Nutrition for Caregivers: Mindful Eating

by Lacy Ngo MS, RD

In part 1, we discussed food and nutrition as they relate to mood and mental health. Today for part 2, we will continue our discussion on mood and mental health as we delve into the benefits of mindful eating.

But first, “What is Mindful Eating?”

Mindful eating is very similar to mindful breathing. With mindful breathing, you are focusing on one thing- breathing. With mindful eating, you are also focusing on one thing, but this time that one thing is eating. When mindful eating, your focus is on enjoying every bite of your food. As you take each bite, you notice the smells, textures, and flavors of each and every bite.

Caregivers often go through feelings of stress and may even experience “brain fog” due to not only stress but lack of sleep. Studies show that mindful eating relieves stress by giving your body and mind a chance to decompress. Reducing stress can have a positive impact on cognitive function. Have you ever noticed we don’t seem to think as clearly when we are under stress? Since stress can have a negative impact on cognitive function, and since mindful eating can help reduce stress, then it stands to reason that mindful eating can have a positive impact on our cognitive function. Stress can also have a negative effect on gut health as well; so, reducing stress through mindful eating promotes a healthy gut. Mindful eating can help the gut in other ways as well. When we slow down to chew thoroughly, we give our stomach enzymes more surface area to do their work, which promotes better digestion and absorption. Poor gut health is linked to inflammation and reduced immune function. Gut health, inflammation, and immunity are all linked to many conditions, including IBS, heart disease, stroke, brain function and focus, mood, and even depression and anxiety, to name a few. Along with these other benefits, mindful eating can also aid in weight loss and weight maintenance.

To recap, mindful eating may help with stress, cognitive function, gut health, mood, anxiety, depression, chronic diseases, and even weight loss.

Wow! Slowing down to enjoy your food sounds pretty good, right!?!?

But How Can You Start Incorporating Mindful Eating into your Life Today?

One of the easiest ways to start mindful eating is to take mini pauses before each bite. Look at your food, smell your food, and then take a bite. Put your fork down between each bite and notice the flavors and textures dancing in your mouth. Then after you have swallowed, take a sip of your drink. Now take a minute to pause and fix another bite. Repeat with each bite.

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