Mindful eating is about focussing your child’s attention on the food that’s on their plate. Every Mum and Dad wants their child to eat more healthy nutritious food and less junk food, but inadvertently we sometimes create unhelpful food rules such as ‘you cant have pudding till you’ve had your dinner’, or ‘no biscuits because they’re bad for you’, which can take the pleasure out of eating anything.
Practicing mindfulness can help your child develop a positive relationship with food and reduce fussy eating behaviours. Moreover its never too soon to start, toddlers do this already, they inspect their food by touching, squeezing, smelling and playing with their food before it ever reaches their mouth. But applying the principles at any age can lead to success. Here are my 10 top tips for mindful mealtimes:
- Remove all distractions from the dinner table, no TV or toys.
- If possible eat together around a table.
- Be a role model, ensure parents and children are eating the same meal.
- Don’t reward a healthy food with something that is not, for example don’t imply that your child can’t have pudding till they’ve eaten their dinner.
- Take it easy at mealtimes, remove rules and try not to offer encouragement, it often feels like pressure to the child.
- Wait 15 minutes between dinner and pudding, long enough for their brain to get the message about how full they are after your meal.
- Talk about food but not in relation to their eating. Discuss healthy foods and less healthy alternatives, where they fit into the food groups, colours, shapes, textures.
- Try not to classify foods as ‘bad’, even if you are talking about sweets and crisps. Call them ‘unhealthy’ and follow up immediately with a healthier alternative.
- Involve them in food shopping, looking at different brands of similar products and note how they differ.
- Get involved in preparing meals, with supervision children can get involved with chopping, peeling, stirring etc.
Before long your child will learn to eat when they’re hungry, and stop when they’re full. They will learn to really taste food, and to enjoy the taste of food. They will also begin to sort through any preconceived or emotional issues they have around food and eating, which is really helpful with picky or fussy eaters. But moreover they’ll begin to enjoy the eating experience more, whether that be at home, school or out and about.