Dietitian Shares: Mindful Eating During Pregnancy – Chinese New Year Edition

Dietititian Shares Mindful Eating During Pregnancy - Chinese New Year Edition

Food is a big part of pregnancy and postpartum. People judge mothers all the time about what they order for confinement meal delivery. Unsurprisingly, food is a big part of Chinese New Year too. It is probably one of the most anticipated festive seasons among the Chinese all around the world. If you are pregnant during this time, just the thought of food can feel incredibly overwhelming.

Meal times can easily become more stressful than it should be. The urge for their childhood snacks or home-cooked foods may be much stronger. At the same time, many may feel that every bite they take is being watched or judged by others. Even if no one is doing so, many mothers would feel hyper-aware. It is important to note that it is not wrong or bad to meet your cravings, however, when it is in excess and indulgent, it may lead to excessive calorie intake and excessive weight gain during pregnancy that may not be favourable. 

Thus, one skill that some researchers are considering these days to potentially be beneficial for mothers to practise during pregnancy is mindful eating. Mindful eating during pregnancy focuses on the individual’s awareness of what, where, when and how to eat without any judgement. It is eating with full attention and following the body’s cues on eating choices as well as sensory experience (smell, taste, sound, touch, etc).

Benefits of Practising Mindful Eating

One study found and discussed that overweight pregnant mothers who practised mindful eating had managed to minimise stress and the tendency to overeat during pregnancy. It helped mothers to differentiate between hunger cues and emotional responses. They understood more of their feeling of hunger and were able to detect and respond to satiety cues better. 

Other research generated early evidence of how mindful eating may potentially improve the ability of mothers to manage cravings which helps to control weight. This is believed to potentially improve metabolic health outcomes in pregnant women such as less insulin resistance and lower ghrelin levels. It should not be mistaken as a method to achieve intentional weight loss or used as a weight loss tool. It is more of a potentially beneficial outcome in some mothers as weight regulation can be somewhat achieved naturally when we are more connected to our hunger and satiety cues. More research is still needed so that the right support can be given to women pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and post-pregnancy. 

Nevertheless, mindful eating will generally help us build a better relationship with food in which there is no good or bad food. Food is food as a source of fuel, and enjoyment and nourishes our body as you reconnect with your sense of hunger and fullness. 

What Are The Principles of Mindful Eating 

  • Allowing yourself to become more aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom. 
  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.   
  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgement.
  • Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.

Dietititian Shares Mindful Eating During Pregnancy - Chinese New Year Edition

How Can I Start to Eat More Mindfully?

Chinese New Year is a joyous occasion where we would have many catch-up conversations with family and friends over a meal or snack. Here are a few simple tips on how you can start practising mindful eating at the table

1. Try to use all your senses

    • Eyes: The next time you pick up a piece of pineapple tart, take a few seconds to look at it and appreciate the different textures of the pastry and the jam. Appreciate the handwork needed to make the pineapple tarts.
    • Smell: Take another few seconds to smell the fragrance of the pineapple tarts. Determine if it’s a sweet, sour or buttery smell.
    • Touch: Touch and appreciate the texture of the pineapple tarts with your fingers. Is the pastry crumbly, moist or dry? 
    • Taste: When you place it in the mouth, does it make your tongue dry? Do you salivate more? Does it start to melt in your mouth? Roll it over your tongue as you chew it and experience the different texture between the pastry and the jam
    • Hear: As you chew on the pineapple tart, determine if there is a crunch, crisps, soft or crumbly. Appreciate the sound it makes every time you chew. 

2. Put away distractions

Some distractions like a crying child, a child throwing tantrums or children running around may not be something you would be able to control and reduce. However, you can try to put away electronic devices or shut down the TV and focus on your food and the people around you. 

3. Slow down 

You may naturally be or have been trained since young to be a fast eater. Although this may have saved you some time to get back to work as soon as possible, this was at the expense of you being less aware of your own satiety and hunger cues. This makes us less aware of when to stop eating. Oftentimes, this habit or practice has left us feeling still hungry or too full after a meal. It is best to slow down your pace of eating and practice chewing until the food has been able to break down in the mouth before swallowing. If you want to eat slower, you should try to pace yourself with a slow eater and see if you can match that. 

Summary

This is a skill that is useful to practise throughout your pregnancy and beyond. Remember that it is okay if your mindful eating practices do not always look the same at every meal. Sometimes, your meals can be a slowly savoured meal from beginning to end. Other times, you may only be able to practise mindful eating during the first few bites.

There will be days you are able to put down your fork and spoon for a while to pause and take a few breaths before continuing eating again and some you may not. All of it is part of setting the intention to be a little bit more mindful when we are at the dinner table.