Op-Ed: The “Slow Down and Enjoy” Diet: Choose mindful eating over fad diets

Marjorie Lanier, MPH – Health Educator

Bring up diets with friends, family or colleagues, and you’ll hear a million reasons why one is better than another. Diets tend to place foods into distinct categories—good vs. bad, permitted vs. forbidden– and focus on the mistakes we make with our eating. If the “food-shaming” approach works so well, then why do we oscillate between the “fad diet du jour” with such frequency?

National Nutrition Month 2016 logo
National Nutrition Month 2016: Savor the Flavor of Eating Right

March is National Nutrition Month®. I was thrilled to learn that this year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which encourages individuals to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives. In fact, it’s not a diet at all. It’s a conscious choice that we make to slow down and taste and enjoy the food we’re eating completely. It also challenges us to consider how the foods we’re eating can add to our health in a positive way. For example, when we choose to take bites of nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables versus food-like substances out of a box, we might consider the sustained energy it is giving our bodies or its ability to help protect against heart attack, stroke or even some types of cancers.

Some refer to this approach of eating as “mindful eating.” Mindful eating means eating with intention and attention. It reminds us to choose foods that provide nourishment and also pay attention to what is happening around us and inside of us that can influence our eating. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shares these tips for becoming more mindful eaters and enjoying healthy foods:

  • How, when, why and where we eat are just as important as what we eat. Enjoying the sights, sounds, memories and interactions associated with eating is essential to developing an overall healthy eating plan.
  • Develop a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods, while also taking the time to enjoy everything that a healthful and tasty meal brings with it. That’s the best way to savor the flavor of eating right!
  • It is possible to enjoy the taste and flavor of food while still maintaining a healthy diet. Take time to enjoy food traditions and find creative, healthful and nutritious ways to add flavor to food. An eating pattern based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate recommendations can accommodate the food preferences, cultural traditions and customs of many diverse groups.
  • A registered dietitian nutritionist can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.

Eatright.org includes helpful articles, recipes, videos and educational resources to spread the message of good nutrition and an overall healthy lifestyle for people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Consumers are also encouraged to follow National Nutrition Month on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics social media channels including Facebook and Twitter using the #NationalNutritionMonth hashtag.

Photo of a happy family at meal-time.
Take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives.