Childhood Obesity, childhood diabetes, inflammatory bowel disorders, are killing our kids today, globally. Toddlers and children these days are consuming all the wrong kinds of food, living the ‘fast’ lifestyle and are almost never exercising! What has happened to our kids and why are they eating so poorly? Is there any way to improve their nutrition or the way in which they look at food? Developing a healthy relationship with food is the most important thing for a child to develop, especially in his/her formative years.
What can we do to help kids practice mindful eating?
Concentration is Key
As parents, it is easy to keep the child entertained by switching on the television, or allowing the kids to be on their gadgets whilst they wolf down their meals. But, this method might lead to excessive eating and/or unhealthy cravings. To nip this in the bud, parents should make sure that kids are always eating their meals with the utmost concentration. It’s easy to lose track of how much a child or an adult can eat if there are distractions available. Removing the distractions can definitely lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Meals should Equal Family Time
Everybody leads busy lifestyles these days. Eating meals together at the table could seem impossible. But, whenever feasible, try eating meals together as a family. Kids could sometimes get inspired by their parents or older siblings who would be eating healthy food. Conversation with family members could also be engaging for children who would otherwise be concentrating on gadgets and other worldly pleasures. This could increase mindfulness in your child.
Appreciate and be Grateful
Nothing takes children a great way in their life, more than appreciating and giving thanks for the different things in their life. So why not have the same approach with their food? Kids should be encouraged to admire their food, ask questions about its source, the colour and shape of different food groups they consume on a daily basis, etc. Conversations about new things can definitely inspire new thoughts and can change perceptions about food.
Try limiting rewards such as gooey chocolate brownies or candies for kids. The rewards could instead be an increased playtime or more stories read at bedtime, etc. Try making the atmosphere around your kids healthy, helpful and fulfilling. By this method, kids will reduce their dependence on unhealthy food and can focus on things they really like.
Reduce the Pressure on Your Kids
Parents love using the phrase ‘Just another bite’. Sometimes, it could be easier if your kids would be allowed to choose their food from a plethora of healthy food options, instead of forcing to eat something they wouldn’t appreciate or be grateful for. Let them feel like they can be the rightful owners and deciders of what goes into their bodies. This can increase self-confidence in kids, reduce fights between parents and their kids, anxiety or stress-related problems at the dinner table.
Eating in Silence
While this method may help increase mindfulness in adults too, it could be an effective method to try with your kids once in a while. Instead of the idiot box playing in the background, try eating the first few bites of your meal in silence. This could enable the body to be conscious of what is going inside it, and can also reduce stress.
Allow Enough Time to Eat
Eating should never be a rushed affair, especially for kids. Children usually have a time bound lunch break at school, and for this very reason, dinner should never be timed. They should be allowed to take their time and be aware of what they are eating. This doesn’t mean that they should be distracting themselves by looking at a gadget and forgetting to spoon their food into their mouths.
Have a Small Garden in Your Home
This might not be feasible for all homes or parents, but it is definitely a great way to increase a child’s mindfulness. When kids themselves can see what they are growing and how beautiful nature’s course of life is, they will be motivated to eat better and healthier food. This might even help them reduce their dependence on junk food.
Deprivation Never Helps
Kids cannot let go of their love for junk food or desserts. Depriving them of such pleasures all together might not be the best possible solution to combat the problem at hand. Instead, just try limiting the portion size of the post-meal dessert or junk food.
Kindness and Love
Lastly, if a delicate matter such as food is not tackled with love and kindness, it is bound to fail. Forcing your kids to eat good food and forcing them to lead a healthy lifestyle is not the way to go. Be loving and gentle with them, whilst simultaneously instilling good values in them.