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How To Develop Mindful Eating Habits in Children

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Mindful eating is an offshoot of the philosophy of mindfulness. So, what does it mean? It is the act of bringing your awareness to your food and eating while engaging all your senses. Mindfulness is a hot topic, and we see dialogues around it increasing. However, mindful eating is a cultivated habit. In a world where screens have replaced the dining table, eating mindfully is a real challenge.

But just as in most cases, cultivating the habit at a younger age can dramatically increase the chances of youngsters carrying the practice into adulthood.

Here are a few benefits of inculcating healthy eating habits in children:

  • They indulge all their senses, which helps in actively nourishing their bodies. 

  • They start listening to hunger cues given by their bodies, which lets them eat on time and avoid overeating. 

  • Concentrating on food involuntarily enhances the chewing reflex, which is essential for good digestion. 

  • It helps in weight management.

So, how do we popularise this habit with our little ones?

1. Involving Them in The Cooking Process 

Most young children are excited about assisting in cooking. Getting their hands in dough, using appliances, watching how things come together is an exciting adventure. In fact, involving them in the entire process of meal planning, shopping for ingredients, prepping for the week, cooking, and (of course) cleaning up can be extremely useful as part of their routine and as assigned chores.

2. Limiting Distractions 

We know feeding toddlers can be a daunting task especially if they are fussy eaters. But handing them a phone, an iPad, or a remote for the television is not a sustainable or a healthy practice. If the children are to enjoy their food, they must pay attention to it. The more we respect our food, the better it nourishes our bodies.

3. Avoiding Rewards and Punishments 

The idea should be to develop a love for food and make eating an enjoyable activity. Operant conditioning where you reward a child for eating well and punish them for wasting food does not serve the purpose. This could encourage deviant behaviours.

4. Experiencing The Joy of Eating Together 

Imagine a family sitting together for a meal with everyone sharing food and stories. These experiences contribute to strong family bonding and enhance a child’s relationship with food. If possible, children must experience eating family meals at least once in a day.

5. Allowing Them to Serve Themselves 

This is probably more applicable to preschoolers than toddlers. Based on their hunger, children should be able to gauge how much they would like to eat and accordingly serve themselves. This practice promotes independence, instils food awareness, helps avoid wastage, and allows children to develop conscious eating habits.

6. Eating Slowly

Have you noticed how people tend to stuff their mouths with popcorn while watching a movie? That is exactly what happens when we do not eat mindfully. We eat fast and chew less, which disrupts the mind-body connection and can cause a host of illnesses in the long term. Ask the children to focus on taking smaller bites, chewing every morsel to a mash, and doing it slowly for maximum retention of nutrients.

Mindful eating reduces emotional eating, which means children do not eat when they are emotionally fragile or disturbed. This is one practice that most certainly carries into adulthood. They will not overeat or starve themselves due to stress, anxiety, physical, or emotional duress. Self-regulation becomes in-built, and food is not used as a coping mechanism. Creating a mindful eating environment for kids helps increase children’s food awareness.

At Dibber, child nutrition is an integral part of our approach to education. We have the Dibber Meal Concept, which is a unique offering wherein we focus on providing healthy, nutritious, seed-to-spoon meals because we understand that nutrition and learning are interdependent and vital to holistic development.

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