Mindful eating: quarantine life has challenged me in this area lately. And, I’m wondering if I could do a better job helping my kids with it as well? Last night my family and I devoured huge slices of ice cream cake for Mother’s Day. Evidenced by complaints of tummy aches afterwards. Quarantine eating feels at odds with mindful eating. I’m often snacking when I’m not hungry. I stand a lot while eating. And, I’ve been enjoying more wine – without mindfulness as well. So, in this light, I felt my family needed a reminder: why should we strive for mindful eating? How can we practice it more?

Why is it important to teach mindful eating to our children? 

When kids or adults practice mindful eating, we are more likely to eat the right amount of food, enjoy our food, and engage in less emotional eating. Mindful eating doesn’t mean snail pace mealtime as we ooh and ahh over every bite, it simply means that we are more present and in the moment with ourselves and our food.

Simple Ways to Teach Mindful Eating

1. Role model mindfulness.

As we know, our children learn primarily from us. If our ultimate goal is to take a seat while eating, put food on a plate, and power down the phone – they are more likely to do the same. No doubt there will be the occasional meal on wheels or stand up snack, but carving out “you” time at meal time is a nourishing practice. Savoring your food for just a few seconds more will result in pushing away from the plate feeling emotionally and physically satisfied.

2. Power down at mealtime.

Turn off the TV’s and phones. Even a distracting text beep or notification alert can be just enough to interrupt the flow of mealtime conversation. Leave the technology in another room.

3. Teach descriptive talk.

In our family, I try to teach my boys to use different words outside of “yucky” or “gross” to describe what they don’t like. If my 4 year old tells me something is yucky, I ask him why – is it too sour, crunchy or tough? Encouraging children to describe their food helps them tune into their senses and be mindful. Plus, you might find out that they don’t like the “crunch” of apples, but they do like the flavor and offering dried apples is the perfect substitution!

4. They decide how much.

As parents, we are in charge of WHAT a child is served, but they should be in charge of HOW MUCH. I encourage “adventurous” eating by requesting they try at least one bite of everything on their plate, but beyond that, forcing food sets up an unhealthy relationship with it.

Try these simple strategies at home to “savor” more. You might be surprised that small changes make a big difference in your family’s enjoyment of eating.

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.