A mindful approach to food takes the principles of mindfulness — attention, awareness, and presence in the moment — and applies them to eating habits.
Mindful eating is a philosophy that emphasizes listening to the body’s cues, savoring food, and paying attention to tastes, textures, and portion sizes. These focused habits can lead to a healthier weight and a more positive relationship with food.
If you’d like to adopt a more mindful approach to eating, you might expect to make certain changes at mealtimes. But setting the stage for better food choices doesn’t begin and end at the dinner table.
Keys to success may lie in a different room, just a few feet away: your kitchen.
Research shows that specific ways of organizing your kitchen can lead to more awareness of the food you’re eating.
Here are six hacks to achieve “food shui” in your kitchen.
1. Clear clutter (except for a fruit basket)
Any space crowded with clutter can induce stress — the last emotion you want to associate with the place you prepare and eat your food.
Keep your countertops clear of all excess accessories except one: a fruit basket. In a 2016 study, researcher Brian Wansink, PhD, and his colleagues found that the presence of a fruit basket on the kitchen counter correlated with lower BMI.
2. Make cooking easier
Want to eat healthier meals at home? Try structuring your kitchen for streamlined cooking:
- Keep pots, pans, mixing bowls, and utensils close at hand.
- Alphabetize your spice rack.
- Stash cookbooks with appealing, simple recipes in view.
3. Store healthy foods at eye level in clear containers
A mindful-eating kitchen is all about accessibility and visibility.
“You’re three times more likely to eat the first food you see than the fifth one,” says Wansink in his book “Slim by Design.”
When you put healthy foods in clear view in your fridge, you’ll notice them faster — and, therefore, eat them sooner. Try putting healthy leftovers in clear Tupperware, and place healthy foods at eye level.
4. Keep junk food behind closed doors
There’s also something to the old adage, “out of sight, out of mind.”
Make easy-to-grab unhealthy snacks inconvenient by storing them behind closed doors or in a difficult-to-reach corner of your pantry. Simply adding this extra physical barrier may make you think twice before indulging.
Eating unhealthy food isn’t bad. But to practice mindful eating, you want to make an active choice to eat potato chips, not grab a handful and pop them into your mouth just because they’re in front of you.
5. Don’t let your kitchen get too empty
Staring at a bare-bones fridge is a lot more likely to prompt you to call for takeout than inspire you to make a healthy home-cooked meal. To ensure you always have something to work with, don’t let your food supplies dwindle too low.
6. But don’t fill it too full
On the other hand, keeping your kitchen packed to the gills won’t help you eat mindfully, either.
Research reported in “Slim by Design” revealed that when people bought in bulk at wholesale club stores instead of shopping more moderately, they ate through their purchases twice as fast as they normally would.
Strive for the balance of “just enough and not too much.”
With these few small tweaks, you can make your kitchen conducive to mindful eating — without even thinking about it. How’s that for a delicious irony?
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a nutritionist, freelance health writer, and food blogger. She lives with her husband and three children in Mesa, Arizona. Find her sharing down-to-earth health and nutrition info and (mostly) healthy recipes at A Love Letter to Food.