A kid’s guide to mindful eating.

Spring has sprung in our neck of the woods and, as a result, the Tornado & I have been picnicking.

Yesterday, while watching her eat, I was reminded of all she’s taught me these past five years.

Sure some of my sentimentalnessment (technical term) is in part due to the fact we had her kindergarten roundup yesterday (!), but you’ll have that.

Please to enjoy Five Mindful Eating Tips as furnished unknowingly by the Almost-In-Kindergarten Tornado.

Really take time to assess your hunger. REALLY.

Lately, when I ask her if she’s hungry there’s a l-o-n-gass lag before she responds.

And I wont lie to you.  Many, many times the aforementioned lag annoys me.

I find myself longing to say: “Make up your mind!” or the ever notsonice “It’s not that hard of a question!  Are you hungry?!”

As I recently watched her decide if she wanted a snack or not, it occurred to me she seemed to have a check list she went through in her head.

She really is DECIDING if she’s tired, bored, hungry, whatevs *before* she answers my question.  As it’s only *then* that she knows her answer.

Duly noted.

I could learn a few things from her slowslow response.

Be selective.

As a mom it’s my job to encourage her to try new foods.  I offer & encourage  and, should she not like a food at first encounter, I always proffer it at least one more time.

That said, Ive noticed she doesnt eat what she doesnt like.

While this used to annoy me greatly, Im choosing to view it in a different light.

When viewed through the lens of mindful eating her refusal is her simply being selective.

I can think of many times Ive eaten what I knew I didnt adore (hello lemon cake!!) & not only did I not enjoy it—I ended up eating what I did like (greetings brownies!!) anyway.

In addition.

Being selective mightcould be a good thing.

EMBRACE your food…literally.

Ahh age five.

It’s not enough to simply eat and be done with it.  She touches, smells, mashes, tastes, envelopes every morsel which goes into her pizza-hole mouth.

This, like her drawn out answer to are you hungry, used to be a Mama-crazy maker.

Now I view it as her being more present than I could ever hope to be while eating.

Now I view it as virtually the definition of mindful eating.

Parties or special occasions are about far more than food.

Before we head to a birthday party for one of her peers the Tornado is filled with questions about the cake.

What it will look like.  Will be cakecake, ice cream cake, or cup cakes.  What flavor it will be.  When will they cut it?

The list of questions go on and on.

Until we get to the party.

Once the fun begins—whatever the “fun” for that soiree is—the cake is entirely forgotten.

So much so she typically takes one bite & abandons the confection entirely in favor of frolicking with friends.

It’s all a great reminder that parties, holidays, & special events need not be about the food but about the socializing.

Time with friends can be just as decadent a treat or indulgence.

(heck not having to prepare food myself/clean up is a huge treat—no matter what we’re eating)

Eating as a family ROCKS.

I could quote statistics here but we all know how important family meals are.

Any meals, in my opinion.

Right now we are more family breakfasts than dinners and that’s ok.

While she doesn’t mind when she’s the only one eating (hello dinner at 5pm!) she clearly prefers the three of us at the table & no other distractions around.

Food. Family. Talking. Time together.

So there you have it, Oh Patient Readers.

Myriad meandering musings all gleaned from a five year old mind.

And you?

Whats your biggest mindful eating tip?

Have you watched others (from kids to friends to strangers) as they’ve eaten and picked up some tips along the way as well?

Please to hit us all up in the comments


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  1. says

    what a great way to look at it….through the eyes of a child who has not had a chance to be damaged and find the need to use food for something other than how it should be, to nourish and satisfy hunger.

    • Michelle says

      so true isn’t it. why do we adults make it so damn complicated? Life is more about food…and when it’s about food it’s to be enjoyed.

  2. Hallie says

    I like the eating as a family rocks :)
    If I only ate in the open and with friends or family I would not be where I am right now.

  3. says

    I would add that we need to remember to listen to our bodies and eat what they as for exactly.

    Mine never asks for Krispy Kremes :) and I give it to it all the time.

  4. says

    What great advice from Tornado! My husband has always been thin and now that I have lost my weight I watch him closely. He picks only what he wants, he eats only what he wants and never eats just because. Oh I wish there was a pill to take to be more like that!

    Thanks Miz!

  5. Neighbor Linda says

    You mentioned to me one time you could eat the same food out at a restaurant as you would at home and it would taste better because you did not have to cook or clean!

    I think about that frequently.

  6. says

    I’ve noticed that about birthday parties. The (ME) is always more excited about the cake than the kids. As for the lemon cake, please send me your leftovers next time you don’t want you slice. m’kay?

  7. Tanya says

    I obsess about food before going to a party like the Tornado does and for me it only grows when I am there.
    I focus on what other people are eating and how much of it.
    I wish I could eat what I see skinny people eating and obsess about why they aren’t overweight like I am.

    I would love to learn to let that go and enjoy the social piece.

    Great post, Miz.

  8. Valerie says

    It seems that children are brilliant intuitive eaters until we, and society, teach them not to be. I think it’s sad that we sabotage their instinctive ability to give their bodies what they need, in the name of time-saving and plate-cleaning and scheduling. I love that you are so mindful about this – it ‘s a great lesson for parents everywhere.

    My youngest has taught me a couple of things that I struggle not to train out of her…when she’s not hungry anymore, she stops eating. Seems simple, but I’ve had to bite back “finish your dinner” more times than I can count. She also eats very slowly, which is frustrating but really very healthy – not only in terms of being mindfulness, but in giving her body time to recognize that she’s feeding it, so that she doesn’t end up scarfing down three times what she actually needs. So she doesn’t eat a lot of anything, but she gets what she needs and is staggeringly healthy as a result. She knows instinctively what I’ve spent the past (mumble) years trying to teach myself.

    For me, the focus has shifted from “clean your plate” (which I despise) to “take only what you will actually eat”. So we’re working on rational portion sizes, as her eyes are always much bigger than her stomach. :-)

  9. Alex says

    I love this!
    My twins have taught me that playing is far more important than eating.

  10. says

    When my son was little and we were eating out with huge portions, I could see that he was getting full and asked him if his tummy was still hungry or if it was just his eyes that were still hungry. That helped him decide he’d had enough.

    When he got older and he was choosing his order at a restaurant, I told him he could choose between a heart-attack-on-a-plate (loaded baked potato) or a diabetic-coma-on-a-plate (turtle brownie sundae). That was about the only balance I could hope for.

    Now that he’s 17, I just sigh and tell him it must be nice to be an athletic teenage boy.

    Kids are great at mindful eating and intuitive eating, and we ruin it in so many ways. We need meals at a certain time to fit our schedules (or schools with “lunch” before 11 am or after 1 pm), we fall into the traps of commericals that tell us to “love” our families with cake (sorry YumYucky!) or get them to come running to the table with HFCS-laden cinnamon buns or greasy fried chicken. Then there’s that whole clean your plate thing, or no dessert unless you eat your brussel sprouts thing. Or, if you are good we can get pizza or ice cream thing.

  11. says

    You are so right about the party! Mine always talk about the cake and the food but when we actually get there, it all goes out the window because they’re busy playing!!

    At home, on a sidenote, I’ve noticed too that my 5 year old can tend to be a “boredom eater.” For a while, he always seemed hungry or at least he always always asks for snacks so I thought it was hunger. (I’d think, could he really be hungry again? We just had a snack.) I realized after a few of these snacks that half the time when he comes to me saying he’s hungry, really he is bored out of his wits! If I am not careful, he will eat just for something to do! I’m glad I caught on because that could be a lot of snacking for this little man, even if it is snacking on healthy things. As soon as we find something else to do or find a project he can focus on, the hunger magically disappears. Amazing how that works!

    But I’ll never forget when we went to Disney (and I always think about this) and I filled up his plate with the chocolate micky waffles and pastries because I thought it was a “treat” for him because we don’t eat that stuff for breakfasts usually and he didn’t eat any of it. I asked him if he wanted to go up and choose his food and he said yes, so we went up together and he came back with fruit and a tiny muffin. Silly mommy! THE FRUIT IS THE TREAT!

  12. says

    How was the kindergarten roundup? Were there enough shovels? Plenty of 5 year old gardeners applying weed killer? 😉

  13. miz says

    you ROCK for remembering. it was fun. it was hilarious. she can not wait or fall now. thank goodness.

  14. says

    My kids are horrible eaters, in regards to WHAT they eat. But fabulous in regards to when and how much. They don’t eat if they aren’t hungry. Novel concept:) Now if I could only get them to eat a veggie now and then.

  15. says

    Tornado is so freakin smart. You know she could take over the world right? I’d let her too. $20 bucks it would be a much better place!

  16. J.M. Armstrong says

    Love this post! My 5-1/2-year-old daughter has shown me how to listen to my body better. She quits eating when she’s full no matter what the food is–even ice cream! Such an easy concept, but one that can be easily forgotten. She’s also taught me that if she’s hungry, she’ll eat, so I don’t push food on her.

  17. says

    You’ve got one savvy tornado there! A friend’s child was staying with me for a few hours and apparently I asked one too many times if she was hungry, because she planted her itsy bitsy fists on her hips and told me that she’d KNOW (her emphasis) if she was hungry!! Cute, plus it made me realize that I was being a food-pusher. :)

  18. says

    Out of the mouth of babes… you made me think about how many of us heard growing up “Eat everything on your plate!” then we get older we’re told “Don’t eat everything on your plate!” No wonder we’re so confused!. Children are so much smarter than us.

  19. says

    LOVE & especially the mashing & such of food! 😉 Used to do that as a kid. We need to grow down, not up! 😉

    Mindful eating – I guess I do it the adult way now – pat attention to if I am really hungry or just my mind/head or emotions saying I want food. The emotions are the ones that are the hardest to beat!

  20. says

    Love this and so true! Kids savor, relish, chew thoughtfully, make faces, play with their food on their plates, pick at it, sniff it. All good things we need to remember to do – sometimes (not always)

  21. says

    I love this! Totally great lessons. Except the one about the cake. really, it’s ALL about the cake, before, during, and after the party.


  22. says

    This is so cute, accurate and helpful! I used to be annoyed when my husband would not eat something I thought was good, but he’s listening to his own body! What a strange thought 😉

  23. says

    I love this. As a kid, things were just so much simpler. It’s weird how as the years go by, we attach so many rules and emotions and habits to food that it becomes complicated. =) Although… I definitely trend towards healthier things nowadays.

  24. says

    Man I love your kid!!!! And I love mindful eating. I think my fave tip that you mentioned is of course hte one that drives us moms the most nuts – the actual considering, waiting, asking of self. Thank you so much for sharing the Tornado with us!!

  25. says

    I love this post. Especially the part of not eating what we don’t really like. It’s becoming easier for me to admit that I don’t really like certain things. That “eat everything on your plate” mentality was certainly drilled into my head, to my life-long detriment. Ironically, living mostly on fruit has allowed me to grow in that area and when I bite into a peach now that doesn’t taste good, I throw it away, where previously I would have eaten it.

  26. says

    I have been paying attention to how kids eat. They know if a certain food is worth their taste-buds or not. They eat the best parts (if they don’t want the crust, they don’t eat the crust — good for them!). When they are full, they stop. They don’t have that gotta-finish-everything-on-your-plate mentality. They are so natural.

  27. Becky says

    I’ve been trying to take more cues from my pre-kindergardner. He is the slowest eater, which is annoying but I’ve been trying to stop encouraging him to pick up the pace. It really is healthier to eat slower and I am definitely needing to remind myself of this.

  28. says

    What a great list of tips!! These are definitely all things that seem like would be just common sense, but everyone probably needs to be reminded of regularly. Thanks so much for posting this!!

  29. Amanda says

    I am going to print this out and post it on the fridge. What a great way to remember why I eat and how I should.

  30. says

    Such a great idea, I love it. I’ve always marveled at little kids and how they may love sweets just like I do, but they are able to stop much more easily than I am. Good little role models :)

  31. says

    Carla! Great post as usual. My most mindful eating tip is similar to one of yours. In fact, I wrote about it today so this is good timing. For me, eating in the moment is the the biggest tip. Savor your meals, turn off the screens, socialize with your family and friends while eating, taste and smell everything, chew it slowly, let your body feel the nourishment you are giving it.

    All of these things take time, but when you’re thinking about and feeling the food you’re eating you’re less likely to overeat and more likely to actually enjoy the process!