Days are short and schedules are jam packed. As a result, many of us rush through meals, scarf down food and don’t think twice about it. Unfortunately, eating too quickly may be negatively impacting your health. As difficult as it can be to break the habit, it might be time to learn how to eat slower.
Slowing down at mealtime has the potential to improve your health and well-being in the following ways.
The Health Benefits of Eating Slowly
Digestion is a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system, and it all begins in the mouth. Not only does proper chewing break food into smaller particles, the chewing process produces saliva, which jump starts nutrient breakdown in the mouth. Saliva then helps create a liquid mixture of food to allow the passage of nutrients in the intestines.
Eating quickly may lead to malabsorption, meaning you may be missing out on the full nutritive value of your food. Slowing down at mealtime can improve nutrient absorption and enhance the nutritional benefits of your meals. Furthermore, when you eat quickly, you are more likely to swallow more air, which can lead to unpleasant symptoms of bloating and gas.
You may eat less
When meals are consumed too quickly, you are more likely to overeat. By slowing down, one can become more in tune with the feeling of fullness, which can lead to eating less and an overall decreased caloric intake. In fact, some research has found longer meal times to enhance weight loss and improve other health measures, such as fasting blood glucose levels.
Greater enjoyment of mealtime
Slowing down allows you to savor food, which may enhance mealtime pleasure. And let’s face it, food is about more than just nutrition! Of course, we want to focus on foods that are nutrient rich, but we cannot ignore the role of food in our lives.
Food is linked to traditions and culture, and it is a social experience with sensory pleasures of taste and smell. Taking a longer time to eat will increase satisfaction associated with your meal, and meal satisfaction may lead to less snacking later in the day. If the benefits of slowing down at mealtime are appealing, get started today by following these simple steps.
How to Eat Slower
Prior to eating, take five deep breaths and reflect on how you feel. Are you truly hungry, or could you actually be thirsty or tired? Are you feeling rushed, stressed, sad, bored or happy? Sometimes we are not actually hungry, and other emotions are prompting us to eat. If that is the case, consider going for a walk, reading a book or listening to some music instead.
Serve food on a plate, even if it is a snack. Sit down at the table and turn on your favorite tunes! You could even consider lighting some candles. If you are eating with others, enjoy their company and conversation.
Have you ever sat down to watch a movie with a bag of popcorn and then suddenly realized the whole bag is gone? Eating while watching TV or scrolling through your phone can lead to mindlessly scarfing down food.
Focus on your sensual awareness and use all your senses to enjoy your meal. Before tasting food, use sight to determine what the food looks like, including colors and shape. Then, close your eyes and notice the smell of the food. Touch the food and notice the texture and weight in your hand or on a utensil. As you bite into the food, notice the texture. Is there a crunch, is it hard or is it soft? Use hearing to recognize sounds made while you chew. The last sense is taste, which you use to determine if it is sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami.
Chew slowly and put down your fork between bites
Take your time while chewing food and, before swallowing, consider chewing until liquefied. So often we load our fork while we chew. Breaking this habit by placing utensils down in between every bite can significantly impact meal pace. If you are eating with others, consider pacing yourself with the slowest eater.
Build a healthy plate
As often as possible, focus on building a well-rounded and nutritious plate. Use MyPlate as a guideline for meal planning, with a goal of including at least 3 food groups at all meals. To help control appetite, prioritize protein, as it is the key macronutrient to elicit the hormone response that registers fullness. Fiber is also important, as it slows the digestion of food, helping you to feel full sooner and for longer. One way to ensure adequate fiber intake is to aim to have a fruit or vegetable present at all meals. If possible, make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
Enjoy your food without judgement
Remove guilt at mealtime. If you harbor guilt while eating, you are more likely to eat more in an attempt to remove food from your plate, house, etc. If you give yourself permission to enjoy the food, you may be more likely to stop when you are satisfied and have fully enjoyed the moment.
The most important thing is to be realistic with your goal of eating slowly. Eating quickly is an engrained behavior that you have likely practiced most of your life, meaning it will be a tough habit to change. Start by focusing on one meal each day and aim for progress over perfection. If you currently take 5 minutes to eat your meal, set a timer and see if you can increase mealtime by 2-3 minutes. Slowly increase your mealtime until you reach a slow and sustainable mealtime.
If you want to work to change the pace of your meals, sign up today to meet with a Kroger Health registered dietitian. Together, you can work to develop a mindful eating routine that fits your lifestyle.