Mindful eating has become a popular practice in the classroom in recent years. Mindful eating is the practice of being totally and completely aware of what you’re eating and the whole process of eating.
Since obesity is on the rise, especially in developed countries, mindful eating is an ideal approach to explaining to younger ones, especially school children, how thinking about their eating habits can improve not only their health but also their mood.
When applied properly, the method of mindful eating can aid weight loss, improve digestion, and improve the experience of food overall, both as a biological and as a social need.
How to introduce Mindful Eating to Children?
It is important to know some of the principles of mindful eating before trying to find the best approach to introducing this topic to children. Through play, scene reenactment, or by following certain rules during lunchtime, students can be introduced to mindful eating principles, and how they can influence their experience of food.
Some of the principles of mindful eating are:
1. Don’t Rush
Stress and lack of time aren’t only reserved for adults – children are exposed to stress as much as an average adult – their problems are as important to them as ours are to us. Because of this, they’re also in a rush to finish as many things as possible in order to have enough free time to enjoy themselves.
Taking time to eat is truly important. If you’re in a hurry, food cannot be enjoyed, and our bodies cannot adequately process how much food is needed to satisfy us. This is why it is important to eat slowly and savor each bite.
2. No Distractions
Of course, your students have phones, and of course, they find Facebook and Instagram interesting, but during eating hours, all electronic devices should be put away. This helps us focus on what is in front of us, our food, family, and friends.
When you have people around you, natural conversation happens. This will help you slow down your eating as it will require you to have an empty mouth to speak. Being an active participant in a conversation, instead of a passive one (for example, when you’re watching Netflix) will help you slow your eating down and enjoy it more.
3. Why Do You Eat?
One of the more important questions children need to start asking themselves is whether they are eating because they are truly hungry, or because of some underlying emotion – stress, fear, or excitement. Once those two sources of hunger are differentiated, it is much easier to get to know your own bodily needs.
Children stress-eat also and it’s important for them to know how to ask the right questions that might help them put down the fork or have a healthier substitute that will offer them some comfort.
4. Learn About Where Your Food Is Coming From
One of the negative sides of modern living is that we have no clue as to where our food is coming from. Yes, meat comes from animals, but are your students aware of this fact? How do they respond? Naturally, some will become vegetarians, other’s will be more interested in knowing that their food is safe and coming from a reliable source.
The same goes for vegetables. Explain to them the experience of growing your own food, having your own garden, explain how vegetables are grown. They should know how and why some chemicals are used during the food production process, and how to recognize good ones from bad ones.
How Can Your Classroom Benefit from Mindful Eating?
As we’ve mentioned before, mindful eating is so much more than a simple diet. It is about respecting food and dedicating the necessary time to it. It’s about eating without any distractions and only when your body requires it. When these skills are learned at a young age, they can influence so much more than just eating habits.
Mindful eating can teach patience that can be used in all social situations, but also that food should be a source of happiness. Tutoring children early on that food is neither good nor bad itself. It’s about our connection to food and how we consume it that influences how our bodies and health will react to it.