Dietitians Dish: Take time to enjoy your food
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By: Kendra D Blaschke, MS, RD, LD
You walk into your house and are immediately overwhelmed with your mental "to dos." You completely forgot to pick up the dry cleaning your husband needs for tomorrow, and little Tommy insists on cupcakes for his Boy Scout meeting. You promised Sally you would help her with her science fair project, and both dogs are past due for their rabies shot. And that's just the beginning.
While trying to figure out how to possibly complete these tasks before work tomorrow, you grab a bag of chips and start munching. Two seconds later, the bag is empty. You couldn't have possibly consumed the whole bag; the kids must have been sneaking chips when you weren't looking, right?
Eating amnesia is not a scientific term, but rather a cute way to describe the act of unconsciously eating more than you remember. Blame it on an on-the-go lifestyle or bad habits, either way, we are all guilty of unconscious eating.
While this might not seem like such a big deal, research has shown that distracted eaters consume more calories, total food and feel less satisfied than those who pay attention to their meal. Could this be contributing to our increasing waistline more than our food choices?
When was the last time you actually tasted your food? Days or years maybe? The next time you sit down to eat a meal, try this: Take a bite. Think about how it tastes, and ask yourself these questions: How do the different flavors combine to make the taste so appealing? What is the texture of the food? Is it soft? Crunchy? Set your utensils down and chew. Does the smell of the food add to the taste or distract from it?
Next, focus on how you feel about this meal. Is it satisfying? Do you feel guilty for enjoying it so much? Continue the same process with the next bite until you are no longer hungry.
After reminding yourself to taste your food, here are some additional tips to help end the eating amnesia craze:
Eat ... but just eat. Lay down that magazine or newspaper; turn off the TV or computer. Sit at a table and just eat.
Eat with family or friends. Studies have shown that sitting down to enjoy a family meal is associated with decreased calorie intake and increase fruit and vegetable consumption, both of which can lead to weight loss.
Stop when you are full. Keep in mind that you don't have to clean your plate and leaving that one bite isn't going to affect the starving kids in China.
Don't starve yourself. Don't skip meals and don't deprive yourself of something you are craving. Have a small portion and then stop.
Journal it. While it might seem like a tedious task, keeping a food journal has been shown to decrease total calorie intake by making you more aware of what and how much actually goes into your mouth.
Eating can be both enjoyable and healthy. Savor each experience.
Kendra Blaschke is a registered and licensed dietitian with a Master's of Science Degree in Nutrition. Send questions or comments to dietitians @vicad.com.