Mindful eating and children: tips for conscious little eaters

Source: alamy.com

Frantic rhythms. Always all done in a hurry. We swallow breakfast, lunch and dinner without even realizing it, without even sometimes having the energy and time to savor what we are swallowing. And what we do is a bit of a mirror for our children, who learn from us even just by observing us, especially by observing us.

Food should be one of life's pleasures. Why deprive yourself of it like that? And why teach children to do the same?

Read also: mindfulness for mothers and children

Here comes the mindfulness associated with food, il mindful eating. To regain balance, to savor life a little more and for those who have a somewhat complicated relationship with food.

What is mindfulness?
"Mindfulness means deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening inside us - in the body, heart and mind - and outside of us, in the environment we are in. Mindfulness is awareness without judgment or criticism ". What about mindful eating? It means being present while we eat.

Iaccarino Idelson, nutrition biologist, worked in the pediatrics department of the Madrid Polyclinic for seven years and edited the Del Paesena edition of the book Mindful eating, to rediscover a healthy and joyful relationship with food, published by Enrico Damiani Editore. Let's find out with her what it means to be mindful with food ... for children!

Mindful eating and children

"Mindfulness, nutrition and children? Maybe the subject is a bit complex, but also fun" reveals the nutritionist. "First of all, in principle, very young children are conscious eaters. In fact, let's start from a premise: mindful eating serves to rediscover a healthy and joyful relationship with food. Like the subtitle of the book I edited the Del Paesena edition ".

Why is it important to rediscover this relationship? Because when we are very young, from 0 to 2 years, our stomach manages itself very well. Always if they leave us alone. "Our bodies are built to have a hunger-satiety system that works. The problem is the conditioning done by the parents and the school. And then from advertising ".

Why do Indian children like spicy food and with curry and Chinese children do not mind if they are faced with hundred-year-old eggs that smell of ammonia and sulfur? Because we are the ones who teach children which foods to prefer. The one food preference we are all born with is sugar, along with perhaps an innate focus on bitter foods. Everything else is taught.

Parents therefore have the possibility of being able to shape the future taste of their children. How? I offer healthy foods.

The importance of self-weaning

There is also an extra positive factor for young children in reality: self-commitment.

"In theory, in young children the choice of weaning is excellent because the child knows how much to eat, he knows how to regulate himself. But even if it is excellent for children, it is a little less so for mothers because they are anxious. Because they are often there. children who eat much less than what we would like, because we are anxious and then because there is a limit: the child, for example, may not always eat everything we put in front of him, for example children often avoid bitter flavors and therefore , if we put vegetables in front of them, given their flavor, they avoid it "explains Iaccarino.

However, there are two things to know, as the expert explains:

  1. self-commitment it must be made with healthy foods. It has rules, in the sense that it is not a food anarchy. We are the ones who choose which foods to offer the child;
  2. the baby needs many successive attempts to appreciate a food. There are several studies that claim that a child needs seven to 15 consecutive attempts to appreciate a flavor, such as bitter. For this reason we still have to offer the child the same thing many times, so that he can change his taste and like that particular type of food, for example vegetables.

"So it's not worth putting broccoli in front of the baby only once and then claiming that you don't like it and therefore not offering it again" explains the nutritionist.

Self-weaning has another positive factor: encourages the use of the hands and not of the spoon. According to several researches, children who start eating solid foods using their hands eat more adequate amounts than those who eat homogenized foods fed with a spoon. A practice that could help children to raise awareness and teach them to listen to their body's signals of satiety.

"Young children are already conscious eaters"

Very young children are already conscious eaters, just as we should achieve with mindful eating. "The problem is that each of us is conditioned very early. If a mother is happy to see us eat, we will eat more to make her happy or vice versa" continues Iaccarino.

Advice if the child does not want to eat?

"Offer the same thing many times and give the child the possibility to choose the quantity to eat. Another piece of advice, calm the anxiety even if it is difficult not to be able to control everything".

"Basically what mindfulness tells us is 'observation without judgment and presence in the here and now'" continues the expert.

So what can a parent do?

As we have seen, in addition to offering a great variety of healthy foods to your children (beware of salt and sugar!) And leaving your child the freedom to eat the amount they want (or in any case serve an appropriate portion), it is important to remember that often "the parent educates by example and not with words".

It is much easier for a child to get a message through what their parent does. So even at the table if we want to educate our children to eat well, we are the first to have to do a job on ourselves. "Many times mothers come to me who complain that their child never has breakfast. But if there is no one at home to have breakfast, why should he? parents of conscious eaters ".


  1. Serve chealthy foods and as little industrial as possible
  2. play together with "Try a new food"
  3. Serve the sweet only once or twice a week. In this way, the children will know that, for example, "Wednesdays and Sundays are Dessert Evenings"
  4. Encourage the children to help you in the kitchen. Even the little ones can do little things: wash the vegetables, pour the ingredients, set the table, mix
  5. Make meals are times when he talks in the family in a relaxed and positive way
  6. Give thanks before eating. It can be as simple as holding hands for 30 seconds while everyone silently thanks those who helped bring the food to the table. After the Thanksgiving, talk about a topic that interests everyone
  7. Enjoy yourselves when you are at the table. You can tell yourself funny anecdotes or jokes
  8. Talk about the food you are eating. For example, you can ask, “How is spaghetti made? Do they grow on trees? ”, 10“ Where do melons grow? Underground?"
  9. Do the garden together. Growing cherry tomatoes that will then end up on your plate is fun. It is not necessary to have a garden, just pots on the balcony. Children are much more likely to try a new food if they have grown it themselves. If you really can't, visit an agricultural farm.
  10. Can't you ever eat all together? Try it at least three times a week, but do it without distractions. Ban on televisions and cell phones
  11. Do not judge the eating habits of children, on their physical fitness or their weight (for example saying phrases such as: "Be careful not to eat too much pasta which then makes you fat"). Do not let them participate in your struggles with the scales or the latest diet you are following. Comments like this can lead to problems that are not easy to solve in adulthood.

  • mindfulness
  • mindful eating
  • mindfulness children
  • healthy nutrition
  • 1-2 children years
add a comment of Mindful eating and children: tips for conscious little eaters
Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.