Mindful Eating for Children: 4 Steps to Help Kids Conquer Cravings

As a parent, you do everything to help your children be happy and healthy. Unfortunately, excess weight tends to come on slowly, making it difficult to stop before it becomes a problem. It doesn’t help that the food system has its own flaws that make ultra-processed foods cheap, available, and easy. It’s no wonder that 14.7 million children and adolescents have obesity in the US. 

There is good news: you can help your child reach a healthier weight with a simple practice: mindfulness. Here’s how.

What Is Mindful Eating?

Mindfulness is a wellness practice in which you purposely bring your attention to the present moment. It encourages you to keep focused on your current inner state and outer experience. 

We can apply the same practice during eating. This allows you to really notice and recognize the sensations, thoughts, and feelings you have while eating. The practice can help you enjoy your meal more while also noticing your hunger and satiety cues. 

Rather than focusing on weight, mindful eating is centered around understanding emotions, thoughts, and natural bodily cues to support overall well-being. When we teach this tactic to children, we encourage healthy eating habits and mindsets around food, which can ultimately lead to a healthy weight.

How to Encourage Children to Practice Mindfulness During Meals

1. Set the Scene

Mindful eating is all about being in the moment during mealtimes. You can help your child accomplish this by setting up a dining space that encourages them to remain present. This includes:

  • Eating all meals sitting at the table
  • Eating with family and friends
  • Using a plate or bowl for all food (no eating out of a bag)
  • Setting portions ahead of time, before you sit down
  • Inviting children to choose their own portion, which encourages them to think about how hungry they really are
  • No screens or other distractions during mealtimes

2. Discuss the Mechanics

Once you sit down to eat, you can support mindfulness during eating by talking about the mechanics of eating. Discuss the importance of chewing each bite thoroughly, taking smaller bites, and eating slowly. Talk about how taking a breath and setting your fork down between bites helps you check in with yourself. 

You can even gamify this step. For example, ask your kids how many times they chew their food – then challenge them to double it. 

3. Ask Mindful Questions

Gratitude is also an important aspect of mindfulness. This can help your children think about the overall experience of eating and keep them in the moment. During meals, ask your children:

  • What details do you notice about our meal?
  • Where do you think this food came from?
  • What steps did it take to create this meal?
  • What flavors do you taste? 

4. Be the Example

As with everything else, your children look to you as the ultimate example when it comes to wellness. If you’re practicing and teaching mindful eating, they’ll follow your lead. If you aren’t, they’ll likely have a hard time understanding the point. 

Have you had success encouraging mindfulness to help your kids kick cravings and reach a healthier weight? Leave a comment below and let us know! 

This information does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for seeking professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please see full disclaimer.

Resources:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html
  2. https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness
  3. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2021/06/mindfulness-your-health
  4. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/mindful-eating/

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