Have you ever heard of mindful eating? The first time I heard about the concept was from an article my acupuncturist posted on Twitter. I was eating an ice cream sundae at the time despite her advice to avoid both sugar and dairy. As the dessert turned to creamy ash in my mouth, I replied to her with my dilemma. Laughing, she assured me that so long as I was eating the ice cream mindfully, it was actually OK!
To be honest, I was not eating the ice cream mindfully; I was shoveling it in as a reward after a stressful day. As I polished off my bowl of naughtiness, I sullenly wrote off mindful eating as a crazy hippie idea that was too time-consuming and no fun. I closed the article and swung by the fridge for an extra spoonful of hot fudge en route to the dishwasher. Did I feel better after the ice cream? No, I felt guilty, bloated, and insomniac after a dose of sugar and chocolate that late at night.
Let’s just say I’ve seen the error of my ways.
Mindful eating is about not feeling guilty. It’s about acknowledging the real reasons behind wanting to eat, accepting them, and making a choice to eat or abstain with full knowledge of the cause and consequences.
That’s a fairly simplified explanation, but it’s a start. The best reason to eat? You’re actually hungry. Not because it’s mealtime, not because your spouse is hungry, but because your body actually wants more food. This isn’t always possible to schedule, but when it is, you’ll feel better. Try it on a day off when your meal times are more flexible. Learn to listen to your body’s actual signals for hunger without checking the clock. When you start to feel hungry, drink a glass of water and wait five minutes. Still hungry? Time to eat. I used to be ravenous for breakfast as soon as I woke up in the morning; now I drink a glass of water and eat about an hour later. My body was dehydrated after sleeping and was actually thirsty.
What about all the delicious food on your plate? Start by slowing down and actually chewing your food. Really take the time to taste what you’re eating. Think about the last time you said, “Ugh, I ate too fast,” and how you felt. Slowing down helps your body process your meals more effectively and helps you feel better. It also gives your body a chance to signal fullness before you’re uncomfortably stuffed. If you’re not sure, take a breath and think about that overly-full sensation before you decide if you need another bite or serving. Give back your membership to the Clean Plate Club guilt-free.
Just try it for a day or two. See how you feel.
- Drink more water (as soon as you wake up).
- Only eat when you’re hungry.
- Slow down and chew.
A few weeks ago I did this experiment myself. For someone who thought I don’t snack a lot, I was surprised to learn that I actually do. And as someone who isn’t overweight, I didn’t expect to lose a few pounds without adding any exercise and without going hungry. When really forced to look at why I was eating, I saw most of my food cravings disappear in just a few days. Not bad for a week.
So make this potato salad and eat only as much as you actually want. The gorgeous multi-colored fingerling potatoes are tossed with onion, bell peppers, and zucchini for a bright, hearty, crunchy, mayo-free side dish perfect warm or cold for a picnic, backyard barbecue, or just lunch. These potatoes were organic so I left the delicate skins on for structure and fiber. The other veggies are a mix of sauteed and raw for variety and texture. It’s not assertively-flavored which really lets the freshness of the ingredients shine through. Savor the natural sweetness!
Are you a mindful eater? If so, what do you like about it? If not, what’s stopping you?
Multi-Colored Potato Salad
Serves 6-8 as a small side
This mix of fingerling potatoes was sold together at the farmer’s market. The color matters less than getting waxy potatoes that won’t fall apart: Yukon gold, red, or purple. For a less intense garlic flavor stir the garlic into the vegetables in the last minute of cooking. If the garlic isn’t pungent enough, add a second clove.
- 4-5 cups small waxy potatoes, preferably multi-colored and organic, cut into uniform pieces
- 1 small onion, diced (about 2/3 cup) and divided
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
- 3/4 cup diced zucchini (I used 3 tiny ones)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- optional: fresh minced parsley, chives or basil
- Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil about 10 minutes (depending on how small your pieces are) until easily pierced with a knife but not falling apart. Drain.
- While potatoes are cooking heat a splash of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add half the onion, the bell peppers, and the zucchini in that order about a minute apart. Cook until zucchini has softened. Add to drained potatoes. Add rest of onion.
- Whisk together vinegar and mustard. Add minced garlic. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking until an emulsion has formed. Add salt and pepper. Pour over potatoes and vegetables and toss gently to combine. Serve warm, cool, or room temperature, topped with fresh herbs if using.
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