Helping Kids to Be Mindful Eaters
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Mindfulness, is all about “the capacity to bring full attention and awareness to one’s experience in the moment, without judgement” (Center for Mindful Eating). What better time to practice mindfulness than when eating!
Sometimes meals are rushed and chaotic. These meals are the OPPOSITE of mindful eating…. especially if the TV is blaring and hand held electronics have taken over the table.
WHY practice mindful eating?????
To be able to notice that point in the meal when we are no longer hungry
We have often heard that it takes around 20 minutes for our brain to register that we have eaten and to figure out that we are no longer hungry. Plowing through our food too quickly often means second portions………………….which leave us feeling overly full by the time all of that food settles in!
Practice eating slowly and pay attention to how the hunger level fades as the meal progresses.
To fully enjoy and appreciate the flavors of good food
One of life’s greatest pleasures is to savor and truly enjoy the deliciousness of each bite. When our brain is on “auto-pilot” and we are simply going through the motions of putting food into our mouth, we are deprived of this truly amazing experience.
Instead of putting two or three bites of food in at once, try to focus on the delicious flavor of just ONE bite at a time.
To lower fasting blood sugar levels and to lower heart disease risk
Who knew?! A 2016 study published in the research journal, Obesity found that mindful eating led to improved blood sugar levels and lowered triglycerides. In addition, “good cholesterol” was increased.
How wonderful to know that by taking time to enjoy our food we can actually improve our health!
To save money
“The more we pay attention, the less we eat”, according to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Eating less can add up to big savings on the food bill!
Challenge your family to STOP eating when satisfied, instead of continuing to eat beyond this point. Some families have noticed that they need to purchase LESS food as a result!
So there you have it……. not only will mindful eating help us to enjoy the dining experience more fully, but it may also protect our health AND save us a few dollars!!
Tips to Help your Kids become Mindful Eaters:
Make the table an electronics-free zone. This includes not only cell phones but I-Pads, hand held games and laptops. And of course the TV should be OFF during meals. Parents get to set the rules on this one!
No “head starts” allowed! Hold off on eating until everyone has their food and is seated. This is not only polite, but helps to avoid the situation where one person thinks they are ready for seconds while another is just sitting down to eat.
Encourage sips of water after every 3 or 4 bites of food. This simple step helps us to slow down by forcing us to take a brief pause from eating!
Many kids love learning about food……..where it came from, how it helps our body, the specifics of the recipe used, etc. Having food discussions while enjoying a meal together is a great way to help kids develop an appreciation of the whole eating experience……and THAT is what mindful eating is all about!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT…… Nothing zaps the joy of eating quite as much as having to count the number of chews. YES, encourage your child to take their time when eating but lose the “chew every bite at least 20 times” rule!!
Written by: Jenny Favret, MS, RD, LDN Nutritionist, Duke Pediatrics Healthy Lifestyles Program