Mindfulness in simple terms can be described as “bare attention“. Mindful eating means to slow down and pay full attention while we eat.
By bringing mindfulness into our lives, more importantly into our eating lives, we can reap a whole lot of health benefits and fight away chronic diseases. Our relationship with food gets better and we all know that a good habit inculcated is very difficult to give up. So when is it better to introduce mindful eating to our kids, than now?
For most parents, mealtimes are stressful. Try incorporating mindful eating at home and literally see and feel the difference.
Let’s look at how we can make mindful eating an interesting activity involving kids, especially pre-schoolers and older kids. We can simplify this process for kids by correlating mindful eating to our sense organs (i.e., eyes, skin, nose, mouth, and ears). So, while eating engage your kids to:
SEE – Teach your kids the different colours in his plate. Try to incorporate a variety of colours to make the meal more balanced and keep the child engaged in the activity too. We can even talk colours and health, such as yellow and orange = Vitamin A rich foods. Also, a plate that is well presented is more appealing to the eye. Shapes of foods and plates can also make for an interesting activity while eating.
TOUCH – Encourage the child to eat on his/her own. Ask the child to tell you if the food is hot or warm or cold. Also, you can teach textures such as soft idlis, hard chips, springy chapatis, damp dal rice, watery juice/soup, smooth curd, grainy rice and so on.
SMELL – Children are experts at using this sense organ. Talk more about the smell of certain foods and teach kids how to distinguish between foods that are good to eat and foods that are not fit for consumption. Children can also distinguish between aromas that they like and dislike. Certain fruits such as mangoes and jackfruit smell more pungently than others. Kids can easily identify the smell of roasted garlic while cooking and powdered cardamom used to flavour sweets and certain curries.
TASTE – Teach kids the different tastes such as sweet (natural sweet foods like fruits, raisins, dates are recommended), salty (celery, milk, regular table salt), bitter (bitter gourd, dark chocolates), and sour (lemons and a few other citrus fruits, tamarind, green apples).
SOUND – This can be an interesting activity for kids. We can teach the kids different sounds made in the kitchen while cooking such as washing vegetables and fruits, sputtering of mustard and other seasonings, grinding foods in the mixer/grinder. All foods need to be chewed well, more than half of digestion happens in the mouth. While eating foods too, ask kids to close their ears and describe the sound they can hear. Cucumbers make a crunchy noise, while softer foods don’t make much noise. We can even use words such as chomp, munch, gulp, gnaw, slurp, burp and rumble while talking to kids to engage them at the table and make eating more mindful.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER
- Never rush a child at the table. Set a reasonable time frame and let the child know that he is expected to finish before that.
- Eat together as a family and enjoy the experience.
- Consider the source of foods and discuss where we get our foods from. Teach our kids to be thankful for the food they have in front of them.
- Love what you eat. Model good eating habits and our children are likely to follow suit.
- Avoid distractions such at the television or phones or other gadgets and any other item that doesn’t belong at the dining table.
- Make it a point to eat at the table.
- Listen to your body and stop eating when full.
- Be very patient with picky eaters.
- Involve kids to be part of the clean up process after mealtimes wherever possible.
OTHER THOUGHT PROVOKING MINDFUL QUESTIONS FOR YOUR CHILD AT THE TABLE:
- Try to name the spice or seasoning used
- Name the vegetables you see on your plate
- What’s your favourite part of the meal?
- What’s the least favourite part of the meal?
- How can we prepare a particular food item differently in ways that you may like?
- Describe the texture of your bite
Mindful eating is a more holistic approach, the practice of which diffuses negativity, aggression and unstable emotions and we can find more strength, balance and confidence. Have a happy journey towards mindful eating folks!