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Nutrition

7 Ways to Slow Down and Really Enjoy a Meal

Even if you’re cooking healthy meals, you need to make sure you’re doing the right things when you eat them.

You know healthy eating is important, but it also takes a lot of work. You have to find good recipes for things you want to eat, go shopping for the right ingredients, study a lot of labels, and spend time in the kitchen prepping ingredients and cooking. But you aren’t off the hook when you sit down to eat, since there’s still one more thing you need to do: Slow down and enjoy your meal. Research shows that taking the time to chew and making your mealtime last longer can result in your body burning more calories to digest the food. Another small study found that when non-overweight participants ate more slowly, they took in fewer calories and felt more satisfied after their meal.

woman eating healthy healthy plate on a table

But how do you stop yourself from shoveling down your food? These seven tips can help:

1. Think about what you’re tasting. You’ve slaved away in the kitchen to create the delicious food in front of you, so take a moment to enjoy the flavors! Paying attention to the zing of the vinegar, sweetness of the dried fruit, or bitterness of the broccoli rabe can make mealtime more mindful, leading you to naturally slow down your pace.

2. Put down the phone. Ever sat down with a plate full of food, started scanning Facebook, then looked down to realize you somehow ate everything on your plate? When you’re distracted with your phone, computer, or TV, you stop paying attention to how fast you’re eating. Try to make mealtime a “no devices” zone, even when you’re eating alone.

3. Drop the utensils between bites. There’s no need to keep the fork in a vicelike grip while you’re chewing—it just makes you want to stab another forkful and put it into your mouth right away. Place your fork on your plate and you’ll find that you hit the brakes a little more often.

4. Take smaller bites. Sure, you could devour that burger in five big mouthfuls, but why not see if you can make it last for 10 bites instead?

5. Have something to drink with your meal. Taking a sip of an unsweetened beverage between bites not only naturally lengthens the meal, but also forces you to completely swallow one bite (and one sip of water) before going on to the next.

6. Eat at a table. Your work desk does not count as a table. Whether you work in an office or at home, step away from your computer for breakfast and lunch and sit at a table where you can properly pay attention to your food, undistracted by the ding! of a new email. 

7. Actually stop when you stop to chat. If you’re dining with a companion, how often do you talk with a bit of food in your mouth? When you’re talking, make sure to first stop and swallow any food, and don’t pick up any new bites until you’re done with your thought. (And if your food gets cold because you were having such a good conversation? That’s what microwaves and toaster ovens are for!) 

Get more great health and wellness stories at EatingWell.com/Strive.