7 Steps to Eating More Mindfully

By Jeffrey Zurofsky

As adults, we don’t remember how we learned to eat. But when you become a parent, you get a chance to step back and think about all your ingrained habits around mealtimes. Now that my wife and I are teaching my daughter to be a mindful eater, we’re looking at the whole picture—the time we spend at the table, our food choices, and even the way we chew each bite.

As I’ve brought fresh awareness to the process, I’ve developed some approaches for creating a more conscious mealtime experience. Here’s my step-by-step guide to eating mindfully.

1. Set the table thoughtfully

There’s nothing more distracting than jumping up throughout the meal to grab the mustard, get another glass of water, change the music, etc. Take the time to think about exactly what you’ll need. One thing you don’t need: Your phone. (Even the members of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles defense adopted a no-phone policy for their weekly team dinners.) Setting the table is also a nice ritual to do with friends and family, so that everyone feels included even if they didn’t help prepare the meal.

2. Get quiet before digging in

Wait until everyone has served themselves or each other, and then take a few silent minutes to close your eyes, settle in, and get centered after the bustle of getting the food prepared and on the table. Sitting and breathing together kicks off an effect known as entrainment, in which everyone in the group syncs up and there’s a collective sense of energy and focus. You’re creating an atmosphere of connection and positivity before the meal even begins.

3. Offer thanks and praise

Take some time to express gratitude—to the animals and plants you’re eating for their nutritious offering, to the people who raised and grew them, and to the cooks and helpers at the table.

You can go a little deeper with the gratitude ritual if you wish: I’ve spent some time with an elder at the Chumash reservation near my home in Ojai, California, and he’s shared with me the traditional Native prayers said before a meal, which include expressing gratitude for the intangible elements of our food—the energy and power that we get from this nourishment. There’s also a tradition in his culture of not just thanking, but also praising the animals we eat for their strength and health, which they pass on to us.

4. Make your first bite a vegetable

When we get to the table, we’re hungry, and our first impulse is to shovel in the food. When my little daughter eats, she’s acting on pure instinct, with the one goal of satisfying that drive to survive. It takes effort to override that primal conditioning. The way I do this is by making my first bite a vegetable. There are a couple of reasons for this: One, it encourages me, as the cook, to make veggie dishes that are just as delicious as the meat or other main courses, instead of being afterthoughts. That first bite is always the best, so I want to really enjoy it. Two, it slows me down. Instead of obeying that hunger instinct and digging into the dish that I might consider most filling, I’m making the meal last longer. Third, the flavors of vegetables are often more subtle than meat or dairy, so we need to really tune in so we can fully experience the complexities of the taste experience.

5. Chew more

There’s a mindfulness ritual in which practitioners chew each mouthful as many as 50 or 100 times. Try counting how many times you typically chew a bite, and you’ll realize how quickly we swallow our food. From a health and wellness perspective, chewing is vital to nutrient absorption; amylase, an enzyme in our saliva, does the first work of breaking down and digesting our food. Try chewing each bite five or 10 times for maximum nutritional impact. As a reminder to pause between mouthfuls, put your silverware down after every bite, and don’t pick it up again until you’re consciously ready to move on to the next bite.

6. Breathe more

When we’re chewing and swallowing quickly, we’re probably not breathing deeply and slowly. Take time to focus on your breath as you eat and between bites—it will also increase your enjoyment, because the olfactory receptors in the nose are as important as our taste buds in communicating flavor to the brain. Slow, deep breaths also calm the nervous system, which improves digestive function.

7. Stay at the table until everyone’s done

Instead of jumping up to start clearing or washing dishes (or to check your phone), stay at the table until everyone is finished. This encourages more leisurely eating, since the group has to adjust to the pace of the slowest eater. It also extends the conversation and the positive group dynamic that’s been created throughout the evening. An added benefit: There are more people around to help with the cleanup.

 

BIO: Chef Jeffrey Zurofsky is the co-founder of NYC restaurants ’wichcraft and Riverpark, as well as Riverpark Farm. He is also the culinary program director at Newport Academy, a treatment center for teenagers. Jeffrey recently appeared as a co-host on Bravo’s Best New Restaurant.

The post 7 Steps to Eating More Mindfully appeared first on Clean Plates.

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What’s the Deal?: Bean Pastas

By Jill Neimark

So, you want some noodles, but you have celiac, or you’re gluten intolerant. You could reach for a gluten-free pasta made from corn or rice—but they’re high in carbohydrates, and research shows they can cause blood sugar to leap even higher than wheat-based noodles.

Bean pastas to the rescue. They’re higher in protein than wheat-based noodles (exactly how much varies by brand), and bean pastas, like beans themselves, contain high amounts of resistant starch. This special type of starch, which isn’t fully broken down by the body, is readily metabolized by bacteria in our large intestine and helps keep our colons healthy, according to nutritionist Guy Crosby.

Bean pastas also have more fiber than their wheat-based cousins. Fiber helps steady your blood sugar, and promotes a feeling of fullness, so you feel satisfied on fewer calories.

Of course, the most important question is: How do they taste? And can they actually mimic a good old-fashioned marinara-drenched plate of linguine? Do they hold up to boiling, baking, and tossing in salads? I still remember a corn-based pasta that melted into a pile of mush in my saucepan.

Only one way to find out, so I brought home several brands—all certified gluten-free—and spent a week sampling various pastas in an array of dishes (tough job, eating pasta for a living, but someone has to do it). Here are my favorites, and what you need to know about each one:

1. Banza

Banza

This brand, made from certified non-GMO chickpeas, was my favorite. The color almost perfectly mimics wheat pasta, and the variety of shapes is fun—from linguine to angel hair, shells, rotini, ziti, penne, elbows, wheels and cavatappi. I tried it in a few different recipes, including baked ziti and a delicious pumpkin mac and cheese, and it held its shape and texture well. The only catch: Since Banza has pea protein, tapioca and xanthan gum along with chickpeas, it may not work for people with food sensitivities.

Nutritionals: Average of 190 calories, 14g protein and 8g fiber per 2-oz. serving.

2. Tolerant

Tolerant

This brand features a wide selection of pastas made from red and green lentils as well as chickpeas. The lentil pastas held up better to cooking than the chickpea varieties (which also have rice added in, and tasted slightly mealy), and though they don’t quite replicate the mouthfeel of wheat-based pasta, they’re close enough. Plus, Tolerant now offers lentil varieties with vegetable powders mixed in, such as kale and beet, boosting the antioxidant and nutrient profile. Plus, the pastas are made without potential allergens like tapioca and xanthan gum. One big issue is whether you like color in your noodles. If your family balks at any noodles that stray from the traditional creamy hue of semolina, these may be a no go. But if it isn’t a problem, you could even try matching ingredients to the noodles; for example, red lentils pair well with carrots, pumpkin, squash and cheese, while green lentils go well with scallions, broccoli, or asparagus.

Nutritionals: Average of 310 calories, 21g protein and 11g fiber per 3-oz. serving

3. POW! by Ancient Harvest

Ancient Harvest is known for its quinoa- and corn-based pastas, and its POW! line adds beans and brown rice to the quinoa, offering everything from black bean elbows to green lentil penne and spaghetti, red lentil rotini and linguine, as well as packaged mac and cheese. The pastas are tasty and slightly cheaper than pure bean-based pastas. A favorite of mine are the black bean elbows, unique to this brand. They made a fantastic addition to a root vegetable minestrone I made with kale, butternut squash, zucchini, herbs, and vegetable broth—the black beans add a hearty flavor.


Nutritionals: Average of 190 calories, 11g protein and 7g fiber per 2-oz. serving

4. Modern Table

This pasta, made from red or green lentils, comes in three shapes: elbows, rotini and penne. Though they offer plain noodles, what sets this brand apart are the spices, cheeses and veggies in their meal kits: Creamy Garlic & Herb, Cheddar Broccoli, Creamy Alfredo, Creamy Marinara, Sundried Tomato Basil. The noodles hold up well to cooking, containing lentil flour, oat fiber, calcium sulfate, and xanthan gum. A caution here: Oats are gluten-free by nature, but a small percentage of celiac sufferers are sensitive to them anyway.

Nutritionals: Average of 190-330 calories, 20g protein and 6g fiber per 3.5-oz. serving

The post What’s the Deal?: Bean Pastas appeared first on Clean Plates.

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