Pay attention to how you eat
Having a healthy meal involves more than the food we eat
July 20, 2020
By Lisa Brunelle, Communications Advisor, Covenant Health
How we eat is as important as what we eat.
“There are two parts to how we eat. There’s the nutritional aspect in that we should eat to fuel our bodies properly, but there’s also the social aspect of eating, which enhances our lives,” says Christiana Dizon, registered dietitian at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.
Christiana says these two aspects of how we eat affect our body’s health, our mental health and our relationship with food. Food is more than just fuel. People will enjoy food more when they embrace the social aspects of eating as well as filling a physical need.
“Canada’s food guide has stopped being prescriptive. Now it’s focusing more on eating behaviours as well as food quality and proportions,” says Christiana.
A good place to start is with mindful eating. This is one strategy that helps people pay attention to their relationship with food. Mindful eating is as simple as listening to your body when eating and thinking about what the food is doing for you.
The food guide says mindful eating can help you make healthier choices, be more conscious of the food you eat and your eating habits, and make positive changes to your eating behaviours.
Incorporating different flavours and trying new dishes can add enjoyment to your eating.
“You can pay attention to the smells, textures, flavours and taste of food,” says Christiana. “I encourage people to enjoy their own cultural traditions and foods so they can enjoy what they are eating. You don’t need to be on a specific diet to eat well.”
Christiana says eating together is important at all stages of life, whether it’s eating together as a family or with friends. Eating with those outside your home is more challenging with the need to be safe due to COVID-19.
People can get creative about connecting with others while still being safely apart, says Christiana. And it is worth the effort, since eating together may encourage people to make better nutritional choices. It often helps people try new food or dishes. The social interaction of eating with others — even virtually through technology such as Zoom, Skype or FaceTime — can decrease loneliness and isolation.
“I think people need to change their mindset that food is just fuel,” says Christiana. “Food is what brings us together.”
There are lots of great resources available online to help people with meal planning, including two resources from the Dietitians of Canada: https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Recipes and http://www.cookspiration.com/, a meal-planning app.
Tips for eating together during COVID-19
Having connections with others helps our mental well-being and overall health. Even if you live alone, there are ways you can still safely enjoy eating with others and maintain mindfulness. Remember that COVID-19 public health guidelines can change, so be aware of the current needs around physical distancing and other safety measures.
- If you live with family or roommates, plan, prepare and eat your meals together to connect with others and maintain healthy eating habits.
- If you live along or are self-isolating, try new recipes or connect with others virtually to increase enjoyment during mealtimes.
- Form a small group with whom you spend the most time or have the closets physical contact. In small cohorts, physical distancing does not need to be maintained. However, minimize interactions with people outside your small group.
- Avoid sharing food, drinks and utensils. If you are meeting to share a meal, encourage everyone to bring their own food.
- Wash your hands well and clean high-touch surfaces in between use.
- High-risk groups like seniors and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes can form cohorts, but they should be smaller and not include others who participate in sports, perform in groups or work in a childcare setting.
For the latest COVID-19 information and health guidelines, visit the Government of Alberta website.
Good eating is about more than food
Canada's food guide provides tips about the benefits of making time to eat.
Taking time to eat can help you:
- Enjoy your food
- Focus on your food
- Prevent overeating
- Enjoy eating with others
- Make healthier choices
- Be mindful of your eating habits and choices
Take time to eat
Eat slowly and thoughtfully
- Notice when you feel full.
- Don’t rush when you’re eating out.
- Put your knife and fork down between bites.
- Eat with others and enjoy the conversation.
- Slow down and give yourself time to enjoy your food.
- Chew your food thoroughly to experience aromas, textures, flavours and tastes.
Eat without distractions
- Pay attention when you’re eating. Make mealtimes electronic free.
- Eat at the table, not in front of the TV.
- At work, eat lunch away from your desk.
- Think about your portions.
- Set aside time to eat.
Source: Canada's food guide