How to Teach Kids to Eat Mindfully and Make Healthy Food Choices
With the right knowledge, you can help your children be mindful about their candy consumption, while also allowing them to enjoy the holiday, and supporting their complex nutritional needs with other nutrient-packed foods!
Teaching Children Mindfulness Around Eating
There is a lot of discussion about mindfulness lately, but what exactly does mindfulness around eating look like for children? Mindfulness is the art of awareness, of noticing your thoughts, feelings, body, and sensations without judgement, fear, or worry. By focusing entirely on the present, you remove any worry about the past or future. This valuable skill does not come easily or naturally and requires dedicated practice. Don’t let this overwhelm you though! Mindfulness can absolutely be taught to children, and will be an extremely beneficial skill for them to have both now and as they grow. To help your children (and your entire family) become more mindful around meals, use these tips:
- Ask them if they are hungry before a meal, and then allow them to serve themselves (if they can) to match their level of hunger
- Eat without distractions, such as TV or other electronic devices, so they can fully focus on what and how much they are eating
- Talk about the food—where it came from, how it was prepared, what the texture, smell, visual appeal, and taste is like
- Ask them to be thankful for the food and make sure you model being thankful as well
- Try not to rush meals—children may take longer than adults to eat
- Never force a child to eat if they are not hungry—learning to trust their hunger cues is a vital skill1
These principles can be applied to Halloween, and the full holiday season, which is often loaded with sweet treats and many desserts. Let your children choose a few pieces of candy from their Halloween basket each day and talk about them. Why did they choose those ones? What about the candy did they like or dislike and why? How does eating sweet things make them feel? How does eating too much of something make them feel? By having them focus on the candy, they will learn how to naturally limit themselves. After all, we all feel ill when we eat too much of any one food. Remember, there are no good or bad foods, but different foods do affect our bodies differently. When children notice this, they will naturally make healthier choices that make their bodies feel good.
Supporting The Daily Nutritional Needs of Your Child
Research suggests that the foods children eat during the preschool years (1-5 years old) are particularly important, due to the rapid and dramatic postnatal brain development happening during this time. This also happens to be the time where children are transitioning from a diet chosen entirely by their caregivers, to a diet gradually chosen more and more by themselves, which makes it a key time for teaching them how to make mindful choices2. Since children will most likely be consuming a bit more sugar (through that Halloween candy) than they normally would be, making sure their daily meals and snacks are packed with as much nutrition as possible is key.
Help them power up for the day with a delicious breakfast smoothie or oatmeal that even the pickiest eaters are sure to love. Nuzest’s Kids Good Stuff can be used in a variety of yummy breakfast options, including this Kids Rapid Recovery Smoothie recipe, which is specifically designed for kids and is nut and dairy free, and this fun fall themed and delicious Chocolate Oatmeal. When you’re really pressed for time (what parent isn’t these days!?), reach for the Good Green Snack Bars, containing a super blend of essential nutrients and a full range of vitamins and minerals. These bars make the perfect snack for both children and adults. So throw one in their lunchbox, take along in the car, or on a cool weather hike; no matter what you’ll know that you have a nutrient packed healthy snack ready whenever they need it.
Cooking with your children can be a fun, brain boosting activity, that can also reduce the likelihood of them becoming picky eaters (and can encourage picky eaters to try new foods!). Bringing your children into both the garden and the kitchen may encourage greater vegetable consumption and could actually have a greater impact on their health than educating them about nutrition3,4. It is also an important part of mindful eating! When children are involved in the process of growing and making their food, they are more likely to eat it.
Here are some fun fall recipes you can make at home with your children:
- Snowman Smoothie Bowl—It’s basically ice cream for breakfast, which is every child’s dream! Make these snowmen into ghosts for a festive, healthy Halloween treat!
- Pumpkin Pie Muffins—It is the season of all things pumpkin flavored—little hands are great at “mixing” spices or pouring in pre-measured flour and other ingredients into the bowl.
- Ginger and Turmeric Soup—With pumpkin, garlic, coconut milk, and turmeric, this soup is packed with flavor and nutrition! Be careful whenever cooking hot liquids with children, but let them top their own bowl of cooled off soup to help encourage them to try it.
Halloween and the entire holiday season may be a bit overwhelming for parents, but we all want to provide our children with the healthiest diet possible. By practicing mindfulness around food, and packing extra nutrition into their daily snacks and meals, our children can enjoy the holiday season while also staying healthy.
- Rosales, Francisco J et al. “Understanding the role of nutrition in the brain and behavioral development of toddlers and preschool children: identifying and addressing methodological barriers.” Nutritional neuroscience vol. 12,5 (2009): 190-202. doi:10.1179/147683009X423454
- DeCosta, Patricia et al. “Changing children's eating behaviour - A review of experimental research.” Appetite vol. 113 (2017): 327-357. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2017.03.004
- Parmer, Sondra M et al. “School gardens: an experiential learning approach for a nutrition education program to increase fruit and vegetable knowledge, preference, and consumption among second-grade students.” Journal of nutrition education and behavior vol. 41,3 (2009): 212-7. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2008.06.002