Mindful Chewing: How To Cut Your Calorie Intake in Half--Without Feeling Hungry

Everyone knows that there are enormous health and dietary benefits to eating more slowly. In this post, I'll talk about a laughably easy technique you can use to help you cut your eating speed and caloric intake in half--perhaps more. Best of all, you won't feel the least bit hungry or deprived.

How? By chewing.

Chewing is the one thing everyone does, but nobody thinks about. But this overlooked and underappreciated first step in digestion is one of the easiest ways to slow down at a meal and achieve satiety on considerably less food.

When you mindlessly rush through meals and swallow large chunks of insufficiently chewed food, it's not only far easier to overeat (we'll discuss why shortly), but you risk incurring digestive problems like indigestion, bloating and even intestinal blockages.

In contrast, when you properly chew your food, your entire digestive tract works more smoothly. Careful chewing also helps you appreciate and enjoy all of the complex and subtle taste sensations of a food.

Taste is the doorway. You must appreciate taste... It is not just about being thankful, it is to make eating a holy experience, so the energy from the food can enter your body.
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

Is there a magic number for how many times you should chew your food? Not really. It depends on the crunchiness and the caloric density of what you're eating. For example, a homemade tortilla chip might require more chewing than a bite of chocolate mousse, but because chocolate mousse may contain far more calories per bite, you might want to "chew" the mousse much more than necessary to slow down and prevent yourself from eating too much.

In short, there's no magic number here. But I've found in my own experience that I tend to enjoy my food more, and eat far more slowly, when I make a point of chewing at least 15 times per bite of food.

And yes, lately I've been literally counting in my head while I'm eating, because I'm actively trying to build mindful chewing into a consistent habit at the dinner table. So if you happen to be eating dinner with me and I get a strange faraway look on my face, you'll know why.

Finally, the most important benefit of slow, mindful chewing is the automatic delay factor that it builds into a meal. We've discussed elsewhere in this blog how your body doesn't figure out that it's full until after a lag of some 20-30 minutes. This 20-30 minute period is the most precious part of every meal, because it represents critical fulcrum time during which you can avoid dangerous overeating.

The key benefit of mindful and careful chewing is that it slows down the entire eating process, allowing your brain to catch up to your stomach and figure out that it's full long before you've eaten too much. Result? You'll enjoy your food more, eat far less, and you will push back from the dinner table without feeling hungry or deprived.

Readers, how do you approach chewing at the dinner table? What habits have you built upon to help you eat more slowly and mindfully?

Related Posts:
Review: The End of Overeating by David Kessler
My Raw Food Trial: Full Archive of Posts
Nobody's Colon Blew: Reader Q&A On My Raw Food Trial
How Food Companies Hide Sugar in Plain Sight
The 25 Best Laughably Cheap Recipes at Casual Kitchen
The Pros and Cons of Restaurant Calorie Labeling Laws

Photo Credit: Bruce Tuten

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by purchasing items from Amazon.com via links on this site, or by linking to me or subscribing to my RSS feed. Finally, you can consider submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, digg or stumbleupon. Thank you for your support!


Unknown said...

The mindful eating trick that works for my wife is leaving a little bit of food on the plate when she's done eating.

Now for me...mindful eating is much harder. The technique that's been working for me was a mindLESS eating trick - using 9 inch dinner plates. When I first heard it (again, from my wife), I thought "That's silly. It'll never work."

Then I lost 5 pounds without changing anything else. The smaller plates make you think you're eating more, so you feel full faster.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner

Laura said...

Chewing does make a difference, and I'm glad to know I'm not just crazy for thinking that. Another trick that has helped me slow down (because I am a crazy fast eater when I don't pay attention) is to set down my utensils every two or three bites. It's amazing how that small action has raised my awareness. And I agree with MikeV: the smaller plates also helps.

Unknown said...

That's why eating with friends or family can be so good--you take your time, have some conversation, drink a little more water and eat more slowly.

I try to have a crunchy(raw fruit or veg) item with each meal, it helps slow me down.

Daniel said...

Great comments so far.

Mike, I love your suggestion. If it works for you (and it actually works for most people) by all means do it.

Laura, great idea. I have a similar routine where I take drinks of water between bites to slow myself down.

Fiona, couldn't agree more with something crunchy and/or raw. That was one of the benefits I learned from my raw foods trial a couple of months ago. If something HAS to be chewed, you'll chew it--and you'll slow down too.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

This post is an excellent point. I think one of the reasons I have problems keeping my weight down is I tend to snarf my food in big gulps. I'm trying harder to slow down, put down my fork, and really chew and taste my food so I can really sense when I'm satiated.