What has this got to do with joyful eating secrets, you might be asking?
If you are feeling harassed and distracted first thing in the morning, it’s a little more tricky to make food choices that make you feel good. Or to get genuine pleasure from your first drink or meal of the day. Plus you’re digestion is not going to be in the best state. And that seems kind of the opposite of joyful.
As I’ve shared in previous articles, I’ve had quite a few issues over the years with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Unfortunately this is a pretty common condition these days. One of the biggest problems was waking up feeling, well, kind of crap. And I didn’t want this to take over my whole day so I started looking for solutions.
Beginning the day a little more calmly is one of the secrets to managing this crap-ness. Getting into a routine that works for you and is one that you enjoy is really important. And this includes how you eat your first meal of the day.
Think about the difference of scoffing down a muffin as you rush out the door versus even just 5 minutes of sitting with a piece of toast covered in a creamy mix of butter and honey.
I know which one I prefer…
My personal morning mix is a medley of short meditation, a bit of writing and a pretty breakfast. I try to stay away from social media and emails first thing, but I’ll be honest, I’m not perfect. There are days when I too grab my phone and start scrolling through Instagram before I’ve even fully woken up.
I really notice the difference in the boost to my productivity and happiness when I start things out the first way. And it also sets the pattern for the rest of my day, including how I eat. This is an important part of developing joyful eating patterns and habits.
So how can you start building a sense of joyful eating into your day?
I wanted to share a few of my own thoughts on adding a little happiness to your eating. They are all pretty simple and don’t require a lot of time, but do sometimes require some thought and a little pre-planning until they become habits.
And it all starts with a few calm breaths in the morning…
I really can’t overstate the importance of breath and breathing. First of all, it’s free and easy, and everyone has access to it. I mean, if you’re not breathing, you’re not living.
Taking a couple of gentle breaths in and out through your nose is instantly calming and I always start my day with a few minutes of this. Sometimes I do this in silence and sometimes I listen to a guided meditation. And this also gets my digestion in a much better place to start the day rather than being all twisted and tense.
I also use the breath before I start eating. Rather than scooping a thoughtless mouthful of porridge into my mouth, I pause for a few breaths. If you only do one thing differently, slowing down and taking a breath before your first bite is a very positive step forward.
The breath is also super important as it’s intimately connected to our taste. A lot of what we call taste is really down to our smell (and we have 2 types); we can smell SO much more when we breath in slowly and pay attention.
Just think of the delicious aroma of basil rubbed between your fingers. It’s so good, but if you’re not smelling and breathing you could miss it entirely. Slow down, take a few breaths and inhale with intention – and attention.
TIP: If you feel harried and hurried in the morning and your breath is quickened, find some food prep approaches to help you feel calmer in the morning. This might include making your breakfast the night before (like overnight oats or bircher muesli), doing a bit of batch cooking on a Sunday (e.g. a container of granola) or shop once a week to make sure you have some easy essentials in your cupboard or fridge. You’ll then have a bit more time to enjoy what you’re eating.
2. Eat with a sense of curiosity
Eating with curiosity is another side of paying attention and slowing down. It also includes adding a bit of playfulness into the mix too.
What do you think you might you discover in a piece of carrot if you take a few seconds to have a look at it before you pop it in your mouth? And then, once it’s in there, chewing slowly, really noticing the difference between the core and skin. And how it becomes more or less sweet the longer it’s in your mouth.
Maybe it gets you thinking of a fantastic holiday you had last year when you stayed with your auntie and picked carrots fresh from her garden. Or how delicious it would be to add a little melted butter with cumin seeds over the top. Or that it’s nowhere near as crunchy as the carrot you ate yesterday. Or how much you used to love grated carrot and peanut butter sandwiches when you were little.
There’s so much to discover in normal, everyday ingredients! But it’s more difficult to make these discoveries if you’re not paying attention. Give yourself the chance to slow down a little. (And don’t forget, again, to breathe.)
TIP: If you know you’re not likely to just naturally ‘give’ yourself the time to do some curious tasting, make a tasting date with yourself. Put an invite in your calendar at a time you know will work best for you (not first thing in the morning if you’re always rushing out the door), with a pop up reminder on your phone or computer, and give yourself the gift of some tasting time.
3. Add some joyful colour
One of the quickest ways to add a bit of joosh to your dishes, and to lift your eating spirits, is to add some colour. I’m sorry, but beige just won’t cut it.
Think of a plate of beige/brown food… maybe buttered toast or even something deep-fried, like spring rolls or onion pakora. How does it make you feel? Probably okay, but not completely jumping out of your pants with excitement.
Now add a splash of colour: a handful of spinach, some roasted carrots or sliced red peppers. Maybe a few freshly picked leaves of basil. Don’t you instantly feel better even thinking about it? I know I do.
Beige is depressing if that’s all you’re having in your day. We need colour in our lives and our palate certainly needs colour to feel uplifted too.
Go and have a look in your fridge, cupboard and fruit bowl, and count up how many different colours of food you have in there. If it’s in single digits, I’d suggest a bit of a colour refresh. Challenge yourself to see how many shades you can get in there.
TIP: If you need some colour inspiration, follow a few foodie people on Instagram who use colours in beautiful ways to give you ideas for your own food. Some of my favourites include cerikitchen and rosiefoodie.
4. Eat with the seasons
The changing seasons are one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to eating joyfully. I still get so excited when the first strawberries, asparagus or stalks of rhubarb come into season. I don’t view eating seasonally as missing out on things, but more about the pleasure of tasting amazing food when it’s at its best.
I sometimes think not having eaten something for a few months builds up some extra anticipation too.
This is also about a bit more than just personal eating pleasure. It’s so much better from a sustainable eating perspective to try and eat with the seasons as much as possible. A happy planet is essential for future happy tummies.
A small caveat is that there are some seasonal exceptions. For example, bananas which are fairly low intensive to grow and are often shipped by boat. It’s helpful to get to know a few of these types of foods.
And of course it’s okay to include some other exotics for treat occasions, particularly if they don’t grow naturally in the country you live in. But eating something like strawberries out of season really isn’t worth it…
TIP: sign up for a veg box delivery or visit a local farmers’ market so you can get hold of some seasonal goodies (even better if you can go organic). This will save you some of the trouble of having to find out what’s in season and veggie box services often also provide some recipes or hints for cooking up the contents of your box.
5. Try something new
While I mentioned that you can discover the new in the normal foods you eat everyday, it’s actually kinda fun to try out some totally new things too. I love finding new flavours and ingredients I haven’t cooked with before. This definitely makes me very joyful.
And this might be as simple as a different type of salt. I’ve brought a number of different salts from holidays and they each add a new layer of taste to my cooking. It’s fun playing around and seeing how they change the overall balance of a dish.
My kitchen standard is Himalayan pink salt (which is pretty strong so a little goes a long way), but I also have, amongst others, a truffle salt that was given to me as a gift, some fleur de sel I picked up in Greece and an Australian wild herb salt. So you can see, that even with something as simple as salt, there’s still so much to explore.
There’s NO need to get bored in the kitchen. There is always something new to discover and experiment with – and to eat joyfully.
TIP: If you’re feeling a bit of cooking underwhelm, look for a new ingredient when you’re next out shopping. This might be a vegetable you’ve never tried, a different type of mustard or even a new type of noodle. It’s totally up to you. If you need some ideas for using your new ingredient, just do a quick Google (or if you’re very brave, ask someone standing near you in the shopping aisle!).