Do you find yourself mindlessly picking up a muffin when you buy the morning coffee? Or digging into the office biscuit stash, simply because it’s there? The latest nutritional trend, mindful eating, is designed to conquer just that, helping you to make healthier eating choices and avoid mindless indulgence.
RESCU spoke to Kara Landau, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and nutritionist, (also known as The Travelling Dietician), on her top mindful eating tips and how to create a healthier diet.
image via pinterest
RESCU: Tell us a little about what exactly mindless eating is?
Kara Landau: Have you ever eaten your meals at work in front of a computer screen in a rush without consciously enjoying your food? Or been surprised when your hand hits the bottom of the popcorn bucket at the movies? These are classic examples of mindless eating.
Mindless eating is the opposite to mindful eating when you think twice, listen to your body to make nutritionally beneficial food choices and take the time to consciously enjoy what you are consuming.
RESCU: When are we most likely to eat mindlessly and how common is the problem?
Kara Landau: It is very common – with Australian office workers spending an average of 5.8 hours at their desk, nearly two-thirds (63%) of office professionals are gaining an average of 3.3 kilograms a year according to new research.
People often feel overwhelmed by work and snack without thinking twice about what is nutritionally beneficial, reaching for the biscuit tin when they are under the pump or when their colleagues are indulging – using food as a distraction to get through the day. The research also found that most of those who work in an office have their first snack as early as 10am.
RESCU: How can we check in with ourselves to avoid these situations?
Kara Landau: It’s a good idea to keep smart snack choices readily available to avoid hunger, and store the junk snacks out of sight – perhaps the desk drawer or your kitchen pantry at home – so visual temptation is minimised.
Snacking in itself isn’t bad, but it’s all about the choices we make. Wise snacks can be part of a balanced diet and whether it’s at the office or out and about, it’s helpful to plan ahead and have wise snack choices available – like a handful of nuts or some fresh fruit. To support this, recent research from Harvard University and published in New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the benefits of snacking on nuts go up as the number of servings go up too.
RESCU: We know mindless eating can be the result of boredom, but are there other factors that contribute to it?
Kara Landau: Boredom is often a contributor, as is a combination of stress and bad habits – for example not eating at the dinner table or grazing in front of the TV. The research suggests women are almost twice as likely as men to snack when under the pump. It’s normal to feel pressurised to meet deadlines within the workplace, however, if you know this often happens to you then it is a good idea to have a snacking strategy in place so you can turn your habits around and make the wisest choices for your own body.
Having nutritionally beneficial snacks that are high in fibre and protein on standby like pistachios or other nuts may help to curb mindless eating. Evidence also suggests consumption of in-shell pistachios may promote mindful eating, since you have to crack open the shells and it takes longer to eat them. The leftover shells can also act as a visual cue, reminding you of how many you have eaten.
Making non-food related choices that benefit you is also really important for your wellbeing. It may be as simple as going for a walk or making the time to speak to a friend on the phone after work.
RESCU: How can we determine whether we really are hungry, or we’re just bored?
Kara Landau: This is the trick most of us need to learn when it comes to controlling what we eat and maintaining a balanced diet. Take an extra moment before you are about to grab a snack and think about why you are reaching for it. It is also really important to stay hydrated as sometimes you may actually just be thirsty, so having a water bottle with you at all times is a great habit to keep!
RESCU: A lot of workplaces have a bit of a snacking culture and turning down food can mean alienating yourself from the team. How can we work around this?
Kara Landau: Mindless eating not only occurs due to the food choices we are making, but also the environment we are in. New research conducted by Wonderful Pistachios suggests mindless snacking is rife in Australian offices.
The findings actually reveal that 71% of office workers are experiencing “snack envy” admitting they’re more inclined to join in when they see their colleagues enjoying a snack or indeed, feel pressure to have a slice of birthday cake. Interestingly, female office workers are more inclined to snack when their colleagues are doing so.
I tell my clients to prioritise their needs and to think about what is beneficial for them. If they don’t want to snack on unhealthy treats, then they should feel empowered to speak out and communicate that to their colleagues. Getting into a good workplace snacking routine makes a difference and don’t be afraid to take nutritionally beneficial snacks to your next team meeting.
RESCU: What are some of the healthier snacks we can eat when we really are hungry?
Kara Landau: I always recommend having higher fibre and protein rich snacks that you enjoy to consume in between meals. A portion-controlled container of nuts is a good example. Other great snacks include fresh fruit with some Greek yoghurt, a high fibre wrap filled with cottage cheese, some apple slices topped with natural nut butter, or even home made egg muffins filled with mixed vegetables and a little cheese.
RESCU: If we notice our children mindlessly eating, how can we talk to them about it or change their behaviour without it exacerbating the issue?
Kara Landau: Communication is key and as a parent or guardian, you need to ensure you are leading by example. Ensure you have wise snack choices at home and are making great choices yourself. A good rule of thumb is to encourage your children to snack at the table – not while watching TV or playing computer games so they are thinking about what they are consuming. You should also ensure you encourage snacking variety, so they don’t get bored and actually enjoy what they are eating.