The American diet is rich in high-sodium foods and, between processed foods and eating out, we are often getting much more than we need. Some say salt is a substitute for the flavor that used to exist when we consumed fresh, locally-grown produce. Though an easy way to flavor food, salt is a cheap and rather pedestrian flavoring agent.
Excess salt is a danger to the body and the brain. It can raise blood pressure, risk of heart attack and stroke, put a strain on your kidneys, and more. Did you know it can also lead to over-eating and cause weight gain?
Here are some tips to enjoy satisfying flavor in our foods, without added salt.
- Huddle up with herbs. What cuisines do you enjoy – Italian, Mexican, French, Indian? Choose some herbs that fit the flavor profiles and add them to your dish. For example, oregano, rosemary, and basil are go-to Italian herbs for elevating your pasta dish.
- Citrus zest and juices. Grate the skin of organic lemons, limes, or oranges for sweet and/or savory meals. Spritz fresh lime onto your tacos or lemon into a lentil soup.
- Roasted root vegetables. Lightly toss your favorite root vegetables (such as beets, parsnips, etc) in melted coconut oil and roast at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until tender, turning over once halfway through roasting.
- Eat slowly. Chewing your food well breaks down the carbohydrates, making it taste sweeter. Slowing down while eating introduces your tastebuds to the complex flavors in your food and makes for a more pleasurable meal experience.
- Caramelized onions. Sauté diced onions in some olive oil, stirring frequently until browned (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). Use in a French onion soup or on rice dishes, burgers or veggie burgers, omelets, and more!
- Organic food can be more flavorful. Try some organic strawberries or eggs and see if you can tell a difference between them and their conventional counterparts.
- De-glaze the pan. By simply using some balsamic vinegar, which combines with those sticky brown bits in your cooking pan, you can make a delicious sauce.
- Spice it up. Cumin adds a depth of flavor to a number of dishes, as does adobo, curry powder and even nutmeg.
Evaluate your salt consumption and then challenge yourself to incorporate one or more of these ideas. Your tastebuds and body will appreciate it.
1. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you set your eyes upon a prepared feast. Take a deep breath and ask yourself how much food you’ll need to feel satisfied. Your surroundings, mood, stress and hunger levels will influence your answer. Be mindful.
2. Restricting one’s self takes a lot of willpower and brainpower, which can pull focus away from enjoying a meal together and spending time with loved ones. Take time for conversation, slow down, relax, savor your food, and listen to your body’s response.
3. The holidays are marketed as ‘special’ and ‘limited time only’, which makes it so we often believe this is our only chance to eat certain foods. This causes thoughts of scarcity and deprivation, which can easily lead to over-indulging, just to ‘get it while it lasts’! Remember, you can have these special foods again – ask for the recipe, go back for a second helping, have leftovers. This helps with staying mindful while enjoying our food and the holiday celebration.
4. Identify a few things that really make the holidays for you. For some it’s visiting the zoo lights and hot chocolate, reading by the fire, or time with friends over a pastry and coffee. For us, the holidays come alive while baking cookies with family. Since this isn’t something we do during the rest of the year, it’s nostalgic and has a wonderful feeling of holiday celebration. Find the special treats that are an integral part of your holiday celebrations and take the time to mindfully savor them.
5. Hosting for the holidays? It’s easy to forget to eat while cleaning the house, bathing the dog, and running errands; however, skipping meals during the day can lead to intensified food cravings and overeating at night. Remember to check in with your body often to assess hunger level and have healthy snacks or meals on hand.
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Photo source: kids.nationalgeographic.com
Think about the last meal you ate today. What did this meal consist of? How long did it take you to eat it? Did you actually chew your food or mindlessly stuff your face?
When you take the time to Be with the food you are eating and truly enjoy it, you will get more out of your mealtime experience. Chewing your food is a first, major part of digestion that helps you to absorb the nutrients of the food better. The saliva released in the mouth helps to break down carbohydrate components of your meal; the mechanical action of chewing breaks the food down before it enters your stomach and the rest of the digestive tract. Improper chewing can lead to over-eating as well as bloating, gas, and other digestive issues.
Chewing also helps you to enjoy your food more. By noting the texture and colors on your plate, while mindfully tasting your meals, you will have a greater appreciation for your food.
Next time you sit down for a meal, count how many times you chew eat bite you take. Try to increase that number by 10 and once that feels normal, keep increasing. The slower you eat, the more benefits you will see!
For a majority of those living in the U.S., the action of eating is seen typically as a task– something usually done in the span of 10-15 minutes with the location often being in a car or in front of a screen. The three-plus meals a day are thrown down the hatch and often in such quantities as to cause discomfort about 20 minutes later along with the realization of having over-eaten. In times of stress or emotional unrest, eating is seen as a comforting activity. The good news: eating mindfully can start with the next meal. Here’s how:
- Eat your meals together – not only will this help maintain a cohesive family and social life but it gets everyone away from the pervasive screens of everyday life, at least during mealtime. Bring attention to the sight, textures, and taste of food while you converse and share with others.
- Check in with yourself to assess hunger level and then serve the amount of food needed to satiate. This improves connection between mind and body as an association is made with serving sizes and satiety levels.
- Reduce temptation to over-eat by serving meals in the kitchen and eating at the dining room, rather than keeping bowls and platters of food on the table. Try not to keep many leftovers as that can be a temptation for distracted eating later on in the day.
- Don’t be the food police. People have to learn for themselves how much food it takes to feel physically satisfied. It can be a challenge not to try to control, especially when trying to ‘help’ child stay thin or healthy. Often, when mealtimes and amounts are controlled, a child may resort to sneaking food and can develop unhealthy eating patterns later in life.
- Ask yourself important questions. Do you only eat healthily when trying to lose weight? Are children and friends hearing disparaging comments you make about your body? Do you feel ashamed when you choose certain foods or eat too much? If so, tackling these problems by enlisting the support of a health coach can help you create positive changes and prevent passing on these issues to other family members, especially children.
Mindfulness techniques, over time, will help establish emotional hunger versus physical hunger. Discover food intolerances and allergies by becoming more aware of how food makes you feel during this process as well.
We all want to be comfortable in our own skin. Be honest & compassionate towards yourself with the quality and quantity of foods you eat, as well as the motivation behind eating.