Intentional eating is certainly not something most of us do these days. With our busy work schedules, families, and the many demands that life presents, we don’t have much time to eat, let alone eat healthy and with intention. It can be a challenge to ask busy individuals to really think about the food they eat on a daily basis. I know the struggles first hand. I’m a Physician Assistant who works in a stressful medical environment where the hours are long and the breaks are seldom. But the fact is, if we don’t make a conscious effort to put nourishing foods into our bodies, we will have to live with many chronic ailments, including symptoms of inflammation, food allergies, excess weight, fatigue, disease and emotional problems. We may even shorten our lives. If we eat with intention though, we can give our bodies a fighting chance in a toxic world. Here are some tips that I use to help myself eat more consciously:
1. Think about what the food you are choosing is doing for your body: Is this food serving a higher purpose? Is it providing you with the proper nutrients, or is it just a filler food you reach for out of boredom or stress? So many of us are on auto-pilot these days. When we drive, when we work, and when we eat. So next time you reach for food, ask yourself, what is this food doing for me? The first step of intentional eating is to Be Aware.
2. Shop smart: Most of us don’t have a lot time to grocery shop. So it can be a challenge to read labels and really understand what you are buying. But it’s important to make smart choices because health starts with what you buy. Give yourself just an extra half-hour at the grocery store to read labels. Know what is in your food! A short list of things to avoid: GMOs, preservatives, added sugar, hydrogenated ingredients, and harmful vegetable oils like soybean, cottonseed, and sunflower oil.
3. Try cooking at home, even if it just one night a week: There is nothing more intentional than cooking the food you eat. You get to be in control of everything that goes into your food. And that is actually a very empowering thing! Even if you only have time to cook one night on the weekend, try it! Try a recipe you’ve always wanted to make, and make it fun by cooking with others or for others. When you cook you put love and effort into your food, which makes eating it more enjoyable.
4. Sit down, and chew your food: I know it sounds silly, but sit down when you eat. I used to eat in the morning while standing in the kitchen because I was in such a hurry to get to work. I’m pretty sure I barely chewed my food. Now I get up ten minutes earlier. Just ten minutes! I do this so I can sit down and eat breakfast and really chew/taste my food. Or if you don’t eat breakfast, sit down a few nights a week for dinner.
5. Do your research: I find that the more I read about and research nutrition, the more I enjoy eating and the smarter my choices become. You know that McDonalds is bad for you, but why? You know that kale is good for you, but why? What is it in kale that is good for you? How does it work in the body to help it run smoothly? The Internet is a source for a wealth of knowledge. Learn about your food. Instead of watching that last TV show, take some time to research the nutrients found in spinach, and what those nutrients do for you. Knowledge is power!
Erin Carey is a Physician Assistant who works in primary care/urgent care and is a yogi at heart. She practices yoga daily and posts pictures of her yoga journey on her Instagram page to inspire others to practice. She is a supporter of mental and physical health and hopes to help empower her patients to take charge of their health and see food and physical exercise as medicine.