Mindful eating stems from the broader philosophy of mindfulness, a widespread, centuries-old practice used in many religions. Mindfulness is an intentional focus on one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment. Mindfulness targets becoming more aware of, rather than reacting to, one’s situation and choices.
Eating mindfully means that you are using all your physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy the food choices you make.
Mindful eating helps individuals to appreciate food more and make a better connection with it. Some studies also suggested that mindful eating might help support emotional eating and binge eating, promoting a healthier relationship with food, regulate appetite, aid digestion, and make eating an enjoyable and pleasurable experience.
Mindful eating isn’t about restricting yourself, it is about enjoying and appreciating food.
- Slow down when eating: Chew your food well and take time to pause while you’re eating by putting your cutlery
down between each mouthful. It may help you feel more relaxed and help you enjoy your eating experience. Slowing eating can allow your body to recognise when it is full.
- Avoid distractions: Avoid eating while you’re on your laptop, phone, reading or watching TV so that you can relax and enjoy your food in the moment.
- Reflect on your thoughts and feelings: Recognise when you are eating for reasons other than physical hunger. Sometimes emotions can trigger hunger and have a negative eating experience.
- Plan and stick to regular mealtimes: A meal planner helps to eliminate the stress around grocery shopping and meal preparation. Also, consider eating at regular times throughout the day. This helps to regulate your levels of hunger which could impact positively on your eating behaviours and food choices.
- Enjoy each mouthful: Food is more than just fuel. Take time to enjoy the aromas, the texture, and the flavours of your meal.
- Avoid empty calories: Choose nutritious foods that are satisfying to you, give you energy and are nourishing to your body.
- Avoid labelling foods: There aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, all can be part of a healthy diet if, we aim for variety and do not exceed our portion sizes.
One of the most effective ways to improve our well-being status is by changing our eating habits as nutrition has a significant effect on our physical and mental well-being.
There are many diet models for an individual to choose from, the decision however, should be taken considering current health status and goals aim to achieve with the guidance and supervision of a registered nutritionist.
Despite the type of diet, you will choose to follow, switching to sustainable eating habits is essential as what we eat, and how that food is produced, affects our health and the environment.
- More than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity can be attributed to the way we produce, process, and package food.
- 19 percent of global food system greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transportation. This is up to seven times higher than previously estimated, and far exceeds the transport emissions of other commodities.
In 2018 Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek published their results from the largest meta-analysis study on global food systems using data from more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries.
Figure #1 helps us to understand from which supply chain stages and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced from different food items.
This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.
The most important finding from this study is the massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods.
- a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents) while peas emit only 1 kilogram per kg.
Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based (Figure 2). Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms of CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively. For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.
Tips to a sustainable diet:
- Reduce meat and have some meat-free days every week.
A healthy balanced diet plan recommends reducing red meat, and now there’s another reason to treat it more as a condiment than a main dish. Meat production is a substantial contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – beef production especially – and the environmental burden deepens, as raising and transporting livestock also requires more food, water, land, and energy than plants.
To eat for our own health as well as that of the planet, we should consider picking non-meat proteins such as nuts and legumes.
- Eat more plant foods.
Vegetables, grains, lentils, and fruits are part of an optimal diet while aiding the planet to heal faster.
Plant-based eating reduces freshwater withdrawals and deforestation —a win-win for both our personal health and the environment.
- Cut down your food waste.
When you throw away food, you’re also wasting the energy, land, water, and fertilizer that was used to produce, package, and transport it.
- Buy only what you need.
- Store food wisely.
- Understand food expiration dates.
- Use leftovers.
- Try local and seasonal food items.
Foods that are in season and are from local markets have very low food-related emissions.
- EU Seasonal Food Directory: https://www.eufic.org/en/explore-seasonal-fruit-and-vegetables-in-europe
- US Seasonal Food Directory: https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org/
- Australian Seasonal Food Directory: http://seasonalfoodguide.com/
- Eat mindfully.
One of the simplest things you can do to eat more sustainably is to practice mindful eating.
Focusing on what you’re eating allows you to reflect on where your food came from and how it is nourishing your body. Additionally, by tuning in to your hunger signals you may learn that you don’t need as much food as you thought and resize your meals accordingly.
By paying more attention to how we eat and thinking about all the factors related to each of our meals, we may alter our food consumption to only what our body needs avoiding extra calories and reducing food waste, as well as becoming encouraged to seek out more sustainable food sources.
- Mengyu Li, Nanfei Jia, Manfred Lenzen, Arunima Malik, Liyuan Wei, Yutong Jin, David Raubenheimer. Global food-miles account for nearly 20% of total food-systems emissions. Nature Food, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s43016-022-00531-w.
- Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Note: Greenhouse gases are weighted by their global warming potential value (GWP100). GWP100 measures the relative warming impact of one molecule of greenhouse gas, relative to carbon dioxide, over 100 years. OurWorldInData.org/environmental-impacts-of-food.
- Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2022) – “Environmental Impacts of Food Production”.
Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food
- British Dietetic Association (2022) How to start a sustainable diet.