Food, don’t you just love it? A juicy, succulent orange, a naughty piece of chocolate cake, a slow cooked shoulder of pork with barbecue sauce; you can’t help but drool over the very thought of them.
But how much do you truly enjoy the act of eating and could you be getting even more pleasure from it?
We honestly believe that when you practice mindful eating, you’ll be amazed at just how much more fulfilling it is. That’s why we’ve put together this list of ways to do just that.
1. Consider The Journey From Farm To Fork
The first step to eating more mindfully is to remind yourself of where the food you eat comes from. Not only should you consider the life of the plant or animal that forms the food, but the complex web of people that may also be involved. The products that you buy have had an impact on the lives of others and the planet itself.
Try to look at the labels to see where eat item of your grocery shop has come from. Picture that place in your mind’s eye; whether it’s a farm in California, an orchard in Spain, or the wild Atlantic ocean, you have a connection to it through the food you eat.
2. Really Look At The Food
Food has become a mundane side spectacle in modern times and we’ve forgotten about the beauty that exists within it as with everything else.
When you look at an apple, for instance, you shouldn’t just notice that it’s green (or red, or whatever color it is), you should explore the numerous shades of green, the imperfections of the skin, the tiny white spots, and the angle of the stalk.
The same goes for a plate of food at mealtimes; take in the complexity and detail of the dish whether that is the caramelization of onion, the way a sauce coats a piece of pasta, the marbling of meat, or the way a cherry tomato bursts when you stick a fork in it.
3. Hold The Food In Your Hands
We are not tactile enough these days – not in the true sense of the word. We may hold things, but how often do we feel them?
Where possible, try to pick the food up and hold it for a minute. Let your fingers explore its surface; is it smooth, rough or bumpy? Feel the weight of it; is it dense and heavy or light as a feather? Is it hot or cold? Is it dry or wet?
4. Smell The Food
Have you ever had a cold, been unable to breathe through your stuffy nose, and found that your food does not taste as much? Without smell, vibrant flavors become muted and you tend to enjoy the act of eating less.
You may think that when you are free from illness, you smell things to their fullest – but you’d be wrong. Unless you get your nose right into the thick of the action and take a long, deep breath, you will not get smell’s full effect on taste.
Why do you think wine experts advise people to thoroughly sniff out the complex aromas coming from their glass before taking a sip? This simple technique enhances the flavors you then taste when it washes around your mouth.
5. Close Your Eyes With Each Mouthful
Your eyes are a source of great mental stimulation and, as we talked about earlier, looking more thoroughly at your food can be a good thing. It can also be a distraction once the food hits your mouth and can even detract from the tastes you experience.
It may sound silly, but closing your eyes once you have taken a bite of something shuts off the information coming from your ocular system. This leaves you brain free to fully process the signals coming from your other senses (mainly taste, smell and touch).
6. Chew Slowly
How long does it take you to eat a meal? Whatever your answer, it’s not long enough.
We’re busy people living in a world that demands more and more of us and our time. This means that people now eat more quickly than they once did and this has led to us missing out on something wonderful.
Our mouths contain enzymes that start to break down the food while we are chewing, and the longer these get a chance to work, the greater the variety of tastes you might experience. A common demonstration of this is to chew a piece of white bread for a little while; it’s not long before it starts to taste a little sweet because those enzymes begin to break down the sugars contained within the starch. The same can apply to every food.
Two other reasons to chew more slowly are that it allows every taste bud to come in contact with the food, and it means more of the aroma reaches your nose via the throat (and as was noted in point number 4, smell and taste go hand in hand).
7. Notice The Texture
Food isn’t all about taste and smell – there is a more physical aspect to it as well. Whether it’s the feeling as ice cream melts in your mouth or the crunch you get from a biscuit, the sensations you get from food as it is being eaten do actually reinforce your enjoyment of it.
Just think of bread when it goes stale; doesn’t it make a worse sandwich when compared to a fresh, soft loaf?
And how much less satisfying is it when you overcook a piece of chicken and it becomes a little chewy? You may have coated it in the same sauce or spices, and yet it somehow becomes a bit of a letdown.
Thus, when you eat, you should notice the texture of the food, how it feels when you bite into it, or how it slides down your throat.
8. Pause Between Mouthfuls
Have you ever noticed how some foods have an aftertaste that you only get to experience once you have finished eating? Sometimes these can be quite different to the initial flavor and no less enjoyable.
So instead of shovelling the food down at speed, if you pause, even for a brief moment, in between each mouthful of food, you can experience more of these complex aftertastes.
9. Feel The Effects Of Eating Throughout Your Body
The enjoyment of eating is not confined to the mouth or nose; your entire body experiences food from the feeling of fullness to a sense of warm or cold. You might not always pay much attention to such responses, but doing so is yet another path to attaining greater delight in food.
The Conscious Rethink: we’ve lost touch with how to eat so that we get the most enjoyment from it. We’ve been missing out for far too long, and it is about time that we started making our mealtimes more of an event for the senses.