Benefits of Eating Mindfully with a Focus on Optimal Nutrition

Lynn Smythe
Jan 10, 2022

Contributing writer Lynn Smythe is the Founder of the Senior Health and Wellness community on Quora where she writes about various senior lifestyle and healthy living topics.

Mindfulness is a philosophy that places an emphasis on being present in the moment and helps you discover the value of living your life with purpose. You can apply this philosophy to many aspects of your life including diet and nutrition. 

And, although practicing mindfulness while eating isn’t a diet plan, it can help you make healthier food choices. An intentional eating diet helps you let go of unhealthy eating habits and focusing on optimal nutrition solutions may even help regulate certain age-related chronic health conditions like high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, or high blood pressure.

What is Mindful Eating?

Diet plans, fad diets, and restrictive calorie diets usually aren’t that successful. While you may drop a lot of weight at first, many dieters report gaining back some or all the weight once they stop following the plan.

Mindful eating, or intuitive eating, is a way to consciously think about eating rather than following a particular nutrition program or focusing on restricting calories. The main goal of an intentional eating diet is to contemplate what you are about to eat. 

Harvard University School of Public Health says, “mindful eating focuses on your eating experiences, body-related sensations, and thoughts and feelings about food, with heightened awareness and without judgment.” The goal is to promote a positive experience for a more enjoyable mealtime and not mindlessly ingesting great quantities of food. 

Focusing on each item you put in your mouth can help provide focus and clarity. It can also potentially prevent you from binge eating – you know when you eat an entire bag of red licorice or Pepperidge Farms Mint Milano cookies in a single evening.

How to Practice Mindful Eating

One of the main mindful eating practices is to avoid multitasking while eating – put down your phone, turn off the TV, and get away from being on auto-pilot. Mindful eating places an emphasis on paying attention to your food as you buy it, prepare it, and eat it. Think about what you are eating, what the food looks like, its texture, how it tastes and how it smells. 

Mindful eating focuses your attention and can help regulate your emotions, lower stress and decrease anxiety. “It’s not coincidental that, within a mindful approach, the person’s choices often are to eat less and savor eating more, and select foods consistent with desirable health benefits” says Joseph Nelson in his article Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat.

You might want to start using a food journal to help you keep track of everything you eat. Tracking your food intake includes everything from breakfast to between-meal snacks and that handful of chips you grabbed on your way out the door. You’ll probably be surprised at how much you actually eat on a daily basis once you start writing it down. 

Kick Start Your Mindful Eating Plan

If you are at a loss on how to start eating mindfully on your own, there are many non-diet weight-control programs and apps that help you track the food you eat. Noom, Weight Watchers, and Jenny Craig are just a few organizations that cover mindful eating topics on their blog with an emphasis on making behavioral changes to the way you eat. 

Before you take a bite of food, ask yourself if you are really hungry, or are you just bored? 

Mindful eating do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t eat standing up
  • Don’t eat while you’re distracted
  • Don’t multitask or watch TV while eating 
  • Don’t forget mindfulness when eating out with friends
  • Do eat more fiber
  • Do savor your food
  • Do practice portion control
  • Do mind your carbs
  • Do take a shopping list with you to the grocery store

Follow along as we discuss a few optimal nutrition tips and suggestions for seniors. 

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Healthy Eating for Older Adults

Your metabolism slows down as you age. Focusing on optimal nutrition choices is a great way to adapt a healthy lifestyle for active adults. Choose nutrient-dense and nutrient-packed foods, drink plenty of water, eat a varied diet and stay physically active. And, fat is not the enemy, in fact, healthier fats such as avocado oil or EVOO are fine in limited amounts. 

Try to avoid eating between meals but choose healthy snacks such as carrot sticks, low-fat yogurt, or a handful of trail mix when you’re feeling hungry. You’ll also want to try to limit the amount of processed and prepared foods you eat. They are typically high in sodium, have added sugars, and are filled with unhealthy saturated fats.

A healthy diet for older adults should include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Lean meat, poultry, fish
  • Eggs, nuts, beans

Adjust these dietary suggestions if you are lactose intolerant, follow a gluten-free nutrition plan, or have other dietary restrictions. Healthy nutrition plan variations can also be created if you follow a specific dietary program such as vegan, vegetarian, or low-sodium.

Your Optimal Nutrition Plan for Life

When you think of a healthy diet for older adults, do you automatically think of a calorie-restricted meal plan that has a ton of limitations on what you can and can’t eat? The goal of a perfect nutrition plan for people over 65 is making healthier eating choices, not necessarily losing weight.

Optimal nutrition includes things such as emphasizing plant foods, reducing the consumption of red meat, focusing on healthy fats and carbs, and eating more whole foods and less processed foods. 

Get ready to empower yourself to live your best life! Mindful eating and optimal nutrition is a plan you can follow forever. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you and you might even notice a change in your waistline and clothes that fit better. 

Additional Reading

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