During early childhood development years, children are capable in learning how to nourish their body/ mind, stimulate healthy digestion, support growth, and enjoy making healthy choices with food. Take a look into how to foster mindful eating in 5-Steps:
STEP 1: SACRED SPACE
Where we eat is just as important as how we eat, because we energetically ingest our emotions, thoughts, and our surroundings. Set aside a designated space at home or school where children will be able to sit comfortably and enjoy a meal with limited distractions. That means avoiding cell phones, TVs, computers, or any other means to the internet. If you’re outside, find somewhere quiet and serene to sit and avoid standing up or moving while eating. And do your best to avoid consuming meals in crowded, noisy restaurants. When dining out, try to choose places that offer a soothing ambiance - and leave phones OFF the table!
STEP 2: MINDSET
Eating can be a very meditative practice. In fact, the more relaxed your breath and body is, the better your digestion will be. When we’re tense, angry, or anxious, we ingest this emotional distress and disrupt our process because food, thoughts, and emotions are all digestible. Do your very best to focus and take a few calming breaths before enjoying a meal, encouraging your children to do the same in order to maintain a peaceful mindset. And choose to dine with company that is uplifting and supportive. Practicing gratitude for your food before each meal is a
great way to eat consciously too, as that food made a profound journey before landing on your plate. Acknowledge where you purchased the food - was it at a supermarket, local grocer, farm, or restaurant? Appreciate the effort it took for the farmer to tend to their crops, the
chef to cook up their masterpiece, or the driver to transport the food to your local market. Perhaps you create your own personal gratitude ritual as a family before eating, thanking the food itself for its nourishment and all those involved in providing it for you.
STEP 3: AWAKEN THE SENSES
Another great practice you can teach kids and do with them is to become aware of your senses prior to the actual act of eating. Before you take your first bite of food, start by appreciating your meal with your other senses. Notice the colors, shapes, and textures with your eyes. Then savor the
aroma by bringing a small portion to your nose and inhaling deeply. Let that first morcel brush your lips, linger on your tongue and then meet your teeth. As you taste your meal for the first time, observe your emotional response to the food - are you joyful, curious, surprised, nostalgic? Think about how nourished your body will be by eating this delicious and nutritious meal. By awakening your senses, you can practice developing a more peaceful relationship with food.
STEP 4: COUNT TO 20+
Chewing thoroughly is one of the most potent ways to eat. The more we chew, the more saliva we create to help pass food particles into the stomach. There, food mixes with our stomach acid and continues through the gut, where nutrients get absorbed and waste eventually gets eliminated. We’ve all been culprits of gobbling down our food - or even worse, taking a bite just before talking and doing both at the same time! It’s a good practice to count to between 20 and 30 and swallow when your food is fully disintegrated, and it makes for a fun game with your kids. Our brains need time to recognize the act of eating, and the hormones in our gut need to be stimulated in order to regulate hunger. When we ingest too quickly, there is a tendency to overeat. Plus, the process of digestion won’t go smoothly, and undigested particles can leak into circulation and cause inflammation. So practice taking smaller bites, let a dining partner do the talking while you chew, and start your countdown.
STEP 5: WHEN YOU FEEL FULL...STOP!
Overeating is the easiest way to throw off a child's metabolism and put unnecessary strain on their digestive system. Learning to stop eating when you feel satiated (think full not stuffed) is a mindfulness practice that will prevent weight gain as well as digestive issues during growth and development. Take a few moments between bites to pause, breathe deeply, and assess how you feel. If you’re nearing a clean plate, take an extra breath and ask yourself if you feel full and satisfied yet. Try to also keep drinking to a minimum while eating - small sips of water are
best, as you may experience bloating and a false sense of fullness by gulping a beverage between bites of food, then experience a sense of hunger later.