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Want to make eating healthy easy - start with a plate

written by Sarah C.

A pursuit of healthy eating can begin with one simple step. But choosing that one step can seem daunting; for me it began with simply using a plate for all meals and snacks. It was a challenge at first because I am constantly on the go and in the habit of grabbing take out or microwaving a frozen meal. However when I started treating each time I ate as an event (even a brief mini-event) something shifted and making other healthy choices became easier. Now it doesn't matter where I am or what I am eating - I get a plate, unwrap all items, lay out the food and then sit down to enjoy.


Ok, putting the dishes argument aside - the act of sitting down with a plate brings you more into the moment and more aware of the act of eating. Whether it's a frozen meal, fast food, prepared dinner or an apple - putting it on a plate makes eating an experience. There is a tendency, when I grab a sandwich from a deli, to just dive in and gobble it down. But I found that if I wait until I can take a few minutes to sit down, unwrap the food and place it on a plate (paper will do, if need be) the whole experience of eating is more enjoyable and satisfying. This satiety, in turn, helps me to not overeat later and also makes me more aware of why I am eating.

Nearly 26% of Americans - 73 million people - live alone. For many of those whole live alone it is a common temptation to eat standing up or quickly. Working women and stay at home moms also share this weakness: vertical dining - eating while standing up, generally over the sink, or worse, directly from the refrigerator. I too was prone to this habit, where for breakfast I would flip up a piece of toast and gulp my coffee over the sink, fretting over everything I have to do that day. I started to look at longingly at my perfectly lovely dining room table, where I could breakfast comfortably, but no, I was choosing instead to stare at the dirty dishes and the spitting coffeepot while scarfing down toast.

Sitting at a table with a plate in front of you, you are aware of your food along with how much you're eating. With your mind focused on the meal, you notice what's going into your mouth and will probably eat a little slower. When you eat more slowly, your brain has time to catch up to your stomach, helping you to feel full faster, aid your digestion and allow you to get more pleasure out of your food.

The most important thing I have learned by developing the habit of using a plate is to simply be more aware of my eating - to eat mindfully. Aware of how much food (portion size), what types of foods I was combining (balance), how often I was eating (frequency, which varies for every individual and involves being aware of what you body is asking for) and finally why I was (or wanted to) eating (hunger, emotional issues, boredom, etc.).


green circle rays

Challenge: Make each eating experience count

Try it for yourself, make an effort, for at least a week, to plate your meals and snacks and then sit down to eat them. I know this seems hard to do if you are in a hurry but the benefits are worth it. You might find yourself enjoying eating a bit more (even nutritious options) and savoring the food a little longer.

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