In a world of superfoods and power packed smoothie bowls, expensive vegan powders and detox juices, it is quite natural to feel overwhelmed by the next best food to eat. Especially now when we need to keep our immunity up! But we also need to look beyond just food to stay healthy.

Here are some key non-food ingredients that need to be part of your daily plate. 

1. Practise the pause and be present

Most of us mindlessly rush through our meals distractedly trying to do many things simultaneously. However, when we don’t allow ourselves to be fully present with our food—or any activity we engage in—we land up feeling dissatisfied physically and/or psychologically. 

So instead of guzzling down your meals while multitasking, pause and create a tiny space between the previous activity and the act of eating. Then, breathe and tune in to why, how and what you’re eating. This is the heart of mindfulness. Even if you don’t have time for a leisurely, long meal, taking just a few minutes to be fully present helps us better connect to our bodies and ourselves. 

2. Say thank you

Say a small thank you before you eat. This simple act of gratitude allows you to attend to the present moment with more awareness and creates a positive energy shift within you to receive your meal. Buddhist monks have a beautiful practice of thanking everything and everyone that went into their meals—from the seeds and plants to the cooks who prepared their food. This reminds them of the hidden ingredients of time, energy, effort and love that their food represents. While it may not be possible or practical for you to say a long list of thanks everyday, a simple thank you goes a long way to enliven your plate.

3. Eat when you are in a pleasant or neutral mood

Eating when angry, anxious, frustrated, overwhelmed, guilty or ashamed often taints our eating experience and we either over or under eat; or eat poor quality foods to the point of physical discomfort. It’s best to delay eating when we feel any of these emotions in order to prevent forming an unhealthy association of eating and negative emotions. Even if you don’t struggle with emotional eating concerns, you still run the risk of mindless eating which leads to less satisfaction. I advise a quick check in to see where one is on an emotional scale between 1 to 10 with one being really negative, 5 being neutral and 10 being really positive. Avoid eating if you are in between 1 to 5. 

4. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you want

Yes you read that right. While you may think that is a recipe for inhaling a plateful of samosas or a tub of ice cream, research shows that when people restrict and judge themselves for eating certain “bad” foods, they tend to over-eat them. Think about it. When you start to eat dessert and then tell yourself you shouldn’t be eating it but then eat it anyway you land up feeling like you have broken the rules, should not have done that, will be better next time and a whole host of other thoughts. 

But if you allowed yourself to eat it without judgement, you are more likely to enjoy it and then naturally move on with your life, probably choosing to eat something more nutrient dense later. So move away from a good vs bad food mentality and discover the joys of eating food as food. Sometimes that means cake and at others, carrots. 

5. Nourish yourself daily without food too

What we feed ourselves goes beyond what we put into our mouths. It’s what we choose to read, to see, to listen to and to speak about. Take a break from social media, news channels and other mediums that constantly bombard you with information that makes you feel anxious, stressed and/or worse about yourself and life. Instead engage in at least one or two things a day that truly relax and calm you. Try an evening yoga class, go for a walk with your dog, chat with an old friend, indulge in a spa day, listen to some funny videos and so on. 

Holistic nourishment is not about eating “right”, eating “clean” or eating “less”. It’s about filling your plate and life in ways that fill your heart.


  • Tara Mahadevan

    Psychotherapist & Eating Behaviours Specialist

    Tara Mahadevan is a Mumbai based psychotherapist who works with clients on a range of issues such as anxiety, depression, stress management and relationship problems. She also specializes in the area of food and eating psychology. She helps clients adopt a holistic approach to eating, emotions and wellbeing not just through diet but through mindfulness and self-compassion therapy. In her work with clients, Tara incorporates a range of therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy, Mindfulness Based interventions and Existential Psychotherapy. Tara has a Post Graduate Diploma in Existential Psychotherapy from Middlesex University and the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling, UK. She has Master's in Psychology from SNDT University, Mumbai, and a Bachelor's in Psychology from Vassar College, USA.  She is also a certified Wellness Coach from Wellcoaches Corporation USA; a certified Paediatric Obesity Counsellor from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), USA; and a Certified Mindful Eating Counsellor from the Am I Hungry Mindful Eating Training Program, USA.