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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey


Savoring the Present Moment: How to Add Mindfulness to Mealtime

Aug 31, 2023 09:30AM ● By Veronica Hinke

Asier Romero/

There is a sharp difference between grabbing a fast-food burger at the drive-through and paying full attention to a home-prepared meal. For many of us, busy schedules and harried lifestyles get in the way of a more introspective dining experience. Mindful eating—the practice of slowing down, appreciating the present moment and becoming consciously aware of the ingredients, flavors, aromas and textures that we consume—can be a worthwhile meditative endeavor. 

“If we’re mindful of what we eat, when we eat and how we eat, we are supporting the vibrancy of what our bodies are so capable of,” says Dr. Carrie Demers, medical director at the Himalayan Institute, in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. “Studies show that when people stop to sit down and chew their food carefully, they not only eat less, but they actually get more enjoyment out of their meal. Food tastes better when we are actually present with it.”

“When we slow down, we become more aware,” says Shawngela Pierce of Seek Within You, who leads spiritual retreats in Sedona, Arizona. “Sometimes people eat out of habit, but when we become more mindful, we start to notice patterns that, once understood, can help us harness a whole new way of eating and living.”

Mindfulness can begin before we even sit at the dining room table, “when we aren’t distracted by watching television or something else, and we take the time to think deeply about what we are preparing,” Pierce says, adding that calm focus can even help us when shopping for ingredients at the farmers market or grocery store.

Recipes That Enrich Mindful Eating

The Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute, in Aguada, Puerto Rico, offers a mindful eating class that invites diners to practice with a bowl of Ann Wigmore’s Energy Soup—a recipe by the institute's founder containing an array of vegetables, legumes and grains. “It’s fulfilling, nutritious and cleansing, all in one,” says Executive Director Carolyn Marin. “Key in what makes this a mindful eating meal is that while it is pulsed in a blender, it is not a liquid, and it requires chewing. Also, it is served at room temperature, which helps with mindful eating and proper digestion.”

While soft music plays in the background, students of the mindful eating class are instructed to slowly pick up their spoons, place a serving of soup in their mouths, set their spoons down and unhurriedly chew 30 times. “They look out at the ocean, breathing carefully, eating consciously and slowly, taking their time and getting their body out of fight-or-flight mode and into healing mode. It can be very emotional,” Marin explains. “Mindful eating also aids in digestion because the person is chewing the food fully and allowing it to spend more time in the mouth, where digestion begins. Many of our guests have experienced noticeable improvement with acid reflux, stomach aches and nausea.”

Four Aspects of Mindful Eating

Marc Demers, head chef at The Himalayan Institute, says there are four aspects of mindful eating—right food, right time, right quantity and right attitude or environment—each of which can be individualized and honed to deepen awareness and improve health. Here are his recommendations.

Right Food: Eat fresh, whole foods that are easy to digest and give energy. We need mindfulness to notice which foods support us and which cause indigestion, mucus or fatigue.

Right Time: Our bodies naturally digest better in the daytime and when we feel hunger. Stop eating at least three hours prior to bedtime. We need mindfulness to notice the difference in digestion between eating ice cream at 3 p.m. and at 11 p.m.

Right Quantity: Eat just the right amount of food—enough to feel satisfied and fuel the day’s activities, but not so much that we feel lethargic or sleepy. Mindfulness helps us notice our hunger and fullness, as well as how we feel after we eat.

Right Attitude or Environment: Sit down in a peaceful place, ideally with people we like, rather than eating while driving, working or walking. Don't eat when stressed or angry. If we are upset, it is better to take a moment to mindfully breathe and calm the nervous system before eating. The goal is to welcome the food with gratitude and openness. 

Take It Slow and Steady

For those struggling to commit to mindful eating, Pierce says, “Start practicing mindful eating with the food that you enjoy the most. Don’t try to do it all at once. Just try one meal each week as a start. Make it a priority. Set a reminder if it helps. Have fun with it. Make it a playful practice. Say, ‘Today is going to be my mindful eating day.’ That opens the gateway to something that will become an integral part of your spiritual life.”

Veronica Hinke is a food historian and author of The Last Night on the Titanic: Unsinkable Drinking, Dining and Style and Titanic: The Official Cookbook. Learn more at

Recipes That Promote Mindfulness:

pPhoto by Himalayan Institutebrp

Hearty Quinoa Salad

A hearty and mindful dish packed with fresh chopped vegetables. Read More » 


pPhoto by Carolyn Marinbrp

Greek Orzo and Chickpea Salad

This recipe by Vincci Tsui, a dietician and intuitive eating counselor, in Calgary, Canada, can inspire mindfulness because it requires chopping, dicing and cubing ingredients, which can ... Read More » 


pPhoto by Vincci Tsuibrp

Ann Wigmore’s Energy Soup

This soup has several properties that facilitate mindful eating and is served at room temperature. Read More » 


Tick Talk

Spring officially sprung on March 21. We have turned our clocks ahead. We are looking forward to warm winds, sunny skies and the smell of fresh cut grass. The daffodils and tulips have recently bloomed and we are just starting with the yard work that comes with the warmer weather.  Sadly, another season has started ramping up.  Tick season.

•             The best form of protection is prevention. Educating oneself about tick activity and how our behaviors overlap with tick habitats is the first step.

•             According to the NJ DOH, in 2022 Hunterdon County led the state with a Lyme disease incidence rate of 426 cases per 100,000 people. The fact is ticks spend approximately 90% of their lives not on a host but aggressively searching for one, molting to their next stage or over-wintering. This is why a tick remediation program should be implemented on school grounds where NJ DOH deems high risk for tick exposure and subsequent attachment to human hosts.

•             Governor Murphy has signed a bill that mandates tick education in NJ public schools. See this for the details.  Tick education must now be incorporated into K-12 school curriculum. See link:

•             May is a great month to remind the public that tick activity is in full swing. In New Jersey, there are many tickborne diseases that affect residents, including Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Powassan, and Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiosis.

•             For years, the focus has mainly been about protecting ourselves from Lyme disease. But other tick-borne diseases are on the rise in Central Jersey. An increase of incidence of Babesia and Anaplasma are sidelining people too. These two pathogens are scary because they effect our blood cells. Babesia affects the red blood cells and Anaplasma effects the white blood cells.

•             Ticks can be infected with more than one pathogen. When you contract Lyme it is possible to contract more than just that one disease. This is called a co-infection. It is super important to pay attention to your symptoms. See link.

A good resource from the State:


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