4 Tips for More Mindful Eating

Cultivating mindful eating habits can help you enjoy your food more and cut down on overeating. Try one (or all) of these four strategies.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
6-minute read
Episode #423

Mindful Eating Tip #3: Mouth Full/Fork Empty

This genius tip comes from Darya Rose, who has lots of great insights about mindful eating in her book, Foodist,  and in her blog on SummerTomato.com.  Darya noticed that, after taking a bite of her meal, she immediately began loading the next bite onto her fork while she still was chewing. After she pointed this out, I realized that I do the same thing.

Darya implemented a simple rule for herself that I highly suggest adopting for yourself: If there is food in your mouth, there shouldn’t be food on your fork. Wait until you’ve finished chewing and swallowing whatever is in your mouth before beginning to compose the next forkful. This simple habit can be game-changing!

If there is food in your mouth, there shouldn’t be food on your fork. 

For one thing, it will tend to slow you down, which can help prevent overeating.  You’ll also have a more vivid experience of the food because it helps keep you focused on the bite you’re currently enjoying rather than the one that’s coming up next.  I also like this practice because it can help you eat more mindfully without impairing your ability to enjoy the company of your dining companion.

Mindful Eating Tip #4: Create a Meal-Ending Ritual

The meal is over. We’ve finished what’s on our plate and are feeling pleasantly full. But somehow our brain doesn’t get the memo that the eating occasion has ended.  And so we continue to mindlessly graze. We snack on leftovers while cleaning up, or pour another inch or three of wine into our glass. On our way out of the kitchen, we might even open up the cupboard to see what’s in there—despite having just eaten!

To stop this tendency, develop a ritual that clearly signals to your brain that the meal or snack is now complete. You might brush your teeth, or wash your hands and apply a scented hand lotion. You could chew a piece of gum while you do the dishes. (Wine tastes terrible after gum!) There’s even a brand of after-dinner mint call Meal-Enders, designed specifically for this purpose.  

Whatever you meal-ending ritual is, the more consistently you invoke it, the more effective it will be. Your brain will come to associate that particular activity or sensation with the cessation of eating.

It’s the same trick I used to develop my now-ingrained morning exercise habit.  I've trained myself to put on my gym clothes as soon as I finish my cup of coffee.  And once I’ve got my gym clothes on, going to the gym is automatic. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even consciously think about it anymore. When I see the bottom of my cup, my brain instantly pictures my running shoes. It’s weird.  But it works!

This Week: Mindfulness on the Menu

You could implement one or two of these mindful eating strategies or all four.  But try to stick with it for at least a week. Then, tell me what you think. Did any of these tips help you avoid or reduce mindless eating? Which ones had the biggest impact?  Did eating more mindfully increase your enjoyment of food?  What did you learn about your eating habits? Post your thoughts below or on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page. I’m really looking forward to hearing the results of your experiments!

More questions? Send an email or post your question on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page. Then, be sure to subscribe to the Nutrition Diva podcast on iTunesStitcher, or wherever you listen, so don't miss a single episode! 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.