil. The best oil for cooking would be rice-bran or sesame or olive oil.

Mindful Cooking

The healthiest way to cook is to cook with minimal oil. This would mean steaming, baking, grilling, roasting, boiling and lightly sautéing. Deep frying should be avoided as much as possible in our daily meals, limiting it for special occasions. The healthiest foods are the fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. They can be easily included in our daily meals as salads and juices.

Fiber is a crucial part of healthy eating. This does not mean that one starts eating bran! It’s easy to get fibre in every meal by consuming whole cereals and pulses instead of refined ones and including salads or fruits in our daily regime. Fruits should be consumed with peels wherever possible, as in the case of apples and pears. Same is the case with veggies.

Abstaining from any food is not wise, as it ultimately leads to cravings. It is better to wean off slowly from foods that we want to avoid for health reasons. Since weaning always involves substitution, one is unlikely to indulge in impulsive eating. For instance, sautéing in minimal oil could replace frying and baked snacks could replace fried ones.

Throwing away all unhealthy foods from our pantry of refrigerator would be disastrous. Things might seem to be under control for a few days, but then the cravings would set in, leading to binge eating. The best way to switch over from unhealthy to healthy eating would be to evaluate our food stocks, throw the unhealthiest ones out and plan for replacement of the moderately unhealthy ones in our next list.

Fried snacks, oily dips and pickles, creamy confectionery items, aerated drinks using artificial colors and flavors, refined oil and white sugar should be thrown away. Refined flours could be supplemented by addition of ground pulses, and later replaced in the list by wholegrain flours.

Once the existing stock is over, white bread should be replaced by whole-wheat or multigrain bread in the list. Whole milk should be replaced by skimmed milk. White sugar should be replaced by brown sugar. White salt should be replaced by pink Himalayan salt.

Mindful Eating

A very important aspect of mindful eating is to be aware of what we are eating. Awareness of every bite of food that enters our body also makes us aware of when to stop, when it’s enough. Our body always tells us when it needs food and when it doesn’t. Most of the time, we get overwhelmed by our senses and eat to fulfil their greed rather than the body’s actual need.

To be fully aware of what we are eating, we need to eat in silence, away from distractions like the phone or television and focus on the food.

Remember, mindful eating is a huge step towards mindful living!

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