Have you ever found yourself taking the last bite of your lunch or the last sip of a coffee and realized all of a sudden that while engrossed in another activity, you barely noticed yourself eating or drinking? Of course you have; we all do it from time to time - even us dietitians. Well, I thought I was immune to distracted eating (also known as mindless eating) until I started catching myself more and more frequently shoveling in my breakfast while racing around the house trying to get my toddler fed and ready for the day. Multi-tasking, I called it, but I've recently starting asking myself if these chaotic mornings are not only impacting on the enjoyment of my breakfast, but are also perhaps not quite as efficient as I would like?
In his book The Myth of Multitasking, Dave Crenshaw explains that the term multitasking was originally created to describe a process used by computers. Multitasking is “the apparent simultaneous performance of two or more tasks by a computer’s central processing unit… Just like your brain, the computer really can’t focus on two or more things at the same time. What the processor is really doing is switching rapidly between one program and the other”.
So really, when we say we’re multitasking, what we’re actually doing is switch tasking ie. switching our attention back and forth between two or more tasks that require some mental effort. When we try to listen to someone while also checking emails, we usually find that we can’t actually focus on both. Crenshaw explains that contrary to popular belief, multitasking or switch tasking is generally less efficient and less effective.
Similarly, in their book Intuitive Eating, dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch explain that when we eat at the same time as engaging in another activity, such as watching TV or working on the computer, our brains can only focus on one task and eating tends to go on autopilot. This makes it very easy to overeat and end up feeling unsatisfied with the food.
I decided to try making mornings more mindful. I started getting as much as possible ready the night before and waking up half an hour earlier. So far, breakfast has been much more enjoyable. AND I've been starting the day in a calmer and happier mood.
Have you ever thought about ways that you can make your meals more mindful? Write a comment below sharing your experience.
n 2016, the theme of International Dietitians' Day was sustainable eating. To help celebrate, I wrote the article below on how to choose foods with the planet in mind (original version of the article published in Keeping On magazine February 2016).
Top Tips For Sustainable Eating
Most of us are well aware that our food choices affect our health, but it can be easy to forget that they also have an impact on our planet. Luckily, eating healthily and sustainably go hand-in-hand.
Sustainable eating means choosing foods that are healthy for our environment, ourselves, and our communities. Try these ideas to get started:
1) Eat fresh foods with little/no packaging
Buying foods without packaging helps to reduce waste. Many healthy foods such as fresh vegetables and fruit naturally come package-free. Bring your own reusable bags to the supermarket, and wherever possible recycle packaging such as cans and glass bottles.
2) Eat local and seasonal foods
Eating locally helps to minimize the energy used in transportation and storage. When foods are in-season, they are also at their peak in quality and freshness. Studies have shown that locally grown foods are higher in some vitamins and minerals. As a bonus, they're also usually less expensive. Buying locally grown foods can also help support small farmers and community businesses.
3 ) Eat mostly plant-based foods
Making half your plate vegetables and fruit is part of a healthy diet and will help keep the planet healthy too. Planning meals around plant foods and limiting meat intake can help lower your risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. This will also help lower the environmental cost associated with animal farming. Try including plant-based proteins a couple times per week (such as beans, lentils, and nuts). These are also higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat.
4) Try growing your own food
Have a green thumb? Try adding vegetables and herbs to your garden. You'll probably enjoy them more because of the hard work that went into them. Don't have the space? That's ok. There are lots of neighbourhood gardens around Ottawa. Try searching "Ottawa Community Gardens" to find one near you.
5) Eat mindfully
Mindful eating means giving our full attention to the experience of eating. It can make eating more enjoyable, and it can also be a step towards eating more sustainably. Paying attention to what we’re eating and where our food comes from may be the nudge we need to start making changes.
Happy Dietitians Day!