Ever have one of those days where you’re running from meeting to errand to workout so fast that when you finally do get a chance to grab a meal or snack, it’s gone before you even taste it? We’ve all been there, but when on-the-go eating becomes a habit, it’s not so healthy. Shoveling it in without thinking makes it hard to keep track of not only what you are eating but also how much. The calories can quickly build up before you notice.
All of us could probably use a little more practice listening to our “nutrition intuition.” Are you aware of the taste, texture, smell, and visual appeal of your food? Have you thought about its nutritional and caloric content? Is it satisfying? Taking a moment to ask yourself these questions will help you make healthier food choices and lose the guilt.
If you can cut out distractions like texting, watching TV, working at your computer, or driving (!), you might actually relax and enjoy your food more. You’ll also be more conscious of what you are eating, which makes it easier to break bad habits like frequent fast-food stops or “automatic” eating when you feel stressed. So while the multitasker in you might resist, keep that phone off the dinner table and leave your desk for some fresh air when you need a snack.
Many times we race through a meal or snack before our body is even aware we are full. Yet satiation cues are heightened when we slow down and take small bites. When you take your time, you might find that you are satisfied halfway through that plate of pasta. The bonus is that you can save the rest for tomorrow’s lunch.
Consider What’s Right for You
Nutritional needs vary depending on your unique life circumstances. For example, the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can cause frequent food cravings. Those of us busy with work or kids are often pressed for time and tempted to eat on the go. When you are training for a race or getting more active, increased hunger can spur you to eat too much or too fast. In every case, taking the time to think about what you are eating (and why) can help keep you on the healthy path.
Finally, food should be more than just fuel. Stopping to savor the smell, flavor, and texture of your meal or snack increases satisfaction, which decreases the urge to overindulge. Best of all, you’ll be taking part in one of life’s greatest joys—eating for the pleasure of it.