How Mindful Eating Can Help Babies and Toddlers

6 Months-3 Years

By making family meals a priority and taking the time to really enjoy our food and one another’s company, we can help our children grow up to have a healthy relationship with food for life. One way to do this is by practicing mindful eating. Follow these 6 tips to not only teach your little one to self-regulate and pay better attention to the hunger and fullness cues he was born with, but also to enjoy family meals again.

6 tips for teaching mindful eating early on

  1. Give your child a place at the table. If everyone is sitting together, your child is more likely to try new foods and eat what you are eating. Plus, it creates good habits by teaching her to sit and eat during snacks and meals instead of getting up and wandering around or playing.
  2. Avoid screens. A big part of mindful eating is learning to enjoy the tastes and flavors of foods and understanding what it feels like to be hungry vs. full. If your child is watching a movie or playing with a game or toy, she may be too distracted to pay attention to those cues, and she may end up overeating.
  3. Have a conversation. Snacks and meals are a great time to bond with your little one. Plus, when she is talking and telling stories in between bites, she’s more likely to eat slower—allowing her time to recognize her hunger and fullness cues. Get her talking with open-ended questions such as, “What is the best thing that happened today?”
  4. Teach and reinforce table manners. Even as a toddler, your child can learn to say or use sign language cues for “all done,” “more,” “please,” “thank you” and “milk.” Encourage your child to ask for more food or to tell you when she’s “all done,” instead of serving more when the plate is empty or taking the plate away when she seems distracted.
  5. Make mealtime a teaching moment. Make your child more mindful of the foods she is eating by talking about them. Ask her about the colors and what the foods taste like, or talk about where different foods come from. It’s also good to remind her that the healthy foods she’s eating can make her grow strong and tall like Mommy or Daddy.
  6. Talk to your child about how her belly feels. Encourage your child to pay attention to how full her tummy feels as she eats and to eat slowly so she can recognize her fullness cues. If she has a tendency to eat fast so that she can get back to playing, remind her that the toys can wait and that she needs to slow down and listen to her tummy.