Mindfulness has certainly become one of the new buzz words, but is mindful eating with kids a reasonable goal? Isn't just getting kids enough food to eat between all their activities enough of a challenge? Clearly that alone takes real effort. Many of us have chosen a very busy, tightly scheduled life style that our children share. Mealtime is often not on the schedule and includes something quick on the way to the next activity - confirmed by the long lines in the drive-through lanes at fast food establishments. However, learning about eating mindfully is important for kids today, as well as for adults, precisely because of all the activity. We all find ourselves in a very toxic food environment with supersized portions and foods that have been manufactured with increased sugar, fat, and sodium to make them what some researchers are calling "hyper-palatable" because they encourage overeating.
These foods and this environment result in the large percentage of eating disorders we see in young people today. As a consequence, obesity, binge eating, and anorexia, as well as other common diseases of our civilization like diabetes, reflux, and bowel disorders, are increasingly showing up in children. How can we start to incorporate mindfulness into children's lives? To consider the issue more completely, I recommend getting the book, Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, co-abbot at the Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon. There is a chapter specifically dealing with children. Remember, mindfulness is about awareness, making eating a more enjoyable, nourishing experience. As you become more mindful of the food you eat, it can also help you make decisions about what to eat.
Below is my 13 year old grandson, Ryan, practicing taking a bite of bagel mindfully. Video
Take a Deep Breath and Start Slowly
Mindful eating is an important for all of us, but it's important not to make it an all or nothing goal. In her book, Chosen says, "We can get off to a good start by lowering our standards and initiating our mindful eating by having one conscious sip of tea in the morning" . Or, like Ryan, 1 bite of a bagel.
In my weeks with my grandchildren, we did some mindful exercises. One they liked best was cooking a favorite dish. Here are their recipes, cranberry sauce, and tuna cakes. Although not the recipes I might have chosen, they ate them mindfully because they had chosen them. You can check out the videos of their cooking in the following links.
Ryans cranberry sauce Willow's Tuna Cakes
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Tricia Gregory, MA,RD/N
A dietitian who is a foodie and loves a great dinner party with wonderful food and terrific friends.