See. Smell. Bite. Chew. Taste. Savor. Swallow. Repeat.
These are the steps involved in eating and fully enjoying a meal. But all too often meal times are rushed, our attention is elsewhere, we finish our food without really even knowing what it looked like or how it tasted.
March is National Nutrition Month®, and this year it reminds us that mealtimes are about more than getting food from a plate to our stomachs, they are about experiencing and enjoying the process of how that happens.
So I encourage you to embrace the ‘savor the flavor’ message the month is promoting and make eating more than an essential part of your day but an experience worth celebrating.
Your 4-Step How-To Guide for Savoring the Flavor
1. When to eat.
Did you know that your taste buds are more sensitive to flavors when you’re physically hungry?
So prime yourself for a full flavor experience by waiting for hunger before beginning to eat. But, do try to eat before you get to the point of feeling ravenous. Otherwise, you’re likely to eat quickly, without leaving much opportunity to taste your food, and eat beyond the point of satisfaction before realizing you’re full.
2. What to eat.
When making food selections, think about what you really feel like eating. Ask yourself “what will taste the best?” or, “what will satisfy me the most?”
Use your own inner wisdom to drive this decision (it’s in there, I promise!) and avoid relying on a set of rules to decide for you.
Rule-based eating often leaves us feeling deprived and deprivation sets the stage for overeating.
3. How to eat.
How we eat our food has a lot to do with how much we end up enjoying that food.
For most of us, slowing down the pace at which we eat (meaning the speed with which we chew and the time between bites) can really increase the pleasure factor. It allows us the opportunity to make eating a full sensory experience.
So, before you begin eating, take the time to really look at your food – notice the different colors and textures, observe how it’s plated. Inhale the aromas of the food, what do you smell?
Then, intentionally select your first bite, make it small so it has the chance to touch all of your taste buds, and slowly chew. Think about how it feels on your tongue, the flavors you taste, and how your body is responding.
Close your eyes and notice if the flavors intensify. Once you’ve completely finished this bite, assess how you feel, and choose your next bite with intention, too.
Repeat the process, checking in after each bite to assess how your body feels and evaluating whether or not you need or want more.
Slowing down, savoring each bite, and continuously checking in with your body will not only allow to experience the food you’re eating, it will help you better determine when to stop, too – whether that means leaving food on your plate or going back for seconds.
If we’re engaging our senses and noticing our bodies, we’ll stop when our bodies are satisfied. If we’re rushing through the meal, we’re more likely to rely on external factors to tell us when to stop, such as when the food is gone, which may leave us wanting more, or more often, wishing we had eaten less.
4. Where to eat.
Because where we eat can significantly impact how we eat, considering our environment is essential to fully experiencing meal times. Look for ways to remove distractions from the eating environment (e.g., television, computer, newspaper, etc.).
We are surprisingly bad at multitasking, and if we’re eating while we’re engaged in another activity, more of our attention will likely be directed to that other activity, making it really challenging for the meal to be a fully satisfying experience.
So this month, I encourage you to embrace the foodie within and make each eating occasion and experience worth savoring!