Whether they’re going for work or for pleasure, people who travel a lot know just how difficult it can be to maintain a healthy diet on the road. Convenience often takes precedence over any health plan you might be on, and the fact that you’re not at home makes it easy to justify unhealthy choices in your mind.
For many of those who do know how to eat healthy while traveling, the key often lies in utilizing the concept of mindful eating while visiting new cities, states or countries.
Mindful eating is much more than a habit. It’s more of a lifestyle. Transitioning to that lifestyle can be a somewhat challenging process that takes weeks or even months. Once mindful eating techniques are implemented, however, it becomes much easier to eat healthy while traveling.
Here we will look at what it means to be mindful and how that applies to cooking and eating, as well as some mindful eating tips that will teach you how to eat healthy on the road.
What it Means to be Mindful
For many, being mindful is all about living in the moment. One might think it’s impossible not to be mindful or live in the moment, but it’s actually bit more difficult than you’d think. Being fully mindful means to observe and appreciate, without judgment, the things that surround you along with how they make you think and feel.
Being aware and being mindful are not the same thing. Just because you think you know something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re mindful of it. Music is a good example. Just because you’re aware of a specific song doesn’t mean you’re mindful of where it came from and what it took to produce. The same could be said of food.
Sometimes being mindful means putting purposeful thought into tasks or activities that might otherwise seem mindless. This is where the “living in the moment” part comes in. People who are mindful tend to think carefully about what they’re doing all of the time rather than mindlessly moving from task to task throughout their day.
Those who are mindful also often embrace their creativity while also concentrating on just one thing at a time. That can seem difficult in this age where multitasking feels mandatory, but it is indeed possible. Mindful people are also open to trying new things, and they make thoughtful decisions about the things they consume in life.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Just as you might expect, eating mindfully is taking the principles involved with mindfulness and it applying them to what you cook and eat. However, it’s much more than putting a bit of extra thought into what you’re going to have for breakfast tomorrow morning.
There are a number of things mindful eaters do for each meal:
- They fully evaluate how hungry they are
- They eat slowly and think about their food throughout their meal
- They savor and enjoy each bite as fully as they can
To help, mindful eaters may also keep a journal of each meal, writing what they think and how they feel when they’re done eating. They also try to focus on the task at hand — eating — without bogging their minds down with other activities such as watching TV. In addition, those who eat mindfully seriously limit snacking, which can be viewed as mindless eating, and they often eat silently, at least for parts of their meals.
Thinking and Feeling Your Food
All of that said, mindful eating is about much more than what you do while actually eating your food. When eating mindfully, you also think about how the food got to your table in the first place, including all of the people it took to produce and ship the food.
If you consume meat, dairy or any other animal product, you might think about the life the animal lived and whether it suffered to contribute to your meal. For produce, you consider all of the people who were involved in growing the food, the methods they used, and the conditions they faced while working to cultivate the ingredients included in your meal.
For those new to mindful eating, the concept can be overwhelming. It may seem like a lot of extra effort for what is typically a common and mundane three-times-per-day activity. But that’s exactly the point. Eating mindfully means you put in a lot of extra effort to think about everything it took to get your food on your plate, including how it was grown, processed and cooked.
Since the process does take extra effort, it’s unreasonable to expect yourself to be completely mindful of what and how you’re eating instantly. Rather, there is a learning curve involved, a time commitment as you get yourself used to the routine of being mindful. It may take some time to fully implement mindful eating into your lifestyle, but at some point it will feel like second nature.
In the end, mindful eating is a win-win. Not only will it help you be more thoughtful about your food, but it can also help with weight loss and an overall healthier way of living.
Mindful Eating Techniques
To get started eating mindfully, there are six relatively simple steps you can follow during each meal. These steps will help you build your mindful eating foundation, which you can build upon later.
Listen to What Your Body Tells You
This may take some getting used to, but it basically means to understand when you’re feeling full. If you start to feel full during a meal, it’s probably best to call it a meal. Listening to your body will help prevent over-eating, which of course can lead to all sorts of health issues.
Learn When Your Body Is Sending You Hunger Signals
If your stomach is growling or you feel low in energy, it’s most likely time to supply yourself with some nourishment. If you feel physically hungry, it means you probably are. That said, be sure you’re not eating simply because you “feel like it.” Listen to what your body tells you, not just to your mind or emotions.
Set an Eating Schedule
Include when and where you eat your meals daily, and with whom. You want to avoid eating alone when you can, and you also don’t want to eat in random places or at unscheduled times. This can be difficult when you are on the road and will take extra planning.
Eat Foods That Benefit You Nutritionally
Be conscious of what you put in your body, and try to avoid unnecessary sugars and saturated fats. On the flip side, avoid eating for emotional reasons or because a food simply makes you feel good. That “feel-good” moment will be fleeting, and chances are you will only regret it later.
Focus on the Actual Eating
This means you pay attention to your food and the process of eating it, rather than trying to keep up with social media on your smartphone or binge watching your favorite series on Netflix as you dine, tempting as those things may be when you are on the road. Part of mindful eating is about appreciating where your food came from and what it took to get it in front of you, and it’s much harder to do that when you’re concentrating on something else.
Consider Where Your Food Came From
Was it locally sourced? Was it imported from another country? Was it shipped across the U.S.? This is more than just an exercise in geography, however. It also means you take into account the manufacturer, brand or restaurant from which you got the food, and the methods and values they employ in getting it on your plate.
Mindful Eating Tips While Traveling
Getting yourself into the habit of eating mindfully can be challenging enough at home, but that challenge can be even greater when you’re not. There are a number of tips for how to eat healthy on the road, but here are five that should always be on your radar.
Make and Keep a Plan
This is perhaps the single most important thing to keep in mind when trying to eat healthy while traveling. It takes more than just being aware, however. You have to actually stick to your plan. If you’re on vacation, it’s understandable you wouldn’t want to feel shackled, and of course things might change on the fly depending on where you are. It still helps to put together a plan and make a conscious effort to not deviate from it.
Avoid Impulse Eating
This is often easier said than done, but it’s a staple to the concept of mindful eating. If you travel for work, it might be tempting to grab a quick sandwich when you have a free 20 minutes. While on vacation, a quick slice of pizza or a Nutella-filled crepe might be ultra-tempting while touring the streets of a new city. However, it’s important remember you made a plan and you intend to stick with it, and impulse eating is not part of that plan.
Prepare Your Own Snacks
One good way to avoid the aforementioned habit of impulse eating is to prepare your own snacks ahead of time. This will help you make smart choices when you’re on the run and feel you need some nourishment. Choose snacks that pack well, such as bags of nuts or fruit, that you can keep in your briefcase or suitcase and pull out when the urge hits.
Also, don’t confuse mindful eating with not being able to have some fun. The healthier the snack the better, but there is also nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence. Just be sure you continue to think about how and why you’re eating what you are, and remember that moderation is the key.
Use Your Senses
This tip could apply to eating mindfully anywhere, but it’s especially helpful when traveling. If you remember to think about more than just your taste buds when eating, you’ve already taken a big step toward mindfulness when it comes to food.
Observe and think about how your food looks, and what it took to make it that way. Embrace the scent of your meals, and think about how each ingredient contributes. Pay attention to how the food feels in your hands and in your mouth. Using your ears may be a bit more difficult, but it may apply to a meal that arrives at your table sizzling from the grill.
Make It About More Than Eating
If you make a concerted effort to apply mindfulness to everything you do throughout the day rather than only when you’re eating, then by definition you will start to eat mindfully as well. Remember, mindfulness is more of a lifestyle than a habit, so it really should be about more than the food.
Always be mindful of your surroundings, including people and architecture. What makes the city you’re visiting thrive? What could it improve upon? Make a point to constantly think about these things while on the road.
Benefits of Mindful Eating on Vacation
Mindful eating is a healthy way of living at home, and that’s no different when you’re on the road. In fact, it could be much more rewarding to eat mindfully when you’re traveling because you’re more likely to come across and appreciate new foods and experiences.
One of the best things about mindful eating is it’s a healthy way to live physically, but it’s also healthy for your mind. It can help spur creativity and make you open up to trying to new things, which is very beneficial when visiting a new city, state or country.
Since mindful eating is a lifestyle, one way to use it while traveling is to avoid the “vacation mindset” and instead concentrate on a “mindful eating on vacation” mindset. Here are some examples of what that means:
- With a vacation mindset, you might tell yourself you’re going to eat as much as you want because, hey, you’re on vacation. With the mindful eating on vacation mindset, you already eat what you love every day anyway, and vacation should be no different.
- In a vacation mindset, you may tell yourself it’s easy to eat constantly because food is everywhere. Mindful eating on vacation means that since food is everywhere, you let yourself wait to eat until you’re actually hungry.
- The vacation mindset may make it tempting to over-spend on things, including food. Instead, use the mindful eating on vacation mindset to focus on enjoying new foods, regardless of how much it costs.
Enjoy Mindful Mediterranean Cuisine When You’re on the Go
If you’re traveling around California, we at Yalla Mediterranean make it easy for you to eat mindfully while on the road. That’s because when you dine with us, you know you’re eating foods that are responsibly sourced, often from nearby farms that adhere to practices that meet our standards.
Our philosophy with each meal we serve is to deliver vibrant, flavorful and sizzling meals from scratch, and to do so in roughly three minutes. Part of eating mindfully while traveling is consuming delicious foods that are also good for you, and that is precisely what we offer.
Another thing helpful to mindful eaters of all types is we’re eager to help you with any special dietary needs you might have. We make a conscious effort to come up with menu items that cater to a variety of diets, whether that means vegan or vegetarian, or dairy or gluten free. We also employ a farm-to-table approach, so you know you’ll always be eating the freshest of ingredients.
We have seven locations across California — Dublin, Fremont, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek in Northern California, and Burbank, Culver City and Seal Beach in Southern California. We can also deliver in each of these markets via DoorDash, including to hotels or to Airbnb rentals.
When traveling across California, plan on including us in your mindful eating rotation for a quick, easy and always-delicious option.