Mindful Eating

Category: Video Episodes

About This Episode

What else do you do while you’re eating? Watch TV? Talk about school? Read? Browse your phone? Drive? Scarf it down and go? Wish you were eating something different?

We do a lot of eating over the course of a lifetime, oftentimes when our thoughts are somewhere else, or there’s somewhere else we need to be in fifteen minutes. The food we put in our mouths can end up there for the sake of convenience, or out of habit, or just by impulse when we feel hungry.

But we humans have some very special gifts when it comes to taste and smell and sight. So . . . when was the last time you really concentrated on a meal, savoring each individual flavor and aroma, texture and color?

Some of us say grace over a meal before digging in. But have you considered the farmers who made that food for you? And have you thought about the plants and animals as they sustain your life and please your senses?

In this episode, Dr. Richard Davidson and others take us to deeper states of eating, where mind and senses, body and soul come together.



The People

Dr. Richard Davidson is the Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A world-renowned neuroscientist, he is the director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds. The Center is devoted to the scientific research of qualities of mind such as kindness, compassion, altruism, forgiveness and mindfulness. Tasty Guide talked with Dr. Davidson about mindfulness in eating.


Alyssa Henry is local eating enthusiast and member of the Slow Food Madison leadership team, as well as a nurse-anesthetist. From the Slow Food USA mission: “We reconnect Americans with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. We seek to inspire a transformation in food policy, production practices and market forces so that they ensure equity, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat.”

The Places

Frautschi Point Park is a lovely woodland setting on the shores of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin.


The Cookhouse is a farm-direct take out restaurant in Verona, Wisconsin, specializing in prepared foods and whole ingredients from the owners’ Jordandal Farms as well as others throughout southern Wisconsin. Chef Jason Veal keeps the menu seasonal with fresh, local produce in the summer and fall, and some tasty preserved vegetables and fruits in winter and spring.


The Food


Boil, Brew, Sip and Notice


Instead of a food recipe we would like to offer a guided experience through the ritual of drinking tea.  Tea is simple to find, prepare and enjoy.  It’s a small break for you; an opportunity to take a moment to be fully present for yourself and your experience of drinking tea.


1.) Find some sustainably grown unflavored, whole leaf tea of your choice.  Most climates support the growth of mint, holy basil, chamomile or blackberries, so you should be able to find locally grown herbals teas with a neighbor, at your local farmers market or grocery.  As you’re choosing the tea, take time to notice how it looks, smells and feels in your hand.


2.) If your tea isn’t already contained in a tea bag, make sure to have a tea bag or strainer before trying this exercise.


3.) Boil the desired amount water and when you’re boiling it, stay with it.  Watch it.  Notice how it changes; the sound, look, heat, smell.  Watch it until it boils and if your mind wanders away from the water, notice without judgment and gently bring it back to the water.


4.) Pour 1 cup of boiled water into a mug over your tea.  Notice the sound, how it looks, feels – is it aromatic?  Stay fully with the experience and again, if your mind wanders, notice and gently bring your senses back to the tea.


5.) Remove the tea leaves and for a couple of minutes, with your senses already fully engaged, notice – is there steam?  How does it smell?  Look closer – are there reflections from the surface of the tea?  Notice the tea in detail with all of your senses and then take time to give thanks to those who took part in growing the tea herbs, making this experience possible.


6.) Once the tea is cool enough to drink, take one small slow sip and let the tea sit in your mouth for enough time to notice in detail and without judgment the temperature, the taste, the consistency.


7.) As you swallow the tea, notice any sensations you may have during and after.


8.) Repeat.  Once the cup is empty, notice the empty cup.  Check in with yourself and pay attention to any sensations you have before moving on with your day. 

For Kids, Families and Teachers

Eating Awake for One Week


Choose one meal a day to eat mindfully. Leave yourself some time. If you’re in a hurry to eat and go, try this later.

Sit down at the table and notice the food before you, using all your senses.

Notice how it looks, every little detail.

Notice how it smells. Can you pick out the different smells?

When you use your utensil or fingers to pick it up, explore how it feels. What kind of texture does it have?

Taste it and as you chew, really notice the texture and flavor before swallowing.  Do the flavor and texture change? Is it creamy or crunchy? Is it sweet or tart, or even both?

Turn off the thinking part of your mind and explore the sensations.

Put your utensil down.

After you swallow the food, is there an aftertaste? How does that bite of food make you feel?

Start again with something else on your plate.  And eat your entire meal one bite at a time, fully present for each bite.

Please share your experiences with us on our blog!

Dig Deeper

Here are some wonderful resources for exploring mindfulness not only how we choose, grow or eat food but in every aspect of our lives:


Local Harvest – Find a local and sustainable food resource near you.


Mindful Eating as Food for Thought


Mindful Schools – Teaching mindfulness to teachers and students.


Center for Investigating Healthy Minds with Dr. Richard Davidson


Insight Meditation Society – Mindfulness Training and Retreats


Mindsight – Dr. Dan Siegel