Published on July 23rd, 2018 | by TerraCycle
How Mindful Eating Helps the Environment
By now, you’ve probably heard of mindfulness: the process of being more present and aware of your thinking and emotions. Slowing down and taking it in can have psychological and physiological benefits, including weight loss, better nutrient absorption, easier digestion and stress relief, as well as help with the health of the planet. But have you thought about how mindful eating might also benefit the earth?
Eating mindfully with some or all of these simple tips is a good place to start for increased awareness of your connection with food, and its connection with the planet:
- Put down your utensils after every bite. Eat slowly and let your senses engage. This helps you focus on your food while slowing down the process of eating.
- Pause and take a breath. Connect with your body and think about the resources that went into producing, transporting and creating your meal.
- Allot time to savor. Carving out even one of your daily meals this way is beneficial.
- Eat without distractions. Turn off your technology or set it aside.
- Create an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere to combat mindless eating. A study conducted at Cornell University found that participants consumed fewer calories in restaurants with an ambient atmosphere compared to those who ate the same food in a fast food restaurant.
So how does this mindful eating practice help the environment? The meditation on eating is an awareness of our impacts and a curiosity for the ways we can nourish at less expense to the planet.
Mindful Eating at the Grocery Store
Saving the world starts with our consumption. Awareness of where food comes from, the impacts of its production can prompt more eco-friendly shopping habits. For example, not only has it been found that a plant-based diet has many health benefits, but offsets current impacts on the environment as the meat, dairy and egg industries are one of the most significant contributors to the carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions credited with climate change.
Mindful eating brings our awareness to the resources used to produce the food we consume, which we can use to lessen our intake of products that negatively impact the environment. Other ways you can exercise mindfulness at the store are to:
- Remember to bring reusable grocery bags to avoid those tough-to-recycle plastics.
- Think about your purchases to prevent impulse buys that might end up wasted.
- Pay attention and avoid products with excessive, often unrecyclable packaging, such as pre-chopped produce and individual portions of snacks.
- Consider the resources used if you rely on food delivery services or snack subscriptions. Could you lessen the high carbon emissions used in transporting these products by picking up them at your local grocery store yourself?
Mindful Eating at Home
Cooking and preparing your own meals and snacks is one of the best ways you can connect with your food, and the amount you really need. This prevents overeating, a symptom of mindlessness, and food waste. While most food waste produced in the U.S. is by companies, not consumers, everything you do to reduce influences brands to do better, and helps the planet and your wallet.
- Create and cook for portion sizes that work for your body and those you share your table with.
- That said, making big pots of healthy stews, broths and sides are a great way to save time to spend on other mindfulness practices. Freeze and save leftovers in durable, reusable containers.
- Leftover food and scraps can be composted at home or brought to your nearest drop-off.
- Recycle difficult-to-recycle packaging through TerraCycle’s free recycling programs or the easy to use Plastic Packaging Zero Waste Box.
- Sit down to eat, and ditch the disposable plates and utensils. Not only are durable, reusable alternatives investments in your mealtimes, they look nicer, too.
Mindful Eating when Dining Out
Restaurants and other eateries can be a treat, while eating on the on-the-go is often an unavoidable part of our busy lifestyles. Eating out can be a wasteful and mindless activity, or a pleasurable, wholesome one. The difference is taking the time to think about what you are eating and the privilege of the food experience with gratitude and compassion.
- Say no to single-use plastic straws before they come to you in your glass or to-go cup.
- The plastic bags and utensils that come with delivery and pick-up meals can be tricky. Keep a durable dish set in your desk at work, and ask for paper bags instead of plastic.
- Of course, taking the time to sit down and eat lunch, even if for a half an hour, cuts out some of the single use plastic and transport resources for a delivery or pick-up order.
Help the environment and yourself with this meditative practice. In a society where we are constantly bombarded with distractions, embrace the idea of less is more. It’s time we honor our food and our planet by slowing down, being present, and taking the time to savor.