It is not uncommon these days to be constantly grazing on food without taking time to enjoy a full meal – it’s definitely not mindful eating. Often pre-packaged, these convenience foods are high in nutrients linked to increased risk of diet related diseases. Being time poor, more of us are eating on the run, or in front of our computers or TVs – and often when we’re not hungry.
Instead, we should be choosing to eat mindfully; brining our attention and focus to the present moment. Practising mindful eating can help to bring back an appreciation and enjoyment of food.
1. Sit at the dinner table for your meal
It’s important to pay attention while eating, rather than grazing mindlessly. Put the phone down, log off your computer, turn off the TV and enjoy your food. That way, you’ll be less likely to overeat. Take the time to talk to family members about their lives and have a conversation. A meal should be a positive and enjoyable time for all.
2. Rate your hunger level
If your child says they’re hungry, ask them to rate their hunger level on a scale of 1-10 with one being very hungry, 5 being satisfied and 10 being so full that they feel sick. Do this throughout the meal and if they are not hungry, don’t force them to eat a whole meal. If your child is hungry, they will keep eating. Encourage them to stop eating once they rate their hunger as 5 and not to keep eating until they reach level 10.
3. Let kids serve themselves
If your child is old enough, allow them to serve themselves how much they would like to eat. While you can provide guidance so that they have enough veggies on their plate, allow them to decide how much will fill them up.
4. Encourage slow eating
Set the pace for the meal by eating slowly yourself. Take time to chew food properly and put your cutlery down before each mouthful. Aim to take at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish eating your meal. Make this a rule so your children know they will be sitting there for 30 minutes so they might as well eat their food slowly instead of rushing off to see what’s on TV or check their phones.
5. Discuss the food
At the dinner table, discuss how much you like or dislike a certain food. Ask your child to describe the taste or texture and if they don’t like it, encourage them to explain why that’s the case.
6. Make nutritious snacks easy to access
By having fruits in bowls on your kitchen bench or vegetable sticks cut up and in the fridge, your child is more likely to eat these foods. Stock your pantry and fridge with nutritious snacks.
7. Don’t buy “occasional” items
By having confectionery, chips and other less nutritious items in the house, you just have to keep saying ‘no’ when they ask for these foods. Avoid buying these foods at the supermarket, it will be easier to say “no” in the supermarket once, than have to say it a numerous times if you bring the product home.