Food is fundamental to all life. It is basic to survival, meets security needs, can be used as a gift or reward, involves pride in preparation, and food can help us express our creativity through its innovative use and new recipes.
Besides being nutritious, food plays many different roles in our lives. Food is used to support religious and spiritual traditions, rituals, and ceremonies. For many of us, the type of foods we eat is dependent on where we live and what is available at any particular time. The ability to eat certain foods is also dependent on what financial resources we may (or may not) have since some foods are more expensive than others. Finally, certain foods (such as herbs) may be eaten for medical purposes while others (such as cake or candies) may be used for special occasions.
Food is often associated with emotions like happiness, warmth, anger, or tension and it can also be used as a relaxation technique, especially when people are under stress. Luke Seaward, a noted expert in stress management, says “food and mood go together like peanut butter and jelly.”
When you think about the foods you choose to eat and the methods in which you eat those foods, consider the following guidelines to help maximize the ways in which food can help you nourish your body, mind, and soul:
- Eat a variety of foods of all colors. Choose a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. This “rainbow diet” can enhance the immune system, prevent cancer, and improve health.
- Eat smaller portions. Many of us live in a “supersize” culture that encourages the use of big dinner plates, giant soft drink containers, and meals designed for three people instead of one. Eating less means using smaller serving plates and cups and learning easy ways to judge portion size. For example, a 4-ounce serving of protein is the size of a fist; a cup of grain is the size of the palm of one’s hand; and leafy greens can be eaten in any portion.
- Take time when eating. The body needs 30 minutes or so to realize it is full. When we eat quickly, we tend to overeat and our body’s natural satiation response doesn’t have time to kick in. Take time to chew your food thoroughly, be aware of your food’s texture and taste, and enjoy your dining companions.
- Choose a locally grown, organic diet that supports sustainable agriculture, humane practices, and is more plant-based and less animal-based. A plant-based, organic diet is better for your health and better for the health of the planet. This type of diet requires fewer dangerous pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones and it supports the humane treatment of farm animals. It also results in fewer harmful chemicals (such as methane or carbon emissions) being released into the environment from industrial farms and long-distance food transportation.
- Drink plenty of water to cleanse the body. People often misread the body’s thirst as hunger pangs. People who drink a glass of water before a meal tend to eat less.
- Get plenty of sunlight and fresh air. Try eating outdoors. Dining “al fresco” (especially with friends) always makes the food taste better!
- Be fully present while eating, noting the taste, texture, temperature, and origin of the food. Being present is easier if eating is social, and takes place in the company of others (not alone or while doing other things). Meals are traditionally a social experience, taking place with family and friends whose company we enjoy. It’s important not to eat in front of the TV or while driving, answering emails, or working on the computer. Multitasking tends to make individuals eat more than they would if they were with others or relaxing and present during a meal.
Try these suggestions and see how you can improve the ways in which you “nourish” your body, mind, and soul. If you do, you just may find that you feel healthier and more connected to others and the food you eat.
For more information, check out our Certificate in Food, Nutrition, and Health or Certificate in Nutrition, Chronic Disease, and Health Promotion.