January 07, 2012

On conscious, mindful eating + A recipe for Power Balls!

In my New Year’s post I talked about the changes I had made during the previous year - quitting sugar and dairy and returning to vegetarianism.  All these choices were pushed by a strong will for a healthier life and a growing awareness of my surroundings.  I have always been very conscientious, so it feels like a natural, ethical decision to not eat meat and instead eat foods that I feel provide me with the best nourishment and lead me towards a better health and wellbeing.

Conscious eating is more than just making the right ethical choices. It is about getting in tune with your body, knowing what it needs and what it can’t tolerate and how it reacts to the foods you are consuming. Practising this kind of awareness takes time and patience and I cannot claim to have mastered it fully myself. Experimenting with dietary changes, like the ones I mentioned above, can give you a better understanding of what it is that your body acquires.  

Along with the right ethical and nutritional choices, conscious eating is also about appreciating the food and fully embracing all meals. Caroline Dupont, the author of ‘Enlightened Eating’, recommends practising conscious eating by avoiding all distractions at meal time, appreciating the food with all your senses (the smell, the colours, the taste and texture) and making eating a complete experience.  

In today's busy world, it is easy to see why this is so hard to put in practise. A lot of people eat most of their meals on the run – grabbing breakfast on their way to work, eating lunch at their desks and finishing the day with a meal in front of the tv or a computer. Convenience conjoined with multitasking is everything and people have lost part of their intuition when it comes to consuming food. That intuition, amongst other things, should tell you when you're hungry and what foods you should eat/avoid for optimum health. If eating is always secondary and distractions are present, it is impossible to follow that intuition.

My journey to conscious eating begins when I buy the produce. There is nothing I love more than going to my local farmers' markets every week to pick up fresh ingredients to cook with. Chatting to the growers who picked their produce for the market just the previous night gives me a real connection to the food and a much deeper appreciation for it. I cannot claim to be perfect, however, as just like many others, I sometimes do eat meals in front of my laptop, working and typing away. I have made a conscious effort, however, to be more aware and make conscious eating a habitual choice. These are the first steps towards a more mindful eating.

Tips on how to get started

  1. Be aware of the origins of your food. Shop at farmers' markets, if you can. Select products that have less food miles. 
  2. If you do eat meat (or other animal products), make sure you know the source and be sure the animals have been treated and killed as humanely as possible. 
  3. Eat more raw foods and choose a variety of colours, flavours, textures and shapes – this will accentuate the whole eating experience.  
  4. Experiment with different dietary changes. Try a week without gluten and dairy and see if you feel different. Try eating more vegetables and less fruit, try cutting out all sugar. Note down the feelings you experience during the experiment.
  5. Make meal times a priority – no tv, no computer, no magazines or books. Set the table (even if you’re eating alone), light up a candle and savour the meal.

With these thoughts, I’ll switch off my laptop, pour myself a cup of tea and savour one or two of these delicious, gooey, spiced sweet potato and cacao power balls. Enjoy!

Power Balls
(makes 10)

450g cooked and mashed sweet potato
2 heaped tablespoons almond butter (made with 1/2 cup raw almonds, recipe here)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons pure, raw cacao powder (unsweetened)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground licorice
virgin coconut oil, for rolling
unsweetened desiccated coconut, for rolling (optional)

1. Combine the sweet potato, almond butter and chia seeds in a bowl.

2. Mix together the cacao and the spices and stir into the mixture. You should have a gooey, sticky mixture. Rub your hands lightly with coconut oil and roll the dough into about 10 balls. 

3. Chill the balls in the fridge (20-30 minutes), then roll the balls in desiccated coconut before serving. These will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.