By Jackie Topol, MS, RD, CSO, CDN
The beginning of the New Year gives us a great opportunity to take a critical look at how we plan on caring for ourselves in the months ahead. But, sometimes making changes can seem daunting or we simply don’t know where to begin.
A big part of my job as a registered dietitian in New York is to guide people toward making healthier food choices, and I often encourage the shift toward a more plant-based, whole foods diet. I could use this space to share my strong belief that eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts can help us feel better, have more energy and increase our longevity, but I want to focus on something we can all begin to do now.
With the many distractions that exist in daily life, it can be very difficult to really hear what your body is saying. So, beginning today, I want to encourage you to be more mindful.
When we slow down and think, we can make more healthful choices. Slowing down also allows our brain to get a true sense of how hungry or how full we are. Here are some easy tips you can begin to incorporate into your life now.
- Sit and eat your meal in peace. Avoid distractions by sitting at a table and not in front of your computer, TV, or your phone.
- Slow down and taste your food. Make sure your food is pulverized by chewing each bite at least 20 times. This will help you pick up the flavors in your food more and also aid digestion.
- Stop halfway through your meal. Check in with yourself and ask if you’re full or getting close. If you have difficulty feeling how full your stomach is while you’re sitting, stand up for a moment (take a few steps if you need), to better gauge fullness.
- Don’t be a member of the Clean Plate Club. Many of us were told as kids to finish everything on our plates…don’t feel the need to stick to that, especially when dining out!
- Question your cravings. Often, we eat because of emotional stress or boredom. Explore this by thinking about the reason behind your craving and by rating your hunger on a scale of 1-10. Also try having a glass of water, waiting 20 minutes, and then reassessing your craving – we often mistake thirst for hunger.
- Reward yourself with non-food treats. Rejoice in your successes by using rewards like a new clothing item, a mani/pedi, a movie night, or tickets to a sports game.
- Eat only when you’re hungry. This can be a particularly helpful tip when there are snacks available at a meeting or social gathering. Ask yourself how hungry you are beforehand, and you will be less likely to eat when you’re not hungry.
- Out of sight, out of mind. Keep snack foods and dessert items in hard-to-reach areas of your kitchen, like a cupboard above your fridge.If you know you have a hard time with portion control with a particular food, it might be best to not bring it into your home.
Small steps like these can really make a difference! I wish you all a happy and healthy year ahead!