How to Raise a Mindful Eater
Mindfulness is a form of self awareness that encourages you to be attentive and to be aware of what you are doing and what you are experiencing in the present time to promote psychological health and wellbeing. Teaching your children how to eat mindfully right from the start will have many benefits for their future health and wellbeing. Actually, almost all children will be mindful when they first start solids – they use all their senses to learn about food right from the very first mouthful – the smell, the taste, the look, the feel. And they react positively or negatively to future exposure to food based on their initial experiences. So, if children are naturally more mindful when learning to eat, helping them to maintain this skill into adulthood will be invaluable to their health and wellbeing.
Most of the research around mindfulness has been conducted in adults but more recently there has been increasing interest around mindfulness in children. In adults, particularly women, mindful eating has resulted in improved self regulation of appetite and hunger and selection of more nutritious foods, less anxiety and chronic stress, weight maintenance and it can even help to reduce ‘emotional eating’ associated with feelings of depression and stress.
Our top 10 tips to mindful eating
- Demonstrate mindful eating
It is important we eat mindfully so we can teach our children positive eating behaviours.
- Eat dinner at the table as a family
Family mealtimes are the perfect opportunity to enjoy good food, encourage social interaction as a family as well as provide good nutrition for your child’s growth, health and wellbeing.
- Avoid distractions at mealtimes such as the TV, iPAD, laptops, books etc
These simply distract children from the process of eating, the taste of food and feelings of hunger and fullness.
- Talk about food
Teach children about nutritious foods and why we need them. Ask them what it smells like, what the texture is like and what it tastes like. Remember to talk to them about ‘everyday’, ‘sometimes’ and ‘occasional’ foods too, rather than ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods.
- Offer nutritious foods
If you offer your children a tasting plate of nutritious foods at mealtimes, they can decide what and how much they eat. It avoids you needing to head back into the kitchen to make a second meal.
- Offer, and offer again
Children often need repeated exposure and to taste (at least 10 times) to a new food before they become familiar with it and accept it.
- Cook with your kids
Allowing your children to help with the shopping and cooking gives children more opportunities to interact with food. This then helps them to become more familiar with, and accept, a wide variety of foods.
- Garden with your kids
When children interact with and understand the food they eat (and see the time and effort involved) they are often happier to eat it compared to when it just turns up as a new food on their plate.
- Avoid bribing your kids with dessert or with ‘sometimes’ foods
This can then set up the expectation that they will be offered dessert every night.
- Don’t expect kids to finish ALL their dinner ALL the time
This allows them to respond to their own hunger and fullness cues. And if they are not expecting dessert after dinner then you can be confident that they are appropriately satisfied.
A few favourite OHC recipes:
- Pumpkin, Zucchini & Mint Couscous (baby)
- Lamb, Veggie Rice (baby)
- Apricot Coconut Muesli Bars
- Blueberry, Apple & Lemon Muffins
- Peanut Butter Balls
- Homemade Baked Beans
- Pick n Mix Vegetable Shreddies
- Tuna Mornay
- Chicken Halloumi Quinoa Balls
- Beef, Veggie, Brown Rice Meatloaf