Teaching kids mindful eating

Teaching kids mindful eating

Every time I go to a restaurant or on vacation, I am shocked to see how kids are kept entertained at the table - with a pad, watching cartoons while eating....or better said while being fed! I personally don't agree with that type of style, because I believe that meal time is the perfect opportunity to help our children develop healthy relationship with food (not to mention the social aspect).

A lot of us eat in front of the TV, or computer while working (guilty of that!), or reading a news paper, without even realizing what we are eating, or how much we are eating, or when we are full. We all know that this is not healthy, but we do it any ways. But if you think about it, every time you eat, it is the perfect opportunity to nourish your body. Every time you eat, you get the opportunity to ask yourself "why am I eating"? And this brings me to the three main triggers for eating:

  • hunger -  think that we have all been there at one or another point
  • appetite - this is when you are not hungry, but you see a certain food, and you want to eat it (in my case that would be chocolate!)
  • emotional eating - this is purely caused by our emotional state of being at that particular moment; that's when we turn to food as a comfort factor

I think that it is essential for developing a healthy relationship with food, to teach our kids the difference between these three. Teach them to understand why they eat what they eat - is it out of habit, looking for some comfort, etc.

I personally think that healthy and mindful eating go hand in hand. You might eat as healthy as you want, but if you are constantly having your meals in front of the TV, or playing with your mobile you are not getting most of the benefits out of each meal. The worst part is that doing all these will lead you to overeating because you are not paying attention to the signals that your body is sending you. Being mindful plays obviously a big role in your overall wellbeing, but I think especially so when it comes to eating (find out about mindful eating here )

Having two little kids for me it is extremely important to help them develop positive and healthy relationship with food. To support them in being more mindful when they eat. It is not always easy, and I am not always doing a great job, but the fact is that there are so many reasons why it is so important to help our kids develop healthy eating habits. Just to mention a few:

  • this habits will stay with them throughout their life and they will be more likely to go for healthy choices when they grow up
  • they will be much more aware of their own body, and the signals that the body is trying to send them
  • they will not see food as the "enemy", but as a way to nourish their body so they feel at their best
  • because they know how to listen to their body, they will also know what foods are good for them and what foods they should avoid or limit
  • they would know that healthy eating is not about calorie counting; it is not about the number on the scale, but it is about the way you nourish your body in order to feel your best

So, how can we help our kids develop healthy relationship with food? How can we excite them about healthy food? How can we excite them about being mindful when eating? The answer is not a rocket science - it is simply bringing awareness around everything that has to do with food. Here are a few suggestions:

  • first and foremost, lead by example - remember that kids watch their parents much closer, then actually listening to them. You can't expect them to do what you are asking of them, if you are not able to do it yourself. So, set the example right from the very beginning
  • when you eat, focus only on the meal and eating - there are no destructions, there are no toys on the table, there is no running around, there are no mobiles on the table, and there is certainly no TV watching
  • eat only at the table - a lot of times we will feed our kids on the floor or chasing them throughout the house while they are playing; but there should be only one place for eating and that should be the table
  • have one meal a day as a family - it is not always possible, but it is important for the social aspect (among others) to have one meal a day as a family. This could be at dinner time for example, which will give each member of the family the opportunity to talk about their day - e.g. highlights, low point, etc
  • kids want to learn and are curious by nature, so take advantage of this and play "food" games during the meals. The idea is to keep them focused and aware of the food - so you can have them guess what ingredients are in the meal, the texture, the smell, the colour.....basically involve all senses
  • let them help with cooking and preparing the meal (where ever possible and appropriate for their age!)
  • take them along to the grocery store, and take the time each time to introduce them to the different products
  • let them chose a fruit or a vegetable that you can make a dish out of together
  • have some rules about sweets - for example our kids are allowed to eat once a day something sweet (they get to choose) either after breakfast or lunch
  • talk to your kids about the benefits of healthy nutrition - they will grow strong, tall, big, etc
  • a lot of times kids will see a meal, and they will automatically say "I don't want this". So have a rule that before they decide whether they want to eat it or not, they need to try
  • and last but not least, something that very often we tend to forget, but it is extremely important aspect of encouraging them to eat healthy and mindful is make it fun, let them explore, let them be creative

The best part is that teaching our kids about healthy nutrition and being mindful when eating is the perfect opportunity for us to slow down and be more mindful about our eating habits. This is the perfect opportunity for us to realize why we are craving certain foods, or at certain time of the day......and most importantly to figure out what foods make us feel at our best, and what foods we should avoid. Now I challenge you to try introducing mindfulness eating at your table every day......

Stay healthy,

Anna

 

Photo by © Shmel / Fotolia.com

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2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Teaching kids mindful eating”

  1. Nicole says:

    I love this!! We try so hard to do all of these things, though being a military family it is very difficult now to convince my toddler to eat at the table on nights his dad is gone. He sees the table as where we all eat dinner together and refuses to eat dinner there if it is just the two of us. We’ve compensated by having special picnics on the floor, though I am hoping it is just a phase. We do need to work more on being mindful when it comes to food… we do tend to fall into the trap of “comfort foods” at times… though thankfully those are healthy too.

    • Anna says:

      I think that there are always situations where we need to be flexible and just make the best possible choice! I also think that as long meal time is focused on the actual meal and the experience, it is ok. Good luck and would love to hear how that develops

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