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Get more nutrition with the same food.

How To Get More Nutrition From The Same Food

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How To Get More Out Of What’s On Your Plate

Where does digestion begin? It’s not the stomach. It’s not even the mouth.

It’s when we see and smell our food; maybe even hear it! “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” has a biological underpinning.

At that point, when we begin to salivate, that’s just one of many ways that our body is preparing itself for what we’re about to receive.

When we grab some ready-meal and wolf it down, we undercut that process. In the case of ready-meals, they often didn’t have much nutritional value, but even the most nutritious food isn’t going to do us nearly as much good if it barely touches the sides on the way down.

We’re not kidding about the importance of that initial stage of our external senses, by the way:

So, mindful eating is not just something for Instagrammable “what I eat in a day” aesthetic photos, nor is just for monks atop cold mountains. There is actual science here, and a lot of it.

It starts with ingredients

“Eating the rainbow” (no, Skittles do not count) is great health advice for getting a wide variety of micronutrients, but it’s also simply beneficial for our senses, too. Which, as above-linked, makes a difference to digestion and nutrient absorption.

Enough is enough

That phrase always sounds like an expression of frustration, “Enough is enough!”. But, really:

Don’t overcomplicate your cooking, especially if you’re new to this approach. You can add in more complexities later, but for now, figure out what will be “enough”, and let it be enough.

The kitchen flow

Here we’re talking about flow in the Csikszentmihalyi sense of the word. Get “into the swing of things” and enjoy your time in the kitchen. Schedule more time than you need, and take it casually. Listen to your favourite music. Dance while you cook. Taste things as you go.

There are benefits, by the way, not just to our digestion (in being thusly primed and prepared for eating), but also to our cognition:

In The Zone: Flow State and Cognition in Older Adults

Serve

No, not just “put the food on the table”, but serve.

Have a pleasant environment; with sensory pleasures but without too many sensory distractions. Think less “the news on in the background” and more smooth jazz or Mozart or whatever works for you. Use your favourite (small!) plates/bowls, silverware, glasses. Have a candle if you like (unscented!).

Pay attention to presentation on the plate / in the bowl / in any “serve yourself” serving-things. Use a garnish (parsley is great if you want to add a touch of greenery without changing the flavor much). Crack that black pepper at the table. Make any condiments count (less “ketchup bottle” and more “elegant dip”).

Take your time

Say grace if that fits with your religious traditions, and/or take a moment to reflect on gratitude.

In many languages there’s a pre-dinner blessing that most often translates to “good appetite”. This writer is fond of the Norwegian “Velbekommen”, and it means more like “May good come of it for you”, or “May it do you good”.

Then, enjoy the food.

For the most even of blood sugar levels, consider eating fiber, protein/fat, carbs, in that order.

Why? See: 10 Ways To Balance Blood Sugars

Chew adequately and mindfully. Put your fork (or spoon, or chopsticks, or whatever) down between bites. Drink water alongside your meal.

Try to take at least 20 minutes to enjoy your meal, and/but any time you go to reach for another helping, take a moment to check in with yourself with regard to whether you are actually still hungry. If you’re not, and are just eating for pleasure, consider deferring that pleasure by saving the food for later.

At this point, people with partners/family may be thinking “But it won’t be there later! Someone else will eat it!”, and… That’s fine! Be happy for them. You can cook again tomorrow. You prepared delicious wholesome food that your partner/family enjoyed, and that’s always a good thing.

Want to know more about the science of mindful eating?

Check out Harvard’s Dr. Lilian Cheung on Mindful Eating here!

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