The Basics of Mindful Eating

We've all experienced it: a stressful day at work or school that leads you to crave your favorite comfort food (for me, that's definitely dark chocolate). It's days like these, where I find myself stress-easting, that I have to remind myself to eat mindfully – an exercise in mindfulness that can help improve our relationships with food.

The Basics of Mindful Eating
Rachel Maloy, 2020-21 Dietetic Intern
Friday, August 19, 2022

Savoring the Sensations

We've all experienced it: a stressful day at work or school that leads you to crave your favorite comfort food (for me, that's definitely dark chocolate). It's days like these, where I find myself stress-easting, that I have to remind myself to eat mindfully – an exercise in mindfulness that can help improve our relationships with food.

Mindful eating helps remind us that food is both something to enjoy and nourish our body. By bringing our attention to our bodies and our food – and away from screens and work – we can learn how to eat all over again.

Individuals taking a bite out of a slice of watermelon.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice based in Zen Buddhism that has been used to treat chronic stress, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other issues. It emphasizes being non-judgemental and paying attention to your internal sensations and external environment through meditation. This involves self-awareness and acceptance.

What is Mindful Eating?

The practice of mindful eating applies mindfulness to food by eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full, paying attention to your five senses while eating and preparing food, and making purposeful food choices.

Mindless Eating

The opposite of mindful eating is mindless eating. This includes making choices about food without considering what your body needs; eating because you are bored, sad, or stressed; and eating while multitasking (most often in front of a screen or while working).

Mindful Eating vs. Mindless Eating
Mindful Eating Mindless Eating
Conscious, intentional choices Thoughtless food choices
Eating in response to physical cues (i.e., hunger. fullness) Eating in response to emotional cues (e.g., boredom, sadness)
Focusing on senses Multitasking while eating (e.g., watching TV)

How can I practice Mindful Eating?

While you do not need to eat mindfully at every meal, it may be helpful to start by making one meal a day your "Mindful Meal" and following the steps below.


Before you begin preparing food, take a moment to focus on your internal sense of hunger – if you are hungry, then begin your meal preparation.

  • However, do not wait until you are uncomfortably hungry to begin preparing food – feeling ravenous often causes us to choose quick-to-prepare foods that are higher in fat, sugar, and/or sodium and can also lead to overeating.


Choose your food with your body's needs in mind; food should be nourishing but also enjoyable!

  • Try starting with the recommended serving size and allow yourself seconds if you are still hungry after finishing.
  • Aim to make most of the foods in your diet nutrient dense (high in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals) but don't restrict foods of low nutrient density, as this can make you feel deprived.


Try taking small bites and chewing each bite thoroughly. Allow yourself to pay close attention to your five senses as you eat.

Consider the following questions:

  • What colors and shapes do I see on my plate?
  • What aromas can I sense?
  • When I take a bite, do I hear anything (e.g., crunching)?
  • What is the texture of the food in my mouth?
  • What flavors do I taste?
  • What is the temperature of the food?
  • Can I sense all of the different ingredients in the food?
  • How does the food feel as I swallow it?


Do not judge yourself or others when you like or dislike a certain food.

  • Instead, take a moment to be grateful for your meal and think about your appreciation for those who prepared it (including yourself!).

Why should I try Mindful Eating?

Research has shown many benefits of mindful eating. For instance, after training people on how to eat mindfully, their diet and eating behaviors often improve (e.g., eating fewer sweets, a decrease in emotional eating). Additionally, although the purpose of mindful eating is not weight loss, practicing mindful eating may support weight loss efforts. Lastly, mindful eating is associated with improved mental health outcomes and training individuals on how to eat mindfully has helped improve their stress, anxiety, and depression levels.

Eating a pizza in an outdoor cafe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be eating healthy foods to practice mindful eating?

No, mindful eating can be applied to any food you eat. Food is meant to be enjoyed and mindful eating can help us feel satisfied with smaller portions of low-nutrient-density foods.

Won't I get bored of eating if I don't have the TV (or phone, computer, etc.) in front of me?

While it may feel a little different at first, mindful eating helps us enjoy our food more and offers a great excuse to eat dinner with others and spark conversation.

Are children able to practice mindful eating?

Yes! Many children enjoy practicing mindful eating and love to explore their food through their senses. In addition, teaching children to honor their feelings of hunger and fullness can help prevent excess weight gain.

What's the difference between mindful eating and intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is a broader food philosophy that encourages giving yourself unconditional permission to eat while respecting your hunger and fullness cues. In addition, intuitive eating emphasizes honoring your body's physical needs with gentle nutrition. Mindful eating is often utilized in intuitive eating practices.

Won't my meal take longer when I practice mindful eating?

Yes, your meal may take a few minutes longer to eat while practicing mindful eating. If you don't have much time, try eating mindfully for the first five minutes of your meal.


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The center for mindful eating.

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