As a mindfulness-based registered dietitian, I am passionate about the power of mindful eating to transform not only our personal relationship with food but also our impact on the environment — merging mindful eating and sustainability.
Mindful eating involves paying attention to the present moment while listening to our body’s needs and it can include becoming aware of sustainable food choices. In this article, we will explore Mindful Eating and Sustainability and how mindful eating can benefit the environment, reduce our carbon footprint, and promote sustainability.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to your food and your body in a non-judgmental way. It involves being fully present during meals, savoring each bite, and listening to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness. The goal of mindful eating is to bring awareness to your eating habits, reduce stress around food, and increase your enjoyment of eating.
Mindful Eating and Sustainability: How Choosing Your Food Mindfully Can Benefit the Environment
Since choosing to live “off-grid” a few years ago — we’re operating our home entirely off of solar energy — I’ve felt more connected to nature than ever. I experience profound gratitude and motivation to support the land we get to call home, and the earth we all get to call home.
Being more connected to nature, growing my own food, tending to our forest farm animals, and supporting natural resources, has also changed my relationship with food. Mindful eating has another layer of appreciation as I can clearly see and know where my food is coming from, having a greater connection to more local farmers to support their gardens and growing practices while reducing our carbon footprint.
Now, you don’t need to live “off-grid” or in the forest like I choose to, we all can take small steps to engage in more sustainable food choices, and mindfully eat with sustainability in mind.
How Can Mindful Eating Benefit the Environment?
- Reduces Food Waste: Mindful eating can help reduce food waste by encouraging us to pay attention to the amount of food we consume and choose portion sizes that match our appetites. By reducing food waste, we can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production, transportation, and disposal.
- Supports Local and Sustainable Agriculture: Mindful eating can encourage us to choose locally grown and sustainably sourced foods, which can reduce the environmental impact of food transportation and support local communities.
- Reduces Energy Consumption: By choosing whole foods that require minimal processing and plastic packaging, we can reduce energy consumption associated with food processing, transportation, and storage.
- Encourages Plant-Based Eating: Mindful eating can encourage us to choose plant-based options, which have a lower carbon footprint than animal products. Plant-based eating can also support biodiversity, reduce deforestation, and reduce water usage.
- Supports Ethical Food Practices: Mindful eating can encourage us to choose foods that are produced using ethical and sustainable practices, such as fair trade and organic farming. By supporting ethical food practices, we can promote sustainability and support local communities (and bee populations).
Tips for Practicing Mindful Eating for Sustainability
Here are some tips for incorporating mindful eating into your daily life to promote sustainability:
- Eat Whole Foods: Choose whole foods that require minimal processing and packaging, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
- Choose Locally Grown and Sustainably Sourced Foods: Look for foods that are grown and sourced locally and sustainably, such as seasonal produce and sustainably sourced seafood.
- Reduce Meat Consumption: Consider reducing your meat consumption or choosing plant-based alternatives, which have a lower carbon footprint.
- Avoid Food Waste: Pay attention to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness, and choose portion sizes that match your appetite. Store food properly to reduce spoilage and waste.
- Support Ethical Food Practices: Choose foods that are produced using ethical and sustainable practices, such as fair trade and organic farming.
Evidence Supporting Mindful Eating for Sustainability
Several studies have shown the potential benefits of mindful eating and making more sustainable food choices for promoting sustainability. One study found that participants who received a mindful eating intervention reduced their food waste by 30%, while another study found that mindful eating interventions were associated with a reduction in carbon footprint. A review of 12 studies found that mindful eating interventions were effective in promoting sustainable food choices and reducing food waste.
Mindful eating can be a powerful tool for promoting sustainability and reducing our impact on the environment. By paying attention to the food we eat, reducing food waste, and choosing sustainable and ethical food practices, we can promote a healthier and more sustainable food system.
Remember that mindful eating is a journey, and it’s important to be patient and compassionate with yourself along the way!
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Here are some research articles related to mindful eating and sustainability:
- Dunn C., Haubenreiser M., Johnson M., Nordby K., Aggarwal S., Mykerezi E., & Thomas C. (2019). Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary therapies in medicine, 42, 375-382.
- Kristensen N. H., Sabaté J., & Petersen K. E. (2014). Health and environmental implications of US meat consumption and production. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(33), 11996-12001.
- Schneider S. L., Lillico H. G., & McKeown C. K. (2019). Mindful eating and reducing food waste: A randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Health Education, 50(2), 71-79.
- Sobal J., Bisogni C. A., & Devine C. M. (2006). A conceptual model of food choice and food behavior. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 3(1), 166-175.
- Trenchard L., & Kasser T. (2015). Mindfulness, well-being, and ecological sustainability: The critical importance of viewing the natural world as a commons. Ecopsychology, 7(3), 159-166.