Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 5:47 pm | Fair 72º


Collin McShirley: 6 Mindful Eating Habits to Pass on to Your Kids

The summer months are a great time to teach your children healthy eating habits that they’ll hold onto for life. Click to view larger
The summer months are a great time to teach your children healthy eating habits that they’ll hold onto for life.  (Collin McShirley photo)

You want your children to eat healthy meals — to drink milk and eat more fruits and vegetables, less candy and no soda. You want them to have a healthy relationship with food with no fear of new foods or obsessions with habitual ones.

When school lets out, we spend a lot more time with the wee ones and eat more meals together, making summer a perfect opportunity to teach your children about healthy eating.

In an attempt to instill good eating habits, parents often define “healthy” and draft a checklist of foods that fit the bill. Then come the food rules: no sugar, no candy, no preservatives — and the list can go on and on.

Before parents realize it, they take the joy out of eating, especially healthy foods.

Teaching your child to eat healthy and mindfully can start as early as toddlerhood.

I suggest mindful eating techniques to help the child self-select healthier foods. Set your child up for success by practicing these strategies.

Trust the Taste Buds

While mindfulness seems like a new health trend, your child was born a pro. Infants and toddlers are connected to their senses; they look, feel, smell and taste their food before they eat.

Accept that each person is different and unique, including your child. There’s no right or wrong way of eating, instead, there are a variety experiences.

Talk About Food

During toddlerhood, little ones learn colors, shapes and textures, making food the perfect teaching tool.

During conversations with your tot, discuss what makes food healthy. Teach them to think of a healthy food as something that will help them grow, become strong, play more or run faster.

Let Your Little One Choose the Menu

Take your child grocery shopping and encourage her to select produce she wants to try.

Make a habit of trying one different food, as a family, once a week.

Make Snack Time Memorable

I work with a lot of children, so when I run workshops I make sure to have healthy snacks on hand. I order a Healthy Snacks GrubBox from GrubMarket — it’s a convenient and cost-effective way to commit to healthy eating!

All the items are organic and selected to fit seasonality from local farms, so the healthy snacks keep cravings at bay and provide good protein and fiber to keep your children healthy. Plus, your children will love the surprise of discovering what’s inside each unique box.

Juliana Fitzpatrick, GrubMarket’s director of business development, got me started on the subscription box practice. We grew up together and shared many a snack as little ones.

Click here if you want to try out the subscription service and enter the code MindfulMaiden20 for a discount.

Dedicate Time for Dinner

While it’s tempting to turn on the TV or give your child the iPad while they’re eating, try to avoid doing so.

One of the principles of mindful eating is to direct all awareness to the eating experience.

One way to keep your children attuned to healthy habits is to give them the utensils and let them eat on their own.

Eat meals together as a family is another great method, so make it a daily goal.

Be a Mindful Role Model

Children who fear trying new foods have mothers who do, too, and children who are picky with vegetables have mothers who don’t vary their vegetable intake.

Your actions matter, so be aware of how you think of or label foods.

Collin McShirley, MA, IMF, is certified and specializes in mindful eating, emotional eating, body image and self esteem; she provides coaching services in Santa Barbara, Montecito and Goleta; and she developed the program, “Break Free From Emotional Eating and Learn to Love Your Body.” She grew up in Santa Barbara​, graduated from UC Santa Barbara and received her masters in clinical psychology from Antioch University Santa Barbara. Click here for more information, contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter: @CollinMFTI. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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