Four ways to eat mindfully as a family

family mealsI have a confession to make. The inspiration behind today’s post is not my own.

It’s from a trail blazing health professional called Ellyn Satter.

Ellyn Satter is coming to Australia for a tour soon. If you haven’t heard of Ellyn, she is a well known in the nutrition field as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Family Therapist from the United States.

I’m keen to see what we can learn from Ellyn with regards to applying her knowledge in the field of eating dynamics and eating competence to that of mindful eating.

Ellyn often discusses the importance of family meals and how they are important for raising “good eaters”.  She particularly highlights how creating a good structure for family meals is useful for managing fussy eating and where there might be worries around how much or how little a child might be eating.

There are also some clear benefits for all of us if we sit down and create a regular time and place to eat together.

What’s ‘eating as a family’ ?

Family meals are meals eaten with your family on a scheduled basis. We often think of ‘eating as a family’ as meaning a traditional two parents with children kind of scenario. However,  in the context of mindful eating, it could literally mean eating between more than one person. It could for example, mean eating with friends, flat mates or even work colleagues.

If we eat together as a “family”, we are more likely to:

  • try different foods
  • enjoy a variety of foods
  • relax, socialise and discuss the days events without distractions from TV, computers and phones
  • express gratitude for who grew it and prepared it
  • eat more intuitively and listen to our hunger/fullness cues

Family meals and mindful eating

Mindful eating is eating with awareness. It’s NOT just about smelling, tasting and slowing down the eating process (although it’s a big part). It’s also about bringing attention to the EXPERIENCE of EATING. How eating makes us feel, how it impacts on our life and the lives of those around us.

Back in the day (and probably still in many non-western cultures), all of this was/is intuitive. With the creation of busy lives, over analysation of what we are feeding children and perhaps keenness to control our food intake (instead of trusting our own bodies) things have changed. We have somehow moved away from eating intuitively. More and more people eat alone, eat for comfort and eat with guilt.

Creating a family meals structure is a way of bringing mindfulness back.

eating mindfully as a familyFour ways to eat mindfully as a family

If “family” meals are really not happening at your house anymore, here are some quick tips to bring them back.

  1. Start Small – If you have lost your meal mojo, start to have one meal together as a “family” each week. This could be a sunday lunch or sunday dinner.
  2. Build On It – Next, you might like to progress to having a “family” meal daily. Aim to eat lunch or your evening meal together every day.
  3. Be Non-Judgemental – Try not to make judgments or place undue focus about what you or others are eating. Just choose foods you already eat and like to eat. Encourage your “family” to eat as much or as little as they want based on their internal cues. (i.e. are they hungry or satisfied?)
  4. Remember The Power Of Planning. For both single folk and traditional families, having food available is a major part of mindful eating. Planning out some meals for the week (and allowing time for shopping) really does help.

Keen to learn more?

If you would like to learn more about family meals or any part of Ellyn’s work, check out Ellyn’s resources HERE.

(ps. if you are a Dietitian or health professional and are keen to learn more on this topic- it’s not too late to attend one of Ellyn’s upcoming speaking dates. More info HERE).

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