An assortment of different grilled healthy foods like salmon and vegetables like corn.

How to Practice Mindful Eating and Mindful Grilling

At BBQ Outlets, we like to focus on the importance of mental health of our employees, partners, and customers. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (#MIAW) back in 1990, so we thought this was the perfect time to introduce you to mindful eating and mindful cooking/grilling. This article will talk about the importance of mindfulness on our mental health, what the benefits of mindful eating and mindful cooking/grilling are, and give you tips on how to practice mindful eating and grilling, even if you’re an incredibly busy person.

The Importance of Mindfulness on Mental Health

You probably have heard that managing your diet and developing healthy eating habits can help improve your mental health, but did you know that cooking and eating can be done mindfully too?

Friends at a dining room table outside and laughing while eating food.

Mindfulness is an important skill to aid in mental health but many find it challenging to implement in our always-on-the-go world. Mindfulness gives us the chance to slow down and experience what is happening in the here and now, rather than ruminating on past events or getting anxious about the future.

Not only is it a good way to lessen anxiety and depressive symptoms, but mindfulness can also help us experience gratitude. This leads to an overall sense of fulfillment and appreciation of life and what is happening around us. Many people find that integrating mindfulness for even just a few minutes a day positively impacts their mental health over time.

What Is Mindful Eating and Cooking?

At its core, mindful cooking and eating is the practice of remaining present while preparing and/or consuming your meal. Since we all have to eat, mindful eating can be an efficient and relatively easy way for a busy person to begin to integrate mindfulness into their life. The practice brings awareness to your thoughts and feelings as you fuel your body, allowing yourself to fully process the experience instead of mindlessly preparing your food and quickly scarfing it down. It is not about restricting or judging, but it is instead about observing every aspect of the experience.

Benefits of Mindful Eating and Cooking

Mindful eating can be especially beneficial for people who have a difficult relationship with food. It gives you the opportunity to appreciate the act of eating as a necessity for survival, rather than focusing on the negative connotations that abound in our society surrounding managing your diet. It also gives you a moment to pause, really slow things down, and give yourself a much needed (and deserved!) break from the busy day while connecting with your current environment.

People sitting around a wooden table eating food outside and are passing a bowl of salad around.

Many people might not realize that cooking and eating food is a form of self-care. Mindful cooking can lead to you enjoying your meal more, because you’re more aware of the effort and care you put into making it. It can make cooking feel less like a chore, and in our opinion, grillin’ should never feel like a chore!

Many people might not realize that cooking and eating food is a form of self-care. Mindful cooking can lead to you enjoying your meal more, because you’re more aware of the effort and care you put into making it. It can make cooking feel less like a chore, and in our opinion, grillin’ should never feel like a chore!

Taking the time to be present during these activities serves as a reminder that you are worthy of self-care, nourishment, satisfaction, and joy. Eating slower is also beneficial for our digestive system, so mindful eating can be helpful in slowing you down. You’re also less likely to overeat if you are mindful of every bite you take and listen to whether or not your body is actually still hungry.

Additionally, the more we practice mindfulness, the more natural it is for us to practice it in other aspects of our lives. In other words, once mindful cooking and eating becomes a habit for you, it will be a lot easier (and feel more natural) for you to do things like mindfully exercise, mindfully enjoy time in nature, mindfully engage in a conversation with a friend, or participate in other mindfulness practices. Studies have shown that the benefits of mindfulness build over time, too, so the more you practice it, the more it can help you.

Tips on How to Practice Mindful Cooking and Eating

1. Use your senses to focus on the task

Pay attention to all of the details of preparing your meal using each of your senses. For example, you can focus on the sound of the knife against the chopping board and the aromas released when you cut into your ingredients. Observe how the meat looks as it sits in the marinade. Watch how the textures change as you stir up your sauces.

Cuts of grilled turkey steak on a grill with grill marks on the side of the cut facing up.

When you get outside, what do you hear and feel when you fire up the grill? Listen to the sizzle of the steak hitting the grill’s grates. Take in the smell of the charcoal that’s heating your food. Watch the smoke disperse into the air above you. Do you feel a cool breeze on a warm night? Can you hear or see the neighbors grilling out too? What else is happening?

Experience the texture and temperature of the food with each bite. Chew carefully to see what flavors you can taste and observe what part of your tongue you taste them in.

2. Redirect your focus if you find your mind wandering off

You may catch your mind wandering off from time to time. That is absolutely normal and it even happens to people who are advanced in the practice of mindfulness. Instead of dwelling on whatever you were thinking about, try bringing your focus back to the task at hand using your five senses. Try not to judge yourself if you find yourself lost in other thoughts because it happens to everyone!

3. Put away the electronics

Mindfulness is about getting away from multi-tasking, so put away your phone, sit at the dinner table instead of in front of the television, and focus on your dining experience. This might not feel very natural if you’re used to multi-tasking all the time, but the easiest way to focus is to remove the most obvious distractions from our immediate reach.

4. Try something new

It might be easier to make observations if you are experiencing eating in a way that is different from normal. For instance, try a new food, texture, or flavor. Try putting a different marinade, seasoning, or glaze on your meat than you normally would. Try eating with your non-dominant hand or with utensils you wouldn’t normally use for that food (chopsticks, for instance). Observe what this new experience is like for you.

5. Don’t give up!

Grilling mindfully and mindful eating are not going to come naturally, so be sure to integrate this practice every day if possible. Just know that some days it might be harder than others, and that is perfectly okay.

In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week, BBQ Outlets is donating 1% of all sales from October 3 through October 10, 2021, to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Shop BBQOutlets.com now to contribute to a good cause, and then let us know how your mindful grilling and eating went by reaching out to us on social media!

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