An essential part of self-care, proper nutrition has an important impact on personal well-being.
Nutrition & Mindful Eating
What we eat affects our energy level, our moods, and our overall health. Optimizing not only what we eat but how we eat can prevent chronic disease and lead to physical and emotional well-being.
In our clinical programs, information on proper nutrition is an integral part of our curriculum and one of the five main elements of mind body medicine. We emphasize that a good diet not only helps people stay healthy, but also can improve and/or prevent the progression of some chronic medical problems.
Our nutritional guidelines are developed specifically for each patient population by our staff dietitian, who also presents and answers questions at one session of each program.
While there are a host of opinions regarding which foods are best for optimal health, the Benson-Henry Institute provides recommendations that have been extensively researched and shown to prevent chronic diseases:
- Eating at least five fruits and vegetables daily and choosing whole grains and beans over white, processed grains can help fight off chronic diseases such as cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. These foods contain dietary fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals.
- Limiting saturated fats and trans fats (or hydrogenated fats) in your diet can help maintain or lower blood cholesterol levels, body weight, and cancer risk.
- Regularly eating good fats (monounsaturated fats such as olive, canola, peanut and fish oils) can improve blood cholesterol levels and the immune system's effectiveness.
- Limiting portion sizes of foods such as starches, sweets, and fats can help maintain body weight and help with body fat loss. Some useful tips:
- Fill half the dinner plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter of the plate with a lean protein source, and one-quarter with whole grains
- Limit sweets to 200 calories or less daily to lessen feelings of deprivation often identified with dieting and to support weight loss
- Use measuring utensils when judging serving sizes of oils and starches
Mindful eating can be used as a strategy to control calorie intake. By slowing the pace of eating, we enhance our ability to appreciate the flavors and textures of our food. This healthy habit can lead to benefits not experienced when we eat quickly or distractedly:
- Being able to recognize when you have eaten enough
- Enjoying occasional high calorie foods in moderate portions
- Feeling more satisfaction from a smaller portion of food, which may lead to eating less
Eating should be an enjoyable experience, especially when we can find a pleasant setting and enough time (at least 20 minutes is recommended) to savor a meal. Unfortunately, we too often gulp our food to keep up with our fast-paced lives. That is why mindful eating, even if it's for only a few minutes, can bring added awareness and pleasure to an activity crucial to our emotional and physical health.