Improving the Way We Eat

Our ancestors pretty much had a universal eating schedule. Everyone ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at about the same time everyday. And, there wasn’t all the snacking between meals that we have nowadays. Families sat down together to share a relaxed home-cooked meal usually at breakfast and dinner. It was quality family time when they discussed the news of the day and interacted while eating the same kind of food. Because the nature of our bodies is to “rest and digest”, the body likes to be relaxed, inactive and in a peaceful environment when assimilating food. Proper assimilation of the nutrients in food is essential to health, and if we want this assimilation to take place, we need to be calmer when we sit down to meals.

Today, everyone has a different schedule and so individual meals happen at different times for different people, even within a family. Now kids eat prepackaged microwave dinners because both parents are working and have no time to prepare home-cooked meals. Dad grabs a burger and fries and Mom eats a salad when she gets time. Every food has a different energy so is it any wonder that the family has difficulty relating to each other later in the evening?

Find your perfect schedule:
Time of day determines how well our bodies assimilate food. In India, Ayurvedic philosophy suggests that people eat their biggest meal in the middle of the day because it’s the best time for our bodies to take in and digest a large meal. This practice is very common for people in Europe also. Businesses close and everyone goes home to eat a meal with their family. The American culture is not geared for this, but it is possible for us to eat our larger meal in the middle of the day, just not together. However, you may feel better eating your larger meal in the evening, in which case, that’s what you should do. There is no ‘best’ way for everyone to eat; it’s an individual choice. Experiment with the size and timing of your meals and see how you feel after each. Your body will tell you what is best for you. One thing most health practitioners agree on is that you should avoid eating right before bed because digestion slows when we are sleeping.

Learn to relax:
Many Americans suffer from a wide range of digestive disorders, from acid reflux to irritable bowel syndrome and more. These conditions are connected not just to what we eat, but how we eat it. We eat on the run, at our desks, while watching TV or reading, during meetings, in the car or while playing video games. What most people don’t realize is that we absorb our surroundings as we eat and if these are stressful, we are not digesting our food properly. Also, we eat too fast and don’t realize when we’re full until we are overstuffed. This overeating in stressful conditions can lead to chronic health problems. Sharing meals with family in a relaxed atmosphere has a positive effect on everyone’s health, and also makes the family more cohesive. Whether you’re a single person or part of a family unit, try eating in a calmer, quieter, more loving atmosphere and notice the difference this makes in your energy and connection.

Chew, Chew, Chew:
Another change we can make to improve our eating is to chew our food thoroughly. Most of us inhale our food and use our forks like a shovel. We lose the enjoyment by barely tasting our food before we swallow it. Digestion actually begins with the chewing process. When the stomach has to do all the digesting, some food doesn’t get digested and this can cause bacteria overgrowth in the intestines. In addition, chewing also makes your food more enjoyable. The sweet flavor of plant foods is released only after they have been chewed thoroughly. Experiment by chewing each mouthful of food 20 times, thinking about and enjoying what you are eating, before you take another bite. Notice how you feel at the end of your meal.

Finally, visit your local farmers’ market. Talk to the farmers about where they come from and if the produce is organic. Bringing home local produce is a way to ensure that you are cooking and eating in season.