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Nutrition Notes: Mindful Eating and You

Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDNKaren Lentner, MA, RD, LDNHas the pandemic affected your eating habits? Are they positive or negative changes? Have you gained or lost weight due to stress or excessive snacking? It’s never too late to get back on the right track.

There are many factors that may influence our food choices, including stress, emotions, your health status, fatigue, the weather, or your income. If you feel any of these factors are affecting the foods and amounts you are eating, it’s time to take a closer look. Are you eating foods or meals that are rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains? Are you eating large amounts at one time or frequently snacking, perhaps due to stress?

Acknowledge your hunger or cravings, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just passing the time.

Let’s start from the beginning and think about what you are eating and why. Acknowledge your hunger or cravings, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just passing the time. Being aware and mindful, may help you make better choices. Think about what you are eating, why you are eating it, and how it makes you feel. Hunger is your body’s way of telling you it needs food and often those feelings of hunger never really go away until you finally eat what your body needs. Emotional hunger may be a craving for something comforting or sweet, and with distractions, it will often go away. Consider walking, reading, or calling a friend when emotional hunger sneaks in. Overeating, especially foods with high sugar content or caffeine, can increase anxiety or fatigue, the things we are trying to avoid.

Make a plan before you go to the grocery store. Having an idea of what you want to prepare during the week helps limit your shopping time. Look for healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, and legumes or beans. Autumn is a perfect time to visit local farmers’ markets to take advantage of the harvest and use your farmers’ market coupons. Create your list with items having a longer shelf life including cabbage, potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, winter squash, and cauliflower. Consider melons, apples, pears, citrus fruits, and a variety of frozen vegetables or fruits. Do not use sanitizer, soap, or detergent to clean your produce, simply rinse under cold water and scrub with your hands or a brush. With cold weather on the way, utilize your vegetables in soups and stews, and consider freezing them in individual containers.

Try to have a routine or a schedule that you can stick to. Schedules can help alleviate anxiety and regular meals may help to avoid frequent snacking in between. Avoid distractions during meals, turn off the television, and take at least 20-30 minutes to enjoy the smell and taste of your food. This gives your brain enough time to recognize you’re full. Be aware and mindful of portion sizes and your calorie budget. If you’re going to splurge on a high sugar or calorie item, ask yourself if it’s worth it and make sure it’s something you really enjoy. Enjoy small treats, and avoid having too many available in your home at one time. Think about your selection of treats, and making healthier choices. Consider fresh, frozen, or dried fruits, nuts, raw vegetables and hummus, or peanut butter and crackers. Limit snacking before bedtime for a better night’s sleep and to prevent weight gain.

Taking care of yourself and staying healthy includes making mindful and nutritious food choices. If you are at home with others, try to gather together for at least one of your daily meals. Consider Grab and Go meals from one of our dining centers or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels at 413-773-5555, X1230 or 978-544-2259, X1230.