We all know that feeling of hunger. Gnawing and grumbling in your stomach. Time to grab something to eat! But how did you first learn those feelings of hunger and satiety?
Most infants are actually in tune with their body’s natural response if they’re hungry or full.
However, some parents may unintentionally disrupt this response when their child is very young.
When parents say things such as “just a few more bites and then you can be done,” they have positive goals in mind. They want their child to get enough to eat or make sure they’re eating their vegetables. However, pressuring kids to eat more when they have stopped eating may have negative impacts.
If the child is in fact full and they are being pressured to eat more, then the child may learn to ignore their body’s hunger cues. As a young child we are all taught that we must listen to our parents. So when they tell us we need to eat more, we respond accordingly.
Yet, this can lead to overeating and eating in the absence of hunger.
So, as a parent, how do you ensure that your child has eaten a sufficient amount, while teaching them to pay attention to their internal cues?
Here are a few great tips to practice mindfullness at mealtime with your children:
- Talk with your children about what hunger and fullness feel like. (A great activity is to draw a picture of their stomach and show them what fullness and hunger may look like physiologically. Therefore, they know what is going on when they feel these feelings.)
- Create a meal schedule for your children so they know when food will be available. Along these lines, only allow snacks once between meals if your child is hungry.
- Let your child eat as much as they want during meals and snack time. Although it may be difficult as a parent to not control your child’s eating habits, they will soon learn, on their own, to eat until they are satisfied.
- Reduce mealtime distractions, such as television and cell phones, so children can pay attention to the food they’re eating and how they feel.
- Eat with your children and discuss flavors, textures, and aromas of the food.
With all the pressure to eat more food and less healthily, teaching your kids to respond to their natural internal cues is vital for their future. Educating your children to trust their own instincts will allow them to learn to regulate their own eating and ultimately lead to healthy eating habits and creating positive associations with food.
Written by: Dana Stretchberry