How do you begin to help your child be more mindful around eating and develop a good relationship with food? In this month’s blog we consider how to help your child connect with their tummies and minds, creating a healthier outlook on food and a better relationship with eating and themselves.

What is mindful eating?

For children and adults alike, mindful eating is about awareness. Scoffing down food without tasting it, or eating out of boredom are examples of mindless eating. Rather, we want to encourage our kids to taste their food, and really experience what it provides for their bodies, recognise when they are full, and enjoy their meals in a wholesome way. This will take time and practice to implement but can begin with a few good habits.

1.Teach your child about hunger cues

    Start with the basics: show your child that food makes their body feel a certain way. Help them feel this out and develop a vocabulary around this, beginning with how they experience hunger: e.g. does their tummy growl? Do they feel weak or shaky? Are they energy levels low? And then, once they have eaten, what kind of feelings do they experience in their bodies after a meal? Do their belly’s feel warm and full, or tight and bloated, for example. By starting in the bodily experience itself you are helping your child make a very important link between mind and body and putting them in charge of understanding what they need and when.

    2. Create distraction-free meal zones

    How many times do we stick out kids in front of the TV or a screen while they’re eating? While it’s not a crime, doing this at every meal can become problematic. If they are being served content from screens, then they are tuned out of what is happening internally in their bodies. There is a good chance they are not even tasting the food in their mouths and that chewing and swallowing have become mechanical. It’s a good idea that at least 2 of the 3 main daily meals are eaten in a social setting, free of screens and other distractions. This will begin to get them in touch with their bodily experiences and also instil that eating is equally about making meaningful connections with the people in their lives.

    3. Express gratitude for what you are eating

    Nourishment is a gift and practising gratitude for what we are able to put into our bodies is a great habit. Some families may choose to do this before or after a meal with prayer, but if you are not religious,  it can also be as simple as ensuring your kids simply say ‘thank you’ to the adult who has prepared or provided the meal for them. This simple gesture is an important way of reminding our kids that full bellies are a blessing and it’s important to be grateful for that.

    The bottom line

    Eating is a biological necessity but it is also an important communication of inward satisfaction, as well as a sign of being taken care of. It’s so important to help our kids develop a healthy relationship with food that bridges the divide between mind and body and helps them, over time, to develop a rich vocabulary that embraces the nuances and vitality of this daily ritual.

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