Have you ever found yourself rushing through meals, only to feel unsatisfied, distracted, only to realize you overate without paying much attention – until it was too late? If this sounds familiar, you may benefit from using a mindful eating checklist to simplify the process, and learn to tap into your body while eating.
Read on for a free, dietitian-approved mindful eating checklist to help make a seamless transition from mindless to mindful eating.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eaters make the most out of their eating experience. This is accomplished by focusing on being fully present during mealtimes and tapping into the full sensory experiences of eating. Some mindful eating practices include eating without distractions, moderating the pace, and focusing on the flavors, smells, textures, colors and nutritional benefits of the food on your plate.
Keep in mind that this style of eating doesn’t mean you have to nibble at a snail-pace or over analyze your food. Mindful eating will look different for everyone, but the end goal is the same.
By focusing on all aspects of the meal and your environment, mindful eating has some major perks:
- You’ll make more nutritionally-balanced choices
- You can easily identify your hunger/satiety cues
- You will leave the table feeling satisfied1
These benefits can be seen immediately, but they won’t stop there: long-term mindful eating has been shown to have positive effects on
- Weight management
- Nutritional biomarkers
- Prevention of binge-eating behaviors2
The mindful eater also may find mealtimes to be less stressful, which appears to be connected to improvements in digestive health.3
Current research on mindful eating is still growing, but mindfulness continues to trend in the wellness sphere. The scientific community has begun to examine the brain chemistry associated with mindfulness. When it comes to understanding how mindfulness may help regulate eating patterns, looking at functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is one area of promise.
MRI studies done on individuals practicing mindfulness have shown increased activity in specific regions of the brain that help us better identify physical body cues and regulate our emotions.1,2 This may translate into improved hunger/fullness cues and reductions in emotional eating behaviors.
How to Use a Mindful Eating Checklist
If the above information has piqued your interest, a mindful eating checklist may be just the thing you need.
As our eating habits tend to be innate, the first few attempts at mindful eating can seem a bit unnatural. Many people don’t even know where to start!
Enter a simplified checklist, which helps decrease the mental effort of the transition and can be an invaluable tool for those new to mindfulness. Now, that’s not to imply that the benefits of the checklist is limited to newbies, even a seasoned mindful eater may find ongoing benefits to the structure and objectivity of the checklist.
Through trial and error, you may even customize the checklist to make it your own!
To use the checklist, you’ll want to read through the boxes corresponding to the appropriate timeframe: before, during, or after the meal. You’ll notice some of the pre/post meal boxes look very similar, and that is intentional! Many of the questions we ask ourselves before eating will apply in a similar fashion once the meal is done. By checking in with yourself throughout all stages of the meal, you will be better apt to identify specific areas you struggle with. One example of this c
Of note: If you find yourself becoming obsessive about checking off the boxes, it may be time to step away from the checklist.
Mindful Eating Checklist
Before Your Meal
- Am I feeling physical hunger?
- Use a hunger scale to answer, “How hungry am I?”
- 1-2 = ravenous
- 3-4 = some hunger, but you could wait
- 5 = satisfied
- What emotions am I feeling?
- Am I distracted by my environment right now?
While Eating Your Meal
- Use your five senses to take in your meals:
- What does my plate look like?
- What do I smell and taste?
- Am I eating at an appropriate pace?
- Am I pausing to take breaths, sip water, put my fork down, chew my food, etc?
- What does my plate look like?
After Eating Your Meal
- How satisfied do I feel?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how full am I?
- 5 = satisfied
- 6-8 = pleasantly full
- 8-10 = overly stuffed
- What were the health benefits of this meal?
- How long did this meal take me to complete?
- What emotions am I feeling now?
- What could I do differently at my next meal?
Mindfulness allows us to listen to and learn about our bodies in new ways. Mindful eating is empowering, health-promoting and free. There’s no better time to start than now 😊
Still unsure if mindful eating is for you? Fill out this form on my Work with Me page to schedule a free call to chat about it!
- Warren JM, Smith N, Ashwell M. A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutrition Research Reviews. 2017;30(2):272-283. doi:10.1017/S0954422417000154
- Morillo Sarto H, Barcelo-Soler A, Herrera-Mercadal P, et al. Efficacy of a mindful-eating programme to reduce emotional eating in patients suffering from overweight or obesity in primary care settings: a cluster-randomised trial protocol. BMJ Open. 2019;9(11):e031327. Published 2019 Nov 21. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2019-031327
- Daubenmier J, Gambino G. Eating with Mindfulness: the Benefits of Mindful Eating. US News & World Report. July 22, 2022. Accessed March 19, 2023. https://www.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/benefits-of-mindful-eating
Written: Emily Ventura, RD, CNSC
Edited: Caroline Thomason, RD CDCES