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A great meal is about how people eat – not what they eat


Last updated 12/16/2017 at Noon

Jane Bernard

Special to Valley News

Everyone knows it’s important to eat the right foods to live a long and healthy life, but many people fall short of that ideal.

They eat on the run, pulling into a drive-thru and scarfing down a hamburger on the way to the next appointment. They grab a candy bar at the grocery checkout and munch it on the way to the car.

And somewhere along the line they realize that just as people can’t judge a book by its cover, they can’t judge food by its taste.

They know that taste can be misleading, at least when it comes to what’s best for health. People love doughnuts, but they don’t make a nutritious breakfast. Spinach isn’t popular with many people – especially children – but it’s beneficial to their health in many ways.

But I believe that a great meal is less about what people eat than how they eat it. I advocate “intuitive eating” habits, and it is aimed at improving every dining experience – and perhaps making for a healthier diet along the way.

Intuitive eating is deceptively simple. Focus on one meal at a time to get the most pleasure and nutrition from food. Notice what is seen, smelled and tasted. Check in with the body to see if it’s really hungry, because sometimes people keep eating when it’s actually time to stop.

Although people might find that they shed a few pounds from this new habit, intuitive eating isn’t necessarily about losing weight. It’s about getting more pleasure out of meals and getting more pleasure from the people they eat with.

I suggest a few exercises that can help people become an intuitive eater.

Smell the food before putting it in your mouth. Nearly everyone has memories tied to the aroma of food. Perhaps it’s their mother baking cookies on Christmas Eve. Perhaps it’s the scent of hamburgers sizzling on a backyard grill. With most meals, people don’t take the time to savor the aroma. Does it smell inviting? Greasy? Fresh? Bad?

If the food doesn’t smell right, it isn’t. Let your nose protect you and help guide choices.

Taste the food as you chew. You may think you already do this step, but too often people don’t really take time to enjoy the taste of a meal. They wolf down their food so they can move on to whatever is next on their agenda. Tasting food helps the body relax and digest more efficiently. Tasting and savoring what you eat also is good for overall health.

Be thankful for the meal. Giving thanks doesn’t have to be limited to Thanksgiving. Think about what food is giving you: energy, strength, health, nourishment and pleasure. If you take a little time to meditate on that idea, the body will relax, and you will get more nourishment from food.

Give your stomach time to inform your brain that it’s full. It takes 15 minutes before the brain gets the message from the stomach that you’ve eaten. That’s no doubt one reason people over eat. They don’t give their body time to get the message that they are getting full before gulping down even more food. Instead, take time to have conversations while eating and you will eat less and enjoy the meal more.

Eating is a necessity of life, but there’s no need to rush things. Eat just enough to feel good, and trust that hunger will return and another meal will be found.

linkJane Bernard, author of “Lucid Living in the Virtual Age,”, and other books, is a philosopher and educator who writes and teaches about intuition and sensual thinking. She introduced her first book, “Fine Tuning,” on The Montel Williams Show in 2006.


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