Mindful Eating for Health and Pleasure

Published by Annie Barrett: 
November 13, 2023

Mindful eating encourages us to make food choices that promote our wellbeing while taking pleasure in the eating experience. When we eat mindfully, we bring our awareness to the experience of eating including the sensations in our body, our thoughts and our feelings about food. 

The goal of mindful eating is to have a more enjoyable experience of eating combined with an understanding of:

  • What it is we are eating
  • What we choose to eat
  • How much to eat
  • How to eat

According to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, mindful eating involves

  • Being aware of the wider context for our meal including where our food came from, how it was prepared, and who prepared it
  • Noticing the internal and external cues and sensations that influence our eating habits. t
  • Bringing awareness to how our food looks, tastes, smells, and feels in our bodies as we are eating.
  • Sensing how the body feels after eating the meal. Do we feel satiated? Still hungry? Too full?
  • Expressing gratitude for our meal.
  • Reflecting on the effects our our food choices, locally and globally.

The late Buddhist monk and mindfulness teacher, Thich Naht Hahn, together with researcher and nutritionist, Lilian W. Y. Cheung wrote a book on mindful eating called Savor

In Savor, the authors lay out seven principles mindful eating:  

  1. Honor your food. Acknowledge where your food was grown and who prepared your meal. Eat without distractions to help deepen the eating experience.
  2. Engage all senses. Notice the sounds, colors, smells, tastes, and textures of the food and how you feel when eating. Pause periodically to engage these senses.
  3. Serve in modest portions to avoid overeating and food waste. 
  4. Savor small bites, and chew thoroughly. These practices can help slow down the meal and fully experience the food’s flavors.
  5. Eat slowly to avoid overeating. If you eat slowly, you are more likely to recognize when you are feeling satisfied, or when you are about 80% full, and can stop eating.
  6. Don’t skip meals. Going too long without eating increases the risk of strong hunger, which may lead to the quickest and easiest food choice, not always a healthful one. Setting meals at around the same time each day, as well as planning for enough time to enjoy a meal or snack reduces these risks.
  7. Eat a plant-based diet, for your health and for the planet. Consider the negative long-term effects of eating certain foods. Favor more whole food, plant based foods that are healthier for the body and better for the planet.

For more resources on healthy eating, check out our tip sheets and our curated recipes!