Mindful Eating for Parents

Guest post by Dr. Lauren Kennedy

Recently, I wrote a blog post for Kizingo Kids about using mindfulness as a parent (although, to be honest, anyone could benefit from incorporating mindfulness strategies like the ones in my post). Mindfulness is a science-based way to cope better with stress, alleviate depression and anxiety, and live a happier life.

One way to use mindfulness in your daily life is through mindful eating. Mindful eating is the application of mindfulness to eating, meal preparation, and even grocery shopping. Here are some examples of mindful eating in action:

  • Slowly savoring the sweet and tangy bursting bite of a ripe, home-grown tomato
  • Deeply inhaling the scent of caramelizing onions on the stove
  • Pausing to consider all of the people and resources involved in getting your almonds from the farm to the store
  • Taking a break from eating and chewing to ask yourself if you are still hungry or if you are beginning to feel the sensations of fullness

The benefits of mindful eating are immense. When we take pleasure in our food, when we take time to really taste our food, instead of shoveling it in – we not only benefit from the positive feelings that come with that enjoyment, but we also tend to eat only what we need, avoiding overeating. We avoid eating only because we are upset about something or because we simply SEE a cupcake on the break room counter at work.

Mindful eating is a strategy that is PERFECT for kids because when they are born, they are natural mindful eaters. They already know how to do it! As parents, it is important to allow your child to practice that natural mindful eating. Let them decide when they are hungry or full and avoid pressuring them to eat, clean their plate, or take bites of food they refuse.

Here are some strategies for practicing mindful eating with your children:

  • Do a version of the famous mindful eating exercise, creatively named “The Raisin Exercise”. Try this one from BlissfulKids.com
  • Take your child to a local community garden or farm to teach them about where their food comes from.
  • Buy some seeds! You can grow a container garden, even in an apartment. Check out this YouTube video from Maryland's Cooperative Extension
  • Teach your children how to describe the food they eat using a variety of words. When they try something new, engage them in conversation about the flavors, textures, and scent of the food.

The biggest way to promote mindful eating with your children is to let your child be the guide. Provide fresh, healthy options for meals and snacks, but let them decide how much to eat and when to eat. If they aren’t hungry, don’t force it.

 

{image courtesy of Healthy Kids Association}

 

Dr. Kennedy is the founder and CEO of Melomental and the creator of the Fork in Mind Program. She also provides consulting services through Melomental. Lauren received a PhD in nutrition from Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA) in 2016. Her research focuses on the determinants of health and wellness, with a particular emphasis on mothers and families. She is interested in advocating for holistic approaches to public health nutrition that include policy, systems, and environmental changes to healthy eating and healthy food access for everyone. Lauren loves being active, traveling, and spending time in kitchens - whether it be her own or someone else's. That's where everything happens, right?!

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