Convenience eating, is one of the nine Eating for You Drivers, or reasons, for Eating. But can convenience eating be mindful and healthy? This driver can either support or detract from your health and wellbeing.
Excerpt from the Eating for You book
We cannot underestimate the influence of our perception of time with regard to everything we do. This applies to how we choose to eat. We seek quick meals and the choice of healthier options. Convenience is a strong driver, so in order to optimise our health, our skills in selecting, preparing, and cooking nutritious foods need to be at least equally as strong.
Convenience is a strong driver, so in order to optimise our health our skills in selecting, preparing and cooking nutritious foods need to be at least equally as strong.
Food preparers often express the time constraints related to family meals. They comment on the amount of time that is required to plan, shop, and prepare food. For some, convenience can become the dominant driver resulting in quick and ready to eat meals.
Pam led a busy life working in the business with her husband and taking care of two children. As their business grew she had less time to prepare home-cooked meals so the family meal was purchased from take away food outlets on the way home from work. This change in eating led to considerable weight gain over twelve months. It wasn’t until Pam prioritised cooking an evening meal that she managed to lose her excess body weight.
Another risk of relying on ready-to-go meals is that you may literally find yourself eating on the run. If your choice of convenience foods is within an unplanned eating habit, then the choice is usually based on whatever is available. The mode of eating can override natural appetite control mechanisms and we become unaware of what and how much we eat.
The [convenience] mode of eating can override natural appetite control mechanisms and we become unaware of what and how much we eat.
Planned choice of convenience foods does not necessarily mean eating unhealthily. There is an array of healthier takeaway and pre-prepared meals available with lower levels of added sugar, salt, and saturated fat.
Even healthier choices usually lack adequate quantities of fresh vegetables, so it is important to realise that you are missing out on essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring compounds in plants. Adjust for this by asking for additional vegetables or adding them at home.
Mindful and Healthy Convenience Eating
#1 Plan your meals for the week.
#2 Keep your meals simple and seasonal. How many recipes do you really need?
#3 Prepare your shopping list based on your plan, and what’s in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.
#4 Prepare at least two meals a week ahead of time e.g. dedicate some time to batch cooking e.g. soups, pasta sauces, curries, and casseroles can all be cooked in large quantities and frozen.
#5 Keep fresh fruit, nuts, crackers, vegetable-based dips such as hummus and guacamole and cheese at hand for an easy nutritious lunch.
#6 Check in with your level of hunger and aim to eat when you are hungry, rather than when you remember to eat or when you think it is meal time.
#7 Always stop and eat your meals and snacks without distraction—this increases your enjoyment of the food and allows you to tune into your natural hunger and satiety signals.
For additional tips on planning meals and eating mindfully, you might like to take a read of the Eating for You book. Click here to learn more.