How to raise mindful eaters

This blog was featured in The Suburban

Children are naturally mindful eaters because of their amazing ability to come back to the present. Kids explore foods both familiar and unfamiliar with their attentive bodies and non-judgement minds. They are very in tune with their hunger and fullness signals but all of this starts to change as they grow older, become more socially aware and become busy beings and enter into the fast pace life.

Mindful eating is a powerful practice and helps children connect with their bodies and minds. By eating mindfully children develop a healthy relationship with food and acceptance of themselves. Studies have shown that mindful eating can also help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Here are some tips to raising mindful eaters.

Allow your kids to explore and get messy!

Children should be given the opportunity to explore food in different ways. This can be quite messy for little ones who are just starting to eat solids. However it is a very crucial step for their development and emotional security. Get your children involved in the cooking process, from picking out the ingredients to washing them. During meal times, talk about how the food feels in your mouth, how it tastes, looks and smells.

Eat together without distractions

When children are distracted, they tend to over eat and are not able to recognize those hunger/fullness signals. Eating should be a pleasurable experience and something the entire family should enjoy together without screens.

Trust your child’s hunger

Like most of us, children’s appetite can vary significantly from day to day. Most parents get overly concerned if their children don’t finish their plate or eat little of their dinner. When it comes to feeding kids, there are two major rules: Parents chose what and where the child will eat and the child will decide how much he/she wants to eat. Force feeding or bribing kids to eat will not help and will only impact parent/ child relationship negatively. Unless your child is losing weight or is a very restrictive eater, worrying about the qualities of food consumed per meal should not be an issue.

Don’t label foods good or bad

Food is not “good’ or “bad” or “naughty” or “nice”. Food should not evoke feelings of guilt or shame. It is simply fuel for our bodies. There are however “healthier” choices than others and by eating non judgementally we can satisfy both our bodies and minds. It is important to understand that all foods fit into healthy eating!

By Naureen Hunani, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist

Naureen Hunani