While writing my book Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick’s Guide to Mindful Mealtime Moments I had several conversations with Nestlé, including a visit to their headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland.
Being the biggest food company in the world means they are tackling global issues. Their scale is evident when visiting the corporate campus with its digital data center showing real-time activity across time zones and product showcase featuring many successful brands that we don’t see in the States.
Nestlé also has the opportunity to make a difference on an individual level. They have tremendous data and insights that, when communicated effectively, can help us connect more deeply with our food and mealtime experiences. The bene
fits and practice of mindful consumption — namely being present and engaged when we plan, shop, prepare and consume meals — is a central theme in my book.
This mindful approach to meals is actually very European. In my many trips to Switzerland, France and Italy, and during meals with European friends, the commitment to ‘being in the moment’ while enjoying each phase of the consumption journey, is much more the norm.
So while it was eye-opening to see several examples from Nestlé, I think they come by it naturally, even if it is not always highly visible here in the States.
One is how they implemented “Thoughtful Portion” on-pack guidance across the majority of their brands. This is a start to help consumers increase mindful awareness of portions and healthy plates. See my Mindful Chocolate Raisin research hack videos for additional perspective on this.
Another is the multi-sensory ‘how to enjoy chocolate’ experience in the Maison Cailler museum that is the essence of mindful eating. The wisdom here can extend to all food, well beyond chocolate.
And even the size of the coffees from the Nescafe machines around the office are more moderate. I drank the rich, flavorful beverage and felt satisfied. No super-sized calorie bomb coffee concoctions needed here.
Given their resources, commitment to innovation and collective wisdom, Nestlé has the opportunity to make a huge positive impact on the health and wellness of all their constituents. Supporting broader mindful consumption can be part of that and they have the DNA to authentically make it happen.
I include content on some of their global activity in the book. Here is an excerpt about a personal insight from my conversations.
“During one cold week this past winter, I wanted to make lasagna for dinner. I always loved my mother’s version and was eager to serve it to my son, as well as enjoy it myself. But as I was planning to shop, I realistically looked at our busy schedule over the next several days and knew that I wouldn’t have time to make it. So I bought a frozen one from Stouffer’s. It was the first time I’d ever bought this product, and although the packaging was appealing and the ingredients looked wholesome, I didn’t know what to expect.
I was impressed. By the taste, quality, and fact that my son gobbled it up. But I still felt a bit of “made in a factory” guilt serving it: until, that is, I spoke with Chavanne Hanson, Deputy Head, Global Public Affairs at Nestlé S.A. (which owns the Stouffer’s brand) and a registered dietitian. She shared that the noodles are laid by hand on fresh-cooked red sauce by well-trained cooks, many of them women, working in the company’s “big kitchens.” Then the freshly layered lasagna is quickly frozen. The freezing itself acts as a natural preservative, so they don’t need to add chemical preservatives.
I immediately thought of when my grandmother would send fresh food home with my mother on a weekend to be frozen, so we could cook and enjoy it at the end of the week.
This story about the ladies laying the noodles down one at a time (I like to imagine they are someone’s mother or grandmother) and education on freezing as a preservative woke me up to the potential for goodness available even in the frozen aisle of the store.
Sometimes we are not totally aware of the full conversation in our head and heart around this issue of what we cook ourselves and what we let others cook for us. Exploring our drivers and assumptions here can be an exercise in mindfulness.
· Are there internal or family pressures to cook meals from scratch? Where is this coming from? What’s at the bottom of it?
· Is there resistance to choosing prepared food? How are you defining prepared food: canned, boxed, frozen, delivered? What assumptions do you make (it’s unhealthy, too expensive, not good enough)? What judgments do you make and perceive others making (it makes me look like I can’t handle cooking, it’s socially irresponsible, I’m fiscally irresponsible paying for someone else to make my food)?
· Is there resistance to cooking from scratch? What are the assumptions (it’s too difficult, it’s too time-consuming, I don’t know how, I’m afraid my family won’t eat it)? Do these apply to all types of food?
· What are your constraints? Time? Budget? Desire? Support? Are these the same every day of the week? Every week of the month?
Women who work are not going to quit working outside their homes anytime soon just to free up extra hours to cook traditional home-cooked meals. And women who are home, whether working remotely or taking care of their kids, have plenty of demands on their time that often make prepared food an unavoidable reality.
Many of us want to eat food that’s as fresh as possible. Becoming aware of your assumptions and internal dialogue can help you find solutions to best suit your unique needs. There are many healthy, tasty, frozen and premade solutions available to complement fresh food. And many fresh food recipes can be created more quickly than we often realize, especially when planned ahead.
Welcome what brings you peace, health, and balance and what suits your budget and time constraints.”
Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick’s Guide to Mindful Mealtime Moments is available on Amazon and local book stores.
Originally published at medium.com