Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: Practice mindful eating in March, National Nutrition Month

Being mindful means we are aware of our hunger and our satiety cues.

We are now four years past the start of the 2020 pandemic. I kept some good habits and at least one bad habit.

Like everyone else, I embraced the idea of good handwashing lasting at least 20 seconds. Like so many others, I became much more adept at technology for conducting meetings and implementing educational programs. Those were positive outcomes.

Unfortunately, I also became quite isolated in my office during pandemic workdays. Most of my coworkers moved home to do their work. I used to eat with colleagues for a chance to socialize. Instead, I dined solo at my desk and read email or watched videos during lunchtime.

These days, I continue to eat lunch at my desk while reading email or attending online meetings.

I am fairly similar to other workers. According to the results of a recent survey by “Opinium” for a Massachusetts-based company, more than three out of four workers eat at their desks several days a week.

Unfortunately, when we eat while doing work, we probably are not enjoying our food and being mindful of what we are eating.

Sometimes I do not even realize that I have finished my sandwich or whatever I am eating. When I reach over to grab the rest of my food, it is gone.

What happened to my food? Obviously, I ate it without awareness of what I was doing. I do not think anyone is sneaking into my office when I am focusing on my screen. I certainly hope not.

Our brains really do not multitask very well according to neuropsychologists. The majority of people can focus on one thing at a time. In fact, less than 3% of people can multitask, according to researchers.

Most people’s brains flip back and forth rapidly between tasks. When our brains are attempting to juggle tasks, mistakes are more likely.

Have you ever eaten snacks while watching TV? Have you ever been surprised by how much you have eaten?

Being mindful means we are aware of our hunger and our satiety cues. What promotes your desire to eat or snack? For many, time of day and the amount of time you have to eat can affect your food selection.

March is National Nutrition Month, and that’s a good time to think about what we eat and how we approach our hunger and eating. Eating mindfully can help people manage their weight and help prevent health conditions that might arise from carrying excess weight. Diabetes, high blood pressure, joint issues and other health conditions often are linked with excess weight.

Try this activity that I adapted from a few different sources.

  • Assign your hunger a level. According to a 10-point “hunger scale,” 1 is extremely hungry (“ravenous”), 3 is very hungry, 5 is neutral, 8 is very full and 10 is painfully full (sometimes described as “Thanksgiving Dinner full”). Most of the time, being in the 4 to 6 range between being a little hungry and satisfied is a good place to be.
  • If you are a bit hungry, choose a snack you might have nearby. It might be a small piece of candy, a snack-sized bag of popcorn, a granola bar or a piece of fruit.
  • Enjoy your snack mindfully. What does it look like? Does it have a pleasant smell?
  • Now explore the taste and texture of the food. Is it sweet, salty, juicy, crunchy or not worth eating? If you have a piece of chocolate, let it melt in your mouth.
  • Slow down and really taste the food. How much of the food does it take to satisfy your hunger? Stop when you are done, and put away the rest of the food for another time.

If you find that you sometimes eat without really tasting the food, you might find some of these tips helpful.

  • Sit at a table and turn off distractions such as cell phones and other media. Eating with friends and family is a good idea to slow down and enjoy your meal. Soft background music may be calming and can enhance the dining experience.
  • Put your snack on a plate or in a bowl when possible. That may help prevent overeating that could happen if you are enjoying a snack from a bag or box.
  • Eat more slowly. Remember your brain takes about 20 minutes to send a signal to your stomach that you are full.
  • Put down your fork between bites and chew more.
  • Enjoy the food. Savor the flavor and texture.

Here’s a tasty recipe to practice mindful eating. Pair the dip with your favorite fruit and explore the texture, aroma and flavor of your healthful snack.

Honey Fruit Dip

1 cup nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
Red and green apple slices (or fruit of choice)

Mix yogurt with vanilla and cinnamon. Add honey to taste until desired sweetness is reached. Rinse and slice apples right before serving or dip them in a lemon-water mixture to deter browning.

Makes four servings. Each serving of dip has 70 calories, 0 grams (g) fat, 3 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 45 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Feb. 29, 2024

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu

Editor: Elizabeth Cronin, 701-231-7006, elizabeth.cronin@ndsu.edu


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