With a busy schedule full of work, family and life obligations, it is easy to rush meal times while eating our food on the run. Many of us have mastered the skill of multi-taking, only to miss out on the opportunity to enjoy our food. Do you ever stop to notice the texture of the food that you’re eating or pay attention to your body telling you that you’ve had enough? Mindful eating is a way to bring the focus back to the peace and joy that eating can provide.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is applying mindfulness to why, when, where, what, and how you eat. This means being aware of both the physical and emotional feelings connected to eating; it is the process of paying attention to the experience of eating.
One study suggests that applying mindful eating tools may help you to avoid overeating by being aware of portion control, taste, texture and sensations such as mouthfeel. By being mindful you will raise awareness to why are you eating (are you hungry or simply snacking?), what you are eating (is this food nourishing to your body?), and how you are eating (am I on the run, multi-taking, driving, watching TV, texting? Am I even enjoying my food?).
Individuals who apply mindful eating tools have reported an increase in self-efficacy; cognitive control, improved eating behaviors; and even decreased symptoms of depression. A mindful eating approach may increase consumption of healthful fruits and vegetables which have protective qualities to help fight against coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, and certain cancers.
Quick Tips For Eating Mindfully:
- Observe your body: Notice hunger and fullness signals that guide you to start and stop eating.
- Do not judge yourself: If you want to eat something, have it; as long as eating this food will not bring about any feelings of shame or guilt. If it will, recognize this and either avoid eating it or try to change your reaction to this food.
- Notice your reaction to food. What do you like, what don’t you like? Try closing your eyes for a moment while you are eating to experience food in a new way.
- Savor your food: While eating, notice all of the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of the food. Focus on each mouthful. Try to engage all 5 senses when you eat (sight, smell, sound, taste, touch).
Ask yourself, “Am I…”
- Physically hungry? Try using a scale of 1-10 (1 very hungry and 10 very full). Ideally, you want to eat when your hunger is mild at a 3-4 and stop when it reaches a 7-8.
- Eating quickly or slowly? If you notice you’re rushing; take a deep breath and slow down.
Mindful Eating Resources:
- Intuitive Eating website: www.IntuitiveEating.org
- Miller CK, Kristeller JL, Headings A, Nagaraja H. Comparison of a mindful eating intervention to a diabetes self-management intervention among adults with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Health Educ Behav. 2014;41(2):145-154.
- The Center for Mindful Eating website:http://www.tcme.org/
- Tylka, T. Intuitive Eating Assessment Scale. J Counseling Psychology 2006(53):226-240.
- Mathieu J. What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating?J Am Dietetic Assoc 2009;109(Dec):1982-1987.
Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Carlyn Blevins for her contributions to this post.
Tis’ the season for pumpkin everything and that is actually a very good thing. Pumpkin contains many protective nutritional qualities.
Fun Facts about pumpkin:
- Pumpkin belongs to the Curcurbitaceae family, which also includes gourds, squash, cucumbers and watermelons.
- There are many shades and sizes of pumpkins, some are best for decorations and some are sweeter and best for pies and baking.
- In other parts of the world, winter and summer squash are referred to as pumpkins.
- When cooking or baking with pumpkin, used freshly made or canned pumpkin. Avoid pumpkin pie mix, which is filled with sugar.
- The fiber content of pumpkin helps you to feel full, promotes digestive health, weight control and prevents constipation.
- Pumpkin if left uncut, should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to two months.
Nutritional Benefits of Pumpkin:
- Low in calories per serving
- Approximately 90% water
- Fiber rich
- Antioxidants: may help to prevent degenerative damage to the eyes.
- Vitamin A / provitamin A from Carotenoids (Beta-carotene)
- B Vitamins: (folate, niacin, vitamin B6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin C: antioxidant support
- Potassium: provides a positive effect on blood pressure.
Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant found in pumpkin, giving pumpkin its orange color. In the body, beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements calls beta-carotene “by far the most important provitamin A carotenoid.” Current evidence on the nutritional benefits of beta-carotene suggests it may help protect against cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, fight inflammation, delay aging/body degeneration and improve skin appearance. Multiple studies have concluded that a diet rich in plant food such as pumpkin, decrease the risk factors of chronic disease such as obesity and decreases overall mortality.
Many Americans consume an average of 15 grams of fiber daily, falling short of the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber daily required to maintain health and a properly functioning GI tract. Adding pumpkin to your diet is a great way to increase daily fiber intake. Fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugar into the blood, aids in smooth digestion and promotes regular bowel movements.
What about the Seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are high in protein (7 grams per 1-oz), contain omega-6-fatty acids, and contain the amino acid tryptophan which helps the body produce mood-elevating serotonin. Pumpkin seeds contain fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, minerals and vitamin K.
Pumpkin Seed Oil:
Researchers also have looked into the potential health benefits of pumpkin seed oil, which is high in zinc, vitamin E, and magnesium.The main benefit of pumpkin seed oil is in the protective nutritional qualities benefiting the urinary and reproductive areas of the body, especially in the prostate.
Disease Fighting Properties:
Vegetables are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber and phyochemicals which play a vital role in the prevention of chronic disease. Researches state that the nutrition profile (carotenoids, pectin, oleic and linolenic acids) of pumpkin helps to improve glycemic and insulin response, decrease systemic inflammation and decrease cardiovascular disease risk factors. The plant compounds in pumpkin seeds and pulp are excellent for helping the absorption of glucose into the tissues and intestines, as well as balancing levels of liver glucose.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains
1.76 g of protein
2.7 g of fiber
0.17 g of fat
0 g of cholesterol
12.01 g of carbohydrate
Recommended daily allowance (RDA) of:
200%: Vitamin A
19%: Vitamin C
10%: Vitamin E, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper, Manganese
5%: Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic acid, Niacin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus
How to Incorporate Pumpkin into your Diet:
Pumpkin may be incorporated into desserts, soups, smoothies, salads and even made into a pumpkin butter to be used as a spread or substituted for butter in baking.
Tip: Remember the only ingredient in canned pumpkin should be pumpkin.
Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Carlyn Blevins for her contributions to this post.
While most of us can agree that the idea of a “superfood” is supposed to be something that is good for our health, you might be surprised to find out there’s no real consensus about what defines a super food.
Superfood is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Sometimes it pertains to berries, other times you see it ascribed to grains or seeds, and there’s no shortage of packaged and processed snack foods that are touting the superfood label.
But a unique study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease sought to define what really is a superfood.
Now, these researchers steered clear of the somewhat controversial term “superfood” and decided instead to call their subject matters “powerhouse fruits and vegetables”. And what they did was to study the relative nutrient density of 47 different pieces of produce to analyze which ones were PFVs (powerhouse fruits and vegetables).
To qualify as a PFV, a fruit or vegetable had to have 10% or more daily value per 100 calories of 17 different qualifying nutrients. Based on the nutrient analysis, here are the top 10 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables”, ranked in order from highest nutrient density score:
- Chinese cabbage
- Beet green
- Leaf lettuce
- Romaine lettuce
- Collard greens
You might have noticed a pattern here – that these are mostly dark green leafy vegetables. If you’re looking for an area where you can make an improvement in the nutrient density of your diet, try adding more greens to your meals. You can do so in salads, stews, sautéed or even ground up and mixed into patties to help cut meat when you’re enjoying burgers or meatloaf.
To see the rest of the PFV list of fruits and vegetables and their rankings, check out the CDC article here.