By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Shoppers are seeking to understand ethical and sustainable food production methods, reviewing ingredient lists, and becoming aware that mindful eating practices can play an important role in overall well-being. As retail dietitians guide consumers toward healthier food choices, there are multiple ways that the trend of mindfulness can be incorporated to enhance educational efforts.
In his book, Savor: Mindful Eating Mindful Life, Thich Nhat Hanh describes seven habits of a mindful eater: Honor the food; Engage all six senses; Serve in modest portions; Savor small bites and chew thoroughly; Eat slowly and avoid overeating; Don’t skip meals; Focus on a plant-based diet for your health and the planet. With consumer interest around topics such as weight management, family mealtime, flexitarian meal plans and the growing concern for sustainability, you can easily see how the concepts of mindful food consumption can be interwoven into successful messaging. Let’s look at a few examples:
In the Aisles – Many customers rush through the supermarket and miss the opportunity to be mindful in the aisles. Encourage consumers to plan their shopping list in advance and provide suggestions with pantry stocking lists and simple recipes. Provide tips on mindful shopping practices or offer a tour on how to be a mindful shopper. Teaching customers how to experience the store with all their senses can lead to heathier choices. Being aware of the colors and shapes in the produce department, reading labels and understanding where products come from help cultivate gratitude for an abundance of healthy food choices.
At Home - As you promote family mealtime, give shoppers the tools to practice mindful meal planning, and stress the importance of focused time without technology, portion control and the need to slow down. Provide families with simple, healthful menu ideas and tips to enhance social interaction and well-being during meals. How about a Mindful Eating with Family Meals class?
Personal Health - A growing body of research suggests that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe steer some people away from unhealthy choices. As you educate shoppers in a group or individual setting, teach them how to engage their senses and increase the enjoyment of healthy foods as they take their time to savor small bites. It’s also important to reinforce the need to eat throughout the day and avoid meal skipping, so provide sensible meal plans and healthful snack ideas from around the store.
Sustainability – The Sustainable Food System Position Statement of The Center for Mindful Eating states that eating and sustainability have overlapping values in that both foster awareness and encouragement of humane treatment of all beings, ensuring the protection of animals, farmers, workers, consumers, and communities. Support mindfulness and consumer interest in sustainability by communicating your store’s commitment to ethical food sourcing, local farm initiatives, plant-based recipe options, waste reduction efforts, and support of local hunger initiatives.