THE BLOG
02/04/2015 02:13 pm ET Updated Apr 06, 2015

Learn to Truly Appreciate Food by Engaging Your Senses

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It's February, and you're likely fatigued from all the New Year's resolution talk. So instead of putting more focus on deprivation and lofty goal setting, why not take the opportunity to stop, breathe and celebrate? It's so easy to get caught up in the "shoulds" that you may forget to glorify the little things that make your life rich on a day-to-day basis. For many, food evokes a negative response -- when in fact it's a positive and crucial part of our lives. You can change your relationship with food, and it starts with appreciation and choosing to be present. Slow down and engage all of your senses the next time you shop for, cook or eat a meal, and the result will be a transcendent, extraordinary experience.

The first step in engaging your senses is taking time to experience the moment. Once you find the space to breathe and be present, you'll be amazed at the joy your food has to offer you. When you engage all your senses, the brain releases feel-good chemicals, which elevate your mood and evoke feelings of trust, enjoyment and relaxation. The result is that you'll enjoy your food in a new and exciting way.

Take in what you see. There's a well-known adage, "We eat with our eyes first," yet we rarely take the time to truly experience this. Open your refrigerator, and simply take in the sites (without judgment, of course). What you see will likely evoke emotion, and you may even associate what you see with flavors your love or hate. From vibrantly colorful produce stacked at the market to a beautifully plated meal, our eyes act as a gateway to appreciating the food we eat. This is a great time to consider where your food came from and how it was grown, and if you're eating a meal, you can reflect on the work that went into preparing it. Appreciating the beauty of food and its journey to your plate is a wonderful way to celebrate your plate.

Get your hands dirty. Ditch your fancy kitchen gadgets, and feel your food. You touch food all of the time, but when's the last time you really paused to think about the sensuality of the experience? Pick up an apple, and pause to feel its weight. Explore the texture of a carrot and its leaves. Immerse yourself in the tactile sensations you experience in the kitchen, from holding a knife to peeling garlic, chopping an onion or juicing a lemon. Get your hands dirty and play with your food, then slow down enough to really enjoy the experience. As you eat, think about the way a food feels in your mouth, which will in turn slow down your eating and engage you in the flavor of the meal.

Savor each bite. We often choose the foods we want to eat based on the way they taste and the flavors we enjoy, but we rarely take the time to revel in it. Challenge yourself to take a bite and taste your food before you even starting chewing it. Chew mindfully; challenge yourself to chew your food at least 10 times, and pay attention to each chomp and the way the flavor and texture of your food changes. By savoring each bite, you can enjoy less of a food -- and still feel satisfied.

Relish the aroma. There's something so inviting about the smell of your home when you cook, as well as the aromas at your favorite restaurant. Scents evoke memories and emotions, which you can use to your advantage. How a food smells is directly related to your perception of how that food tastes. Try eating one of your favorite foods while you're holding your nose. You'll have a very different experience than you would if you could smell the aroma. Conversely, take a food such as cauliflower or Brussels sprouts -- which have a strong aroma that makes them unappealing to many. Use this knowledge to your benefit, and season your food with beautifully fragrant herbs and spices that enhance the aroma and, therefore, taste. Take a moment before each bite to inhale and enjoy the way your food smells, which in turn gets you excited to mindfully eat it.

Soundtrack your life. Though our sense of hearing seems abstract to our relationship with food, it isn't. When you take an active approach to listening to the world around you, it can deepen your overall experience of life, including your relationship with food. Listen to the sounds created when you cut into a potato, or the sizzle as you sauté some vegetables in a pan. Be attentive to the sound of chewing your food, and delight in the melody of voices as you share a healthy meal with friends and family.

You may give this a go once in a while or incorporate a few of these tips on a daily basis, but either way, the act of engaging yourself in all that your food is offering will allow you to celebrate your plate in a way that takes the emphasis off deprivation.

As originally seen on: U.S. News.