First of all, here's what intuitive eating actually is: "Intuitive eating is based on connecting with oneself to be more self-aware and in tune with the body's hunger levels, hunger cues, cravings, and being aware of diet culture overall," explains McKel Kooienga, RD, founder, and CEO of Nutrition Stripped.
But real-talk: Listening to your body isn't always as easy as it sounds. And if you're just starting out with this new mindset, Kooienga has a few pointers to help guide you. "Most people consuming a standard American diet don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables," she says. "Aim to get a few servings at every meal if possible, this will also support your digestion by consuming fiber from whole foods."
From there, she counts staying hydrated (specifically with filtered water) and eating a variety of proteins (especially plant-based ones that pack more fiber, like lentils and tempeh) as two simple things you can do on the reg to know you're fueling your body right.
And if you want a really easy way to combine a lot of these principles, we have two words: chia drink. "You can make one of my favorites from home," says Kooienga. "It’s two parts filtered water, one part 100 percent pure cranberry juice, and two tablespoons of chia seeds stirred. Let it set for about five minutes to create a hydrating and fiber-rich fall inspired drink."
So yes, ensuring you're doing one nice thing for your body each day can actually be as simple as adding Ocean Spray® Pure Cranberry to your fridge. Here's why that's important: "Cranberries are rich in the antioxidant quercetin, which has been shown to help reduce inflammation," says Kooienga.
Want more advice for how to eat intuitively? Scroll down for McKel Kooienga's 3 top tips.
1. Cook from home
This might sound like a "duh" moment, but spending time in your kitchen delivers way more benefits than just saving money (which is valid all on its own).
"Cooking from home can bring a bit of joy and can foster a connection with your food," Kooienga says. "Taking the time to connect with our food and also ask the question of what the true cost of food is (where it was farmed, who produced it or grew it, how was it processed), can all make us feel more connected with the food we’re eating."
And when you add cranberries to your diet (with this antioxidant-packed smoothie, for example), you can feel good about where they came from. Ocean Spray is a farmer-owned cooperative of over 700 families, who collaborate to share water used for harvesting before it's reintroduced to natural water systems. Fact: Every one acre of Ocean Spray cranberry bog supports over five acres of surrounding wildlife habitat.
2. Talk to yourself
Similar to how you talk yourself through hard life decisions or even what you're going to wear that day, checking in to see how you're doing while you eat is an important part of the intuitive-eating equation.
"Whether that’s reflecting in a journal or simply asking yourself 'How am I feeling right now?', this can instantly bring more awareness and self-reflection to your mind and body in order to assess what you truly need physically (or mentally, emotionally, and spiritually)," Kooienga says. This mindfulness basically creates an experience out of mealtime rather than just another thing to check off your list.
3. Plan a few meals ahead
Beyond prepping ingredients for soups, salads, and casseroles for grab-and-go meals, "Having a few go-to quick recipes like a smoothie can support you when you start to physically feel hungry," Kooienga says. "One of my favorites for a quick breakfast or snack on the go is ¾ cup cranberry juice, one cup of coconut milk, two tablespoons cashew butter, one cup of frozen zucchini or coconut, one scoop vanilla protein powder, and two tablespoons ground flaxseed blended until smooth."
Adding fresh cranberries or Ocean Spray® Pure Cranberry to your meal prep gives you a boost of nutrients, so it's a simple addition when you're looking to make sure you're staying nourished. "Cranberries are a great source of vitamin C which is an antioxidant that plays a role in many functions, including skin health," says Kooienga, adding that they also contain special phytonutrients to help prevent infections. Intuitive eating? Check. Goals? Met.
Sponsored by Ocean Spray
Photos: McKel Kooienga
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