Mindful Eating for Kids – Tips for Fostering Healthy Relationships with Food
Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down so you can notice your thoughts, feelings and what’s going on in your body. It’s the art of living in (and savoring) the present moment rather than worrying about the past or future. It’s a skill that can take a good bit of practice to master, but once you do, it can have a positive impact on all areas of life. And the best thing about learning mindfulness yourself is that you can model it and teach it to your kids.
Mindful eating is one of the areas in which mindfulness can be very beneficial not only to adults, but to kids. But just what IS mindful eating? According to The Center for Mindful Eating, mindful eating is
- Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.
- Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
- Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment.
- Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.
Helping your kids become mindful eaters is a gift that will serve them throughout their lives. When your kids have a healthy relationship with food, their weight is managed naturally. Adopting this practice at a young age can help prevent battles with weight into adulthood. The main goal of a mindful eating practice is to teach kids to be more present while they eat; paying attention to textures, flavors, aromas and colors. Mindful eating for kids also means they tune in to their true level of hunger rather than just eating for the sake of eating. The truth is, humans eat for several reasons – physical hunger, psychological hunger or due to our environment. Teaching kids to tune into their bodies and eat when they feel actual hunger is a huge lesson.
Teaching Mindful Eating to Your Kids
Just how do you teach your kids to be more present with food and hunger? As with anything else it’s helpful to model the behavior you want to see in them, so it starts with you becoming a more mindful eater. Here are some simple ways to get your kids eating more mindfully:
- Let your kids help shop for and prepare meals
Get your kids involved in the process of creating meals from start to finish. Take them with you to shop for ingredients. Show them how to select the freshest vegetables and meats. Then, have them help you prepare food whether it’s washing produce, stirring sauces or chopping vegetables. Making them part of the entire food preparation process will help them appreciate food much more.
- Ask your kids to notice the food on their plate
Rather than just diving into a plate of food, have your kids take a minute to describe the food. What does it smell like? What colors are present? Maybe take a moment to give thanks for the food before eating. All of this helps your kids become more present with their food; a huge step in becoming more mindful eaters.
- Let them feel their own hunger
In America, we seem to think our kids should have access to an endless supply of snack foods all day. But by allowing our kids to constantly pick and graze on snacks, we prevent them from feeling true hunger. And tuning in to hunger signals is a critical skill on the path to mindful eating for kids. So let them get hungry – really hungry! Let them know what the sensation of hunger feels like and that this is the signal their body needs fuel. In the absence of hunger, they shouldn’t be eating.
In addition to these tips, it can help to have some backup to help solidify these concepts for your kids. The Ninja Focus app understands the importance of teaching kids to be mindful eaters. That’s why the app offers mindful eating meditations to help kids learn how to be in the present moment with food. These brief guided meditations for kids can help them learn to truly taste food, make healthier food choices on their own and learn to tune into their own sensation of hunger. It’s a great tool to help your kids develop a mindful approach to food, hunger and eating!