Mindful eating is not about restricting or denying any food but learning to enjoy food without feeling guilty and to be satisfied with a lesser quantity.

You can find endless information about which diets to follow and which foods we should or shouldn’t eat. But little attention is paid to how we eat our food. Perhaps it’s time that we change our attitudes and habits to restore a healthy relationship with food.

Mindful eating is about developing awareness of your food experiences and feelings about food. You will learn to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied. Paying attention to your eating also can help you sort out any emotional issues you have related to food. Plus, it will allow you to really taste and enjoy whatever you choose to eat. Mindful eating can help you discover which foods make you feel your best. And it can help you eat less and choose healthier foods.

Signs that you are not eating mindfully include:

• Eating past full and ignoring your body signals

• Eating when sad, bored or lonely

• Eating alone, at random times and places

• Eating foods that are emotionally comforting

• Eating while watching TV, working, driving or with some other task

Mindful eating can take effort and be time-consuming, but the good news is, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing affair. Find little ways to slow down and eat more intentionally. Try eating mindfully for a few meals a week. Following are some easy tips to introduce mindfulness to mealtimes.

Eat slower

Take time to savor and enjoy your food. Take small bites, and chew well. Put your fork down once in awhile. Set your kitchen timer to 20 minutes, and take that amount of time to eat a normal-sized meal. If you have difficulty slowing down, use your non-dominant hand or try chopsticks. Eating rapidly makes it easy to eat past full. Eating slowly allows you to read your body’s signals and stop eating when you are full. Your brain needs a little time to catch up: It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that it is satisfied.

Listen to your body

Is your stomach growling? Do you feel lightheaded? Are you running out of energy? You know these are signals to eat. But are you aware of emotional signals, such as stress, sadness, frustration, loneliness and boredom? Before opening the cabinet or fridge, ask yourself if you are really hungry. We need to eat when our body tells us we need food, not our minds. 

Make a healthy eating environment

Set regular mealtimes instead of falling into a constant, random snacking pattern. Sit down to eat your meal instead of just grabbing and going. Random snacking prevents us from developing healthy cues about when and what to eat. Eating at consistent times also helps improve your mood and sleep schedule.

Eliminate distractions

Turn off the TV and put your phone on silent while you eat. Multitasking — for example, eating while working on the computer or driving — can make you eat more. Some studies show that we eat almost 25 percent more when we are distracted. You might also consider encouraging silence for the first five minutes of a meal to let everyone focus.

Pay attention to your food

Think about the texture: Is it crunchy or creamy? How does the food taste — spicy, salty or sweet? Notice the colors and shapes. What are the ingredients? How was the food grown? Consider all the people it took to get that food to your plate.

Mindful eating helps you gain control over your eating habits. Shifting your focus from what you eat to how you eat can change what you want to eat. Once you start thinking about what you are putting in your mouth, you will likely want to make more healthful choices.

Mindful eating is not about restricting or denying any food but learning to enjoy food without feeling guilty and to be satisfied with a lesser quantity.