What is mindful eating?
Mindfulness is being aware of what you’re sensing, thinking, and feeling in the moment. This tool can be applied when eating. Mindful eating means paying attention to the present moment and using all our senses when eating. It is about how you eat and not just what you eat.
Mindful eating can help children enjoy food more, recognize feelings of hunger and fullness, and help children create a positive relationship with food. Mindful eating is also a great tool for building self-awareness and helping children develop skills such as focus, concentration, and self-regulation.
Mindful eating is a good way to get children to develop a deeper appreciation for the foods they enjoy as well as provide an opportunity to approach new foods with curiosity.
Anyone can start practicing mindful eating — try it during snack time, lunch time, or at home with family.
How can children practice mindful eating?
Encourage children to notice how their tummies feel when they are hungry or full. Ask children to assess their hunger and fullness signals. Can they hear their tummy rumble or growl, meaning it seems hungry? Does their tummy feel like it is filling up? Is there room for more food? It is important for children to be able to determine their own hunger and use it as a guide to decide how much to eat.
Ask children to take small, slow bites and to use all five senses to explore their food:
1. Look - What is the colour, size, shape, texture?
2. Smell - Does the food have a smell? What does it smell like?
3. Touch - What does it feel like? Is it soft, hard, lumpy, sticky?
4. Listen - Does the food make any sound? Is it crunchy or crispy? Does it crackle or pop?
5. Taste - What does it taste like? Is it salty, sweet, sour, bitter? Does the taste change as you chew?
How to create a space for mindful eating:
• Create a relaxed and peaceful meal-time environment. Minimize distractions. Put away or turn off anything that could be distracting, such as books, toys, TV, or electronics.
• Allow enough time to eat in a relaxed, not rushed, way.
• Ask children prompting questions to encourage the use of their 5 senses when eating food.
• Eat with children and practice mindful eating yourself. Savour your food and make comments about the 5 senses as related to what you are eating out loud.
• Allow adequate time to eat. Avoid planning a popular activity for right after lunch or snack as it may encourage some children to rush through eating.
For more information about mindful eating:
Canada's Food Guide: Be Mindful of Your Eating Habits
Source: Joy Wong, 5th year UBC Dietetics student