(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
It used to be that when many of us engaged in "mindless eating" perhaps we were plunked down in front of the TV, snacking on handful after handful of chips or popcorn or so caught up in gabbing with our friends over dinner that we lost track of what we were feasting upon long before that last huge hunk of cake. These days, time has caught up with most of us in that we have little of it for fun and relaxing events. Work is often full-time-plus and just chauffering the kids around to fulfill their busy schedules takes more than a sizable bite out of our own. Our new spots for "mindless eating" might be while driving with sandwich in hand while chatting with the kids about their day, or in the stands with hot dogs and other goodies for a rushed "family meal" while cheering on their latest sporting event.
However, in order to achieve all-important balance in life - for both health and peace of mind - never mindlessly eat. Be keenly aware of what, when and why you are eating. There are even whole branches of academics devoted to this, like studies by Brian Wansick, Ph.D., former executive director of the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and a professor at Cornell University, who also wrote the mass-market book "Mindless Eating," as well as helpful organizations, like The Center for Mindful Eating (www.tcme.org). The good news: Mindful eating is efficient. It can even take less time than feasting mindlessly on the run. Try some of the following 10-second solutions.
Give Your Car, SUV or Van Some Real Vavoom
Many family vehicles now have built-in coolers or mini refrigerators. Even if yours doesn't, there are plenty of no-cooling-necessary foods, like granola and fruit leather, to keep you fueled. Try not to eat while driving. Besides often being "mindless," many accidents have been reported. Instead, use the time for instant mini picnics. Pull over at the nearest park, and even if you remain in the vehicle, take in the pretty view. Eat while paying attention to nature and your companions. Then hit the road again in a more relaxed and nourished state of mind - and body!
Sport This Trick at Your Next Sporting Event
Whether you are cheering for your child from the stands or a professional team in a stadium, chomping while cheering is common. Next time, make yourself a deal. You will only take a bite of your healthy, yet enjoyable planned meal or snack every time a measurable amount of time goes by, like an inning or an out in baseball, or a quarter in other sports, or perhaps every time a goal is scored in soccer. As mindful eating experts recommend, this makes you much more in touch and connected with every morsel you ingest.
Exercise as a Healthy Food Additive
To raise awareness of what and when you are eating, plan meals or snacks around exercise. The physical movement immediately puts you more in touch with your body and nutritionists recommend small meals or snacks packed with lean protein and carbohydrates both before and after exercise.
Jazz It Up with Journals
Studies show that those who keep food journals, especially those who track how they feel when they eat, are much more conscientious eaters than those who don't. Provide your kids with blank pads, too, and encourage them to either write down what they eat or to draw or color it.
Tell Your TV to Tone it Down
Lots of cable and satellite TV systems feature many music stations that are great background for mindful eating, like easy listening genre or New Age music that's composed to be calming. Instead of eating in front of the TV while watching, eat your meal with the soothing musical backdrop while trying to chew to the beat of the slow music. Techniques like that make you much more aware of what you are eating.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
During the summer, to save time, consider side dishes you can cook on the grill right along with your main dish. Vegetables benefit greatly from that smoky flavor. Disposable aluminum tins can work wonders for heating up treats like baked beans, or even housing a warmed potato salad from a mixture of chunks of russet, red and gold varieties as well as your favorite herbs and spices.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.