Are you officially part of the "over-rushed" adult population? The group of people who never seem to have enough time in the day to complete that long list of tasks, let alone sit down at a table to eat?
If your goal is to get—or stay—healthy and lean, one of the most effective steps you can take is to slow down at meal time.
Rushing through meals has had a negative effect on the waistlines—and health—of people worldwide. A 2006 study out of Japan found a correlation between fast-eating and increased body mass index and adult weight gain. What's more, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found a possible link between eating quickly and type 2 diabetes.
While it may seem intuitive that a "quick bite" would cause us to eat less, mindless speed-eating actually does the opposite: We eat more. It's possible to correct your speed-eating habits by making a handful of simple changes, including putting your fork down between bites.
- Chew each bite 20 or more times. This simple-sounding tip is tougher than you might think. The trick is to be mindful, purposeful and tenacious. Chewing slowly will help you reduce the amount of food you eat (or times you overeat) and improve gastrointestinal hormone responses as well. In fact, a 2011 study found that extra chewing significantly reduced calorie intake and lowered plasma levels of ghrelin, the hormone that tells you to eat more.
- Eat slower by no longer shoveling food into your mouth, bite after bite. Instead, put down your fork between bites. Take a drink of water. Enjoy conversation and the people around you. Shoveling is for snow, not food.
- Eat at a table, without distractions like the television. If you want to connect with those in your household, eat slower, and improve your health and your children's food choices, try family dinners at a table with no distractions.
- Savor the flavor. Think about the food you're eating and the healthful ingredients in it. The more real, whole foods you eat, the more you'll be able to savor your healthy, tasty choices. Thinking through ingredients often makes you want to choose nourishing ones and omit foods with chemicals and junk ingredients. Who wants to spend their dinner thinking about Blue dye #20?
- Make it a bit tougher. Ever wonder why some people tend to overeat less than others? Or even why children take so long to eat? Our utensils have made the whole "shoveling" food habit a little too easy. Instead, make it tougher (using utensils is hard for kids). Try chopsticks; you'll likely eat slower.
- While slowing down, make yourself aware of how full you are (or aren't). When you start to feel full, put down your fork, wait a few minutes, and then decide if you really want more or not. If you are part of the "clean-plate" club, save your leftovers for lunch. The next time, give yourself smaller portions. If needed, have a glass of water, sit for five minutes, and then decide if you want more.
- Keep the extras in the kitchen. Family-style dinner service (like the picture above), in which all the foods are on the table and passed around is fun, but should be reserved for special occasions. For everyday dinners, fill your plate and then take it to the table, while leaving any extra behind in the kitchen. You'll be less likely to dig into unintended "seconds" if you have to get up and walk to another room to get them.
Healthier meals are as much about the actual, physical eating of the food as the food you eat. Make sit-down, undistracted dinners a priority. By slowing down, you may just be able to speed up on the bike, run, skis and climbs this year.
Stay healthy with our nutrition guide.