I talk a lot about mindful eating and the multitude of health benefits surrounding the practice, but it is not just important for adults, it is also important for kids. When kids eat mindfully it helps them make better food choices. They will also become much more aware of the amount of food they eat, how fast they eat, and how they feel about the food they eat.
Helping kids to eat mindfully at a young age is much easier than when they are teens. Young children (infants and toddlers) already have a connection to their senses. You’ve seen it; they look, touch, smell, and taste their food before they take a bite. Our role as parents is to help our kids to practice mindful eating in a simple and fun way so that they continue this habit into adulthood.
Practicing these strategies together will help your child to eat mindfully:
Involved your child in food selection and meal preparation. Take your child grocery shopping and encourage him or her to select produce they want to try. Also, let your child help out with dinner, cooking is a great way to practice mindful eating. It could be as simple as tossing the salad or even just setting the table, anything safe for their age that gets them evolved in the process.
Meal time should be for meals only. Although it is tempting to sit the kids down in front of the TV or feed your child when she’s playing, try to avoid it whenever possible. Sit at the kitchen or dining room table and remove all distractions. One of the main practices of mindful eating is to direct all awareness to the eating experience.
Talk about food. Talk about the taste, color, shape, and texture. Ask them questions like “What do you think about this?” Or “Does it remind you of something else you have tried before?”
Slow down and enjoy your food. When kids gobble down their food they usually find themselves hungry, or so they think, shortly after eating. Keep in mind, it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal the brain when it is full, so by eating more slowly your child will give their body time to communicate this message.
Be a role model. Your actions and attitudes matter more than your words when setting examples for mindful eating. If you fear trying new foods, guess what so will your kids. If you are judgmental or label foods your kids will pick that up too.
Bottom line, make sure you kids see you behaving the way you want them to, eating mindfully!