Strategies for making lifestyle changes: Slow down and chew thoroughly

This is one thing I need to keep working on: slow down when I eat.  I eat too fast and maybe you do too?  It's not a good thing.  The food we swallow should be well chewed so that it is liquid when we swallow it.


The first part of digestion begins in the mouth.  This is where the enzyme amylase, in saliva, is mixed with starches and their breakdown begins.  If you put food in your mouth and swallow it without proper chewing, you've missed this first step of digestion and the body has a harder time digesting that food later.

Yes, I know all the excuses: "I like my food hot. If I eat it slowly it'll be cool by the time I've finished". But if you are eating your food fast, after the first mouthful, you don't even taste it, never mind being aware of its temperature.

Or then there is "I don't have time to eat it slowly".  Well, we all need to make time.  It takes just a few extra minutes to properly chew a meal as opposed to wolf it down quickly.


Take some food into your mouth and chew it for at least 30 chews.  The more you practice, the easier it gets.

Here are some studies to consider:

  • Research conducted at the university of Pennsylvania determined that diners consumed more overall food and calories when they sped up their eating pace and consumed fewer calories when they slowed down.
  • Research on thousands of Japanese office workers showed that fast eaters ate more calories than slow eaters, tended to gain more weight, and were more likely to have insulin resistance.
  • Research shows that there is a lag in time from when you have consumed enough food to trigger fullness and when you actually feel a sense of fullness. The more slowly you eat, the more time you have for the fullness signal from your stomach to reach your brain.

So how can you practice this skill?  Here are some ideas
  1. Change something at the table where you normally eat - for example, put a candle or ornament on the table. When you see that, it'll trigger a reminder to slow down.  Each night, put something different on the table - it can be something nice or something odd like a ruler or box - anything that catches your eye and makes you stop and think.
  2. Put down your utensils between mouthfuls or if it is something you are eating with your hands, put the food down between mouthfuls.
  3. Don't fill up your fork until you've finished what is in your mouth.
  4. Eat without distractions. If the television is on, or you are reading - you tend to eat quicker - so slow down and think about the taste of each mouthful.
  5. Put a clock or timer on the table and watch just how fast you normally eat.  Then chew 30 times and see how long this takes.  Seeing the clock go round is a great reminder to slow down.
Not only will these slow down tactics help you eat smaller quantities, it'll also help your digestion.

The "chew" idea is also important with foods like smoothies.  A large part of smoothies is carbohydrates and starches, so when you "drink" your smoothie, make sure you also swish it around your mouth, and use chew like action with your teeth, so the saliva can start its amylase enzyme reaction to breakdown that carbohydrate.

Let's start with our next meal or snack.  Put something on the table now to remind you.  Lets give amylase a chance!
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Healthy Cooking for children

After posting Jamie Oliver's TED talk on the blog last week, I had a comment back from Jennifer that said:

"This video clip is so moving. Thank you for it, Ruth. What would be the 10 meals that you would teach children to cook that would save their lives?" 


I felt the answer deserved more than just a comment back and so here are some of my suggestions. Remember, children naturally love healthful foods. Their genetic makeup is designed to consume nature's bounty without any coaxing or effort; they naturally like fruit and vegetables.  The following aren't full meals necessarily as salads can be added for appetizers and fruit for dessert etc, but they give you some ideas.

Breakfasts: I would definitely teach the children about healthy green smoothies, especially as it's an easy way to get green vegetables in us at breakfast time.  To begin with, it's important to not go too heavy on the strong flavored green leafy vegetables until they get used to the green taste, so adding more fruit for the first week or so helps, for example a banana or a couple of dates. I make my smoothies with only fruit and vegetables - no milk or yoghurt or anything else.

Photo by jules:stonesoup

1.Mango spinach smoothie.  A bag of frozen mango and a few handfuls of spinach blended up together, with a little water to get the consistency that you want.
2. Applesauce smoothie - 3 apples, a banana, a bunch of parsley and some root ginger and water.
3.Lettuce smoothie - 3 cups of lettuce, 2 pears,half a pint of blueberries and water.

Lunches:  Often school lunches include processed meats and cheese, but there are many other healthy meals like soups and salads or cold left overs that kids can take in attractive containers to school.


4. Raw almond nut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, plus orange or apple slices.
5. Whole wheat pita bread pocket filled with hummus, salad and nut/fruit dressing and some pineapple or seasonal fruit.
6. Carrot cream soup made with carrots, zucchini, onions etc and raw cashews for the creaminess. Kids often like soups cold so they can take it as is or warmed and in a thermos.

Dinners: Dinners a typically a good meal to start with a salad with some beans, mushrooms, onions, seeds, nuts and berries.  The following are suggestions after the salad or to accompany the salad.


7. California Creamed Kale.  Kale is such a high-nutrient green vegetable that you can add to soups or serve chopped.  In this recipe, the kale is lightly steamed and then served with a soy milk and cashew cream
8. Healthy potato fries.  Potatoes, cut into fries,  are mixed in apple juice and left for 5 minutes, then the juice drained and they are baked in the oven for about 20 minutes.
9. Pita-bread pizza.  Using whole wheat pita, no salt tomato sauce, mushrooms, broccoli, onions and soy cheese.
10. Squash Fantasia - Baked dish made with apricots, raisins, orange juice, butternut squash, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Small portions of organic, white meat or eggs can be added to any of these - using meat more as a condiment or flavoring rather than the focus of the meal.

And not forgetting Dessert - how about non-dairy ice cream - made by freezing bananas and then when frozen, blending them in a high powered blender. Yummy on it's own, but even better when other fruit is added to the blender too, like strawberries or raspberries or blueberries or else almond butter, or cocoa or......  Tastes like soft scoop ice cream.



Gosh, this could go on for ever, but I hope this gives some ideas.  What would you suggest? What are your kids favorites?

If you are looking for more information on how healthy eating for kids can protect  them  from diseases, check out Dr Fuhrman's book "Disease-proof your child - Feeding kids right".
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