When was the last time you found yourself overwhelmed, trying to figure out what in the heck to make for dinner…so you order delivery and it comes with a side of guilt?
Or feeling overwhelmed because you want to be eating better,but you don’t know exactly what that means?
We all have endless demands on our time and energy that planning what to eat – or even knowing what your nutrition goals are – can linger at the bottom of the to-do list.
Enter: eating with intention. This means developing your unique plan to nourish yourself in a way that feels good, based on what is important to you…instead of just winging it and hoping for the best.
As a registered dietitian, I have some expert tips for you to learn how to eat with intention, starting with your next meal.
Let’s begin with what eating with intention means.
What does eating with intention mean?
Eating with intention starts with knowing what is important to you.
Healthy eating can mean many different things; for you, it might mean eating more fruits and vegetables or nourishing your body throughout your pregnancy. You could be training for a marathon, staying hydrated, or learning to manage your IBS.
Eating with intention starts with knowing your top priorities and then taking action to meet them.
It is about taking the time to plan ahead, eating mindfully in the moment, and being aware of why and how you eat. And: having a plan B. I’ll explain the how after we cover your whys.
Start with your priorities
We can all relate to a to-do list that is longer than a CVS receipt but not everything on that list can be the top priority at the same time. And the top priorities can rotate, depending on what is happening in a given week.
It is important to get specific about what your priorities are for this chapter of your life because that is the foundation of what eating mindfully will mean for you.
You can’t have a plan to accomplish your goals without a clear understanding of what they actually are.
Some weeks, your work schedule might be more demanding than others. In those weeks, convenience might be king. Other weeks could be more leisurely, so you have the bandwidth to prepare more meals from scratch.
True health and wellness is flexible! Your measure of success can ebb and flow based on your availability to work on your goals. Your expectations for success can be different on different days.
Once you know what your goals and priorities are, how can we put them into action? Here are my top 6 tips for eating with intention.
Eating with intention means being more present while eating. While we all eat in front of our computers sometimes or enjoy dinner on the couch, we could all also benefit from a few screen-free minutes to truly tune into the meal at hand.
Having fewer distractions helps us to better tune into our hunger and fullness cues. It also provides the opportunity to be more satisfied with our meal; we can more fully appreciate a delicious dinner when we pay close attention to it. That chocolate brownie for dessert will be even more delightful if you aren’t scrolling on social media while nibbling on it.
When you can, eat without distractions so that you can truly focus on the experience of eating.
Add more color
No matter what your nutritional priorities are, most adults in the US could benefit from more fruits and veggies.
With more fruits and veggies, your plate is sure to cultivate a rainbow of colors. Not only is this meal more beautiful, but it also offers your brain and body a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals to nourish you from head to foot.
If your plate is looking bland and uninspiring; add some color!
Stack your nutrients
Our body feels best when we have a mixture of macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
When we nourish ourselves with well-balanced meals and snacks, we are able to conquer our day with more energy and a better mood to boot.
Aim to have at least two macros at each snack. An easy example of this is an apple (carbs) paired with peanut butter (protein + fat). At meals, try to include all three macros most of the time.
When you plan your meals with intention, you feel better!
Enjoy your food, too.
It is still far too common to think about nutrition in terms of deprivation: less fat, less sugar, fewer calories. I'd love to change that narrative!
As a dietitian, I have studied how each vitamin and mineral is important to the health of our body. Just as important? Our relationship with our meals and the why behind why we picked something (or skipped something else).
Food is allowed to offer satisfaction and comfort - and it should! You should never force yourself to eat veggies you don't like. Please don’t feel guilty for enjoying a dessert of chips, either.
Have a plan B
It is important to have a plan A to eat with your specific goals and preferences in mind. This is foundational to eating with intention: what’s the goal and how are we going to get there?
But things happen: the day can go sideways without any notice – yikes!
It is also necessary to have some backups ready if plan A has gone off the rails. This way, you’re still eating satisfying and nutritious meals.
This is one of the best tips I can offer. Batch cooking means taking some time to prep food for the week ahead. It can be as simple as prepping your lunch or dinner ingredients in advance to save you time during the week. Or batch cooking can mean fully cooking a few dinners to warm up during the week.
When you have food prepped in advance, the choice that matches your goals is the easy choice - it is ready to go!
Nourish is here to help
Navigating nutrition goals and finding the right plan can be challenging, but a registered dietitian can help! With the right nutrition partner, you’ll feel more present and intentional with each meal and snack. If you’re wondering what to expect at a nutrition appointment, this post explains What to Expect in your First Appointment with a Dietitian.
At Nourish, we help people just like you achieve health and wellness through virtual, personalized nutrition counseling. Our services are covered by insurance and 100% remote. Click here to get in touch and book an appointment today!
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