Mindful eating is paying attention to the full experience of eating. I believe that mindful eating begins long before the first bite of food hits your mouth. It starts with the selection and preparation of food, continues through a multisensory eating experience, and ends with a comfortable level of fullness and contentment.
Unfortunately, children, the most mindful eaters in early life, gradually unlearn this natural skill. As toddlers, they touch, smell, and taste every morsel. When they are full they stop eating the food (and throw it instead). As they get older, they are socialized to see eating as a task to be hurriedly finished on the way to practice, or mindlessly accomplished while watching T.V. And cooking? Many kids don’t have any idea where their food even comes from much less how to prepare it.
Family Meals and Family Cooking
Now there’s a new website with a new mantra, Kids Cook Monday, that is out to change all that! So read on and teach your children to eat mindfully by planning family meals and cooking together on a regular basis! (By way of full disclosure, one of the websites they feature is my teenage daughter Elyse’s cookbook, Veggie Teens at www.VeggieTeensCookbook.com.)
Here’s how Kids Cook Monday describes their mission:
The Kids Cook Monday initiative encourages families to set aside the first night of every week for cooking and eating together as a family. The Kids Cook Monday provides examples of family friendly recipes and video demonstrations along with a free starter family dinner toolkit- making it easy for families to cook and eat together every Monday.
When kids pitch in making meals, they’re empowered to consider the portions, the vitamins and the nutrients of what they’re eating. And since the family that cooks together eats together, parents can check in with their children during dinner.
Evidence links family dinners to healthier life choices:
- Research from Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse suggests that kids who eat family dinners get better grades in school, develop communication schools and are less likely to try drugs.
- The American Dietetic Association found women who cook regularly consume a more nutritious diet than those who ate out often.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics found kids who ate dinner with their family regularly were less likely to be obese.
Cooking also reinforces skills to help kids succeed like math, teamwork and following instructions. So start your week off right and make Monday family night!