Chew on this: Most Americans are eating their meals too quickly

Did you know the average American eats a meal in about five minutes? Salem Health registered dietitian Katherine Spann said that can lead to a range of concerns, such as weight gain and indigestion.

So, how can we be more mindful when we sit down to eat? Here are some of Spann’s tips to slow down:

  • Chew on each bite about 20 to 30 times: The goal is getting food to the consistency of applesauce before swallowing.
  • Use smaller utensils: A salad fork or teaspoon can lead to more manageable bites.
  • Put down your fork between bites: This paces out your meal.
  • Aim for 20-minute meals (or longer): That’s how long it takes for the brain to receive the message from the stomach that you’re full. Spann said 10 to 15 minutes is appropriate for a snack.

Spann noted it takes two to four hours to digest food, depending on the number of calories.

“If you don’t chew well, your stomach is working really, really hard,” she said.

The result? An increased risk of indigestion and acid reflux.

Beyond that, Spann said mindful eating is a way of using your senses to maximize mealtimes.

“Food is amazing; it’s a pleasure that you enjoy,” she said. “Enjoy your meal. Take time and think about all the different colors and textures.”

These are just a few ways to help your stomach out. By being mindful, we can embrace the joy of eating.