It’s Mindfulness Monday. And we want you to change how you eat tonight’s dinner.

Do you ever wonder why eating outside on a patio, maybe under the warm sun, makes food so much tastier, and the experience much more enjoyable? We definitely have. And we think the difference could partly be summed up by one of our favorite ideas in the wellness sphere today: mindfulness.

Mindful eating means you’re eating with thought and intention. Most of the time, including here at Freshly, we get so caught up in our busy days or excitement for the next task, we tend to eat fast. Too fast. But when we think of a meal as a pleasurable event to savor in-and-of-itself (rather than a drive-by obligation to silence your hunger), your relationship to food starts to change. When you eat your food outdoors as opposed to your desk or kitchen counter, you tend to give the food more attention. You let every flavor hit your tastebuds right. Having said that, you don’t always have to take your meals outdoors to eat mindfully. Here are our favorite tips and tricks for eating mindfully.

The Benefits:

You won’t overeat. A growing body of research is building solid evidence that eating mindfully can help with losing weight, cravings, eating fewer calories, and eating disorders.

You’ll digest your food better. Eating slower with intention gives your stomach and intestines the time to process food properly. This prevents indigestion and its awful symptoms, from a heavy feeling, gas, and heart burn. Eating slow also gives your brain time to process whether you’re full yet, before the next bite.

And… you’ll enjoy your food more. You don’t need science to explain tasty food.

How To Do It:

#1 Don’t multitask. 

When you’re eating while finishing work, scrolling Instagram, or eating on the go, it’s natural to not notice HOW much you’re eating, or how fast. Before you know it, you’ve shoveled more chips down than you usually would. It’s all about perception. Try sitting down for at least one meal a day (we know all three can be unrealistic if you’re a busy body), and focus solely on the food right in front of you. The Harvard Medical School suggests gratitude and thoughtfulness comes from being “conscious of the food’s consistency, flavor, tastes, and smells.” It might feel pointless at first, but you’ll find once you’ve mastered sitting still, you’ll feel lighter, healthier, and more appreciative after you’re done.

#2 Count 30 seconds for every chew. 

According to a study in Pediatric Obesity, kids who chewed for 30 seconds before taking another bite lost between two and five percent of their body weight, and a total of 6 percent of their body weight, one year of chewing later. Meanwhile, kids who didn’t count their seconds at all gained eight percent of their body weight one year later. Eating slowly gives your brain time to figure out whether you’re actually full, before taking another bite. That’s a convenient weight-loss trick we can get behind.

#3 Eat with others. At a table. (And talk!) 

We know. Talking while trying to enjoy that delicious grilled chicken fajita is a tall order. But talking and making your meal a fun social activity is one way that helps reign in overeating and fosters gratitude. There’s a reason we have a tradition of going on dinner dates! Blogger Jules Clancy on Zen Habits suggests talking about the food itself – likes, dislikes, flavor, texture.

#4 Reflect!

Take every thought captive, and ask yourself – am I really hungry? Eating on autopilot (i.e. I want sugar > Reach for ice cream or I am sad > Need to fill up) can lead to weight gain, sick stomachs, and overconsumption. Feed your stomach, not your emotions. Psychologists at the University of California Berkeley suggest mindfully “checking in” by ranking your hunger level on a scale of one to ten. They also suggest that you “aim to eat until you are satisfied, leaving yourself neither stuffed nor starving.” One little trick is to stop eating right when you know you’re about to be full, rather than packing your stomach in until you feel full. Your body is pretty intuitive – listen to it.

#5 Prep, prep, prep.

Even if it’s just plating your next Freshly meal or arranging a salad in an attractive dish, prepping your food and investing your love and energy into it lets you truly see the food as beautiful and worth savoring. Eating out of the box might be convenient, but there’s a reason we love our plating videos here at Freshly!