Eating is a source of nourishment for the mind and body.
Meals offer you the opportunity to practice self-care daily through nutrition.
Planning meals and limiting distractions when it’s time to eat can help you make healthy choices and connect with your body.
Nutrients that help nourish your body inside and out include healthy fats, fiber, and pre- and probiotics.
Self-care is an umbrella term for all the ways you can take care of yourself to support physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Everyone has their own definition of self-care, but nutrition is one example of physical self-care that everyone can benefit from.
Mealtimes, which happen several times a day for most people, offer a unique opportunity to make nourishing yourself part of your daily routine. Your daily food choices may not hold as much appeal as a spa day or time off, but your diet is foundational to feeling good and functioning optimally.
In this article, we’ll explain how nutrition relates to self-care and share our best tips for nourishing yourself with food.
Why Nutrition Is Self-Care
Like exercise, nutrition is part of physical self-care. The food you eat provides the fuel and essential nutrients for your body and mind to perform an immense amount of work around the clock.
Nutrition has the potential to impact our well-being in so many ways. It plays a role in:†
Here are 5 tips to care for yourself with nutrition.
Cooking puts you in the driver’s seat of your well-being. Home cooked foods are linked to healthier diets and nutrient intake compared to dining out or relying on convenience foods.  If you already enjoy cooking, this is an easy way to use nutrition to take care of yourself.
Healthy meals don’t need to be complicated or time-consuming to prepare, but they do require some planning. Set yourself up for success by setting aside time each week to create a meal plan, organize your shopping list and recipes, and complete your grocery shopping. Doing so will help remove stress around mealtimes and means you won’t be rushing to find something to eat when you’re hungry.
Keeping a well-stocked kitchen will make it easy to build a balanced meal, even when you don’t feel like cooking. Nutritious staples to have on hand include:
Broths and stocks
Frozen proteins, such as chicken breasts and salmon fillets
Fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables
Herbs and spices
Nuts, nut butters, and seeds
Whole grains, including brown rice, oats, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta
Whether you enjoy meal planning and trying new recipes or rely on a handful of go-to dishes, cooking can help you become more connected with your food choices.
Your body needs to be properly fueled for you to feel your best. Hunger is your body’s way of telling you it needs refueling. Busy schedules make it easy to ignore hunger and postpone eating, which can result in low energy, feeling cranky, and more intense cravings for unhealthy foods.
On the flip side, you may eat when you’re not truly hungry, such as eating out of boredom, due to stress, or in a social situation where you feel you have to eat.
Self-care nutrition means you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. One of the best ways to practice this is to eat regularly throughout the day. Some people prefer three meals with snacks, while others prefer smaller, more frequent meals. There is no right or wrong way, as long as you listen to your body and honor hunger.
3. Eat with intention.
Being intentional with your nutrition starts with choosing what to eat and carries over to the actual act of eating. It may sound overly simple, but being present with your food can change your relationship with nutrition and your body.
How often do you grab something convenient to eat and feed yourself while scrolling your phone, watching tv, or driving? If you often find yourself multitasking while eating, your senses aren’t engaged with your food because your attention is on multiple things at once.
Intentional eating can help you enjoy your food more, feel more relaxed around meals, and be more in tune with your body's hunger and fullness cues.  Besides connecting with your food, being mindful also gives you a chance to foster a connection with whoever happens to be gathered at your table.
Limit distractions during meals. That means eating at the table as much as possible and unplugging from electronics.
Make meals an opportunity for self-care by playing relaxing music, lighting candles, or setting flowers on the table — whatever makes you happy.
Concentrate on chewing. Thoroughly chewing your foods naturally slows down eating, improves digestion, and gives you time to recognize when you’ve had enough so you don’t overeat to the point of digestive discomfort. 
4. Choose variety over fads.
The more variety you have in your diet, the better your nutrient intake will be. Including more nutrient dense foods is a great way to nourish yourself inside and out. It also naturally shifts you away from diet fads, which are often restrictive and unsustainable.
It can be overwhelming to think about eating different foods every single day. Instead, zoom out and consider the variety of foods you eat over several weeks or months. Trying new recipes is a great way to introduce more variety. You can also simply rotate the types of produce, nuts, grains, and proteins you purchase each week.
The following nutrients can nourish your body and mind. Aim to include daily sources of:
Fat adds flavor, is highly satiating, and enhances the absorption of other nutrients, including fat soluble vitamins. Include unsaturated fats like avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds and support a healthy heart and brain. †
Found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, fiber helps support digestive health. †
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Pre- and probiotics support a healthy digestive system and may improve nutrient utilization .† Prebiotic fiber is found in produce and whole grains and probiotics are in fermented foods, like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.
Life is always in flux and it’s not always possible to get all the nutrition you need every day. That’s where taking a daily multivitamin or other dietary supplements, like fish oil for omega-3s or probiotics, can be beneficial and help fill in natural gaps in nutrient intake.†
Good nutrition is a pillar of self-care. Feeding yourself nourishing foods is foundational to supporting energy levels, digestion, mood, and cognitive function. A balanced diet includes a variety of foods and nutrients with occasional indulgences and perhaps a multivitamin — after all, there’s no such thing as a perfect diet.
Besides providing your body with the elements it needs to function, mealtimes offer you the chance to unplug, try new things, express creativity, nurture your relationship with your body, and connect with others.
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
 Mills, S., Brown, H., Wrieden, W., White, M., & Adams, J. (2017). Frequency of eating home cooked meals and potential benefits for diet and health: cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort study. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 14(1), 109. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-017-0567-y
 Cherpak C. E. (2019). Mindful Eating: A Review Of How The Stress-Digestion-Mindfulness Triad May Modulate And Improve Gastrointestinal And Digestive Function. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 18(4), 48–53.
Sharon Lehman, RD is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a health writer. She specializes in intuitive eating, recipe development, food photography, and hormone health. She shares healthy living tips and recipes on her blog www.heartandstove.com