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New year diet? It's not WHAT you eat, but HOW you eat

The new year is full of hope. It’s a time when many of us decide to make changes in our lives. It can be tempting for our new year’s resolutions to be strict, impossibly unachievable, and often short-lived though. So, we asked Jenny Tschiesche, the Lunchbox Doctor, for some top tips on tweaking our eating habits and she told us that it’s not so much “what you eat, but HOW you eat”.

One of the most common areas that people create resolutions around is healthy eating. That’s likely because this is the antithesis of the way in which food and wine have been consumed over the festive period. Yet, a focus on abstinence, reducing calorie intake, cutting out sugar or going low carb for example is likely to be a struggle after the festive feasting. One of the best ways to achieve healthier eating is to create new habits, not restrictions. What can make these new habits even easier to form is if they’re based on the WAY in which you eat and drink, not WHAT you eat and drink.

Oh, by the way, once you change the way you eat, what you eat does tend to change too, but again that’s without you having to try too hard. Here are some of the ways in which you can positively impact food and drink choices by changing the way you go about preparing and consuming your meals:

Eat together

Phrases such as “dinner is better when we eat together”; “a family that eats together stays together”, certainly provide clues as to the benefits of eating as a group of two or more. This may mean sharing meals with friends, a partner or as a family but what it doesn’t mean is sitting and working whilst eating alone.

The benefits of eating together are numerous. In fact, a variety of studies on this subject show that those who eat together more frequently have fewer depressive symptoms, fewer emotional difficulties and better emotional wellbeing [1]. Another study shows that children and adolescents who share family meals 3 or more times per week are more likely to be in a normal weight range and have healthier dietary and eating patterns than those who share fewer than 3 family meals together [2]. There is even an inverse relationship between the frequency of family meals and tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use [3].

Tip: Try and enjoy several meals a week with at least one other person, maybe even more!

Eat slowly

The benefits of slow eating include better digestion, better hydration, easier weight management, and greater satisfaction with our meals. Meanwhile, eating quickly leads to poor digestion, increased weight gain and low satisfaction. Most of us eat too quickly. We rarely take the time to savour our food, or sometimes even to chew it properly.

Eating more slowly gives your body time to recognise that you are full. It takes about 20 minutes from the start of a meal for the brain to send out signals of satiety. Most people’s meals don’t last that long.

Tip: To get started with eating more slowly it may help to carry out a mindful eating exercise.

This can be achieved with something as simple as a raisin or a grape. Explore the fruit with your hands then your mouth, ideally with your eyes closed. Then eventually bite into it and chew until you feel the need to swallow it. This process can take as long as ten minutes for one grape or raisin.

It’s a great way to tune into your food and although you’ll never eat a meal quite this slowly the exercise helps you be reminded of the benefits of slowing down when you do eat. Read more about mindful eating here.

Prepare some meals yourself

Think of digestion as a chain reaction. As soon as we see, smell or even think about food we start salivating to prepare for putting that food in our mouths. Saliva contains enzymes that break the food down and moisten the mouth for easier swallowing. Your stomach starts to secrete more acid and the small intestine starts to get ready for processing food too.

This is a series of events that shouldn’t be rushed and it’s also a process that happens at a healthier rate if we prepare food ourselves because the body has time to get ready to digest it and absorb the nutrients from it.

Tip: Try preparing some meals or snacks yourself but also try to be present (in the same room) whenever meals are being prepared as this will help your body to be more efficient at breaking down food and absorbing nutrients.

Ditch the distractions

Jeffrey Brunstrom, a researcher in behavioural nutrition at the University of Bristol, carried out research in which 22 volunteers played solitaire whilst eating a meal. Another 22 ate the same meal without any distractions [4].

The solitaire-playing eaters did far worse at recalling what they had eaten and felt substantially less full just after the meal. Thirty minutes later, when given the opportunity to eat again, they ate two times as many biscuits as those volunteers who had eaten without distractions.

Brunstrom said “memory plays an important role in the regulation of food intake, and distractions during eating disrupt that.”

Tip: When you are eating meals don’t sit with your phone or TV on. Ideally, eat together and enjoy organic conversations.

Only eat until 80% full

Feeling full and feeling satiated by food are very different. As a society, we tend to associate feeling full with having had enough to eat. However, if we look at the places in the world where large numbers of people live to over 100 years of age, known as “Blue Zones”, eating until satisfied i.e. 80% full is a common practice. In fact, one of these Blue Zones is Okinawa and it even has its own phrase for eating to 80% full. This is Hara Hachi Bu.

Eating to only 80% full means eating what your body truly needs. It helps with appetite regulation, improves satiety from food and improves digestion.

Tip: Try to eat slowly enough to know when you feel more like 80% full and less full or “stuffed”.

Final thoughts: At the start of this New Year the formation of new habits around the way that you eat can reap great rewards. Slowing down, eating together, eating without distractions, preparing some food yourself and eating to only 80% full are all great ways to improve your satisfaction from food, your health, and your nutritional status.


Jenny Tschiesche BSc(Hons) Dip(ION) FdSc BANT

The Lunchbox Doctor

Best Selling Author and Nutrition Workshop Facilitator

BANT Registered Nutritionist

A note from Beingwell: If your organisation would like Jenny to deliver a workshop, or want to find out more about the many ways she can help your employees to eat better, pop us an email Find out more about Jenny here.


1. Family Meals and Adolescent Emotional Well-Being: Findings From a National Study (2017). ScienceDirect.

2. Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Related to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents? (2011). Paediatrics.

3. Correlations Between Family Meals and Psychosocial Well-being Among Adolescents (2004). JAMA Network.

4. Playing a computer game during lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch, and later snack intake (2010). PubMed.




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