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4 Tips for Mindful Mealtimes

5-minute read 
Sharing a meal together as a family is fun, and it encourages kids to have healthy relationships with food. Here are our tips to engage in mindful meals: 
Schedule It. It doesn't have to be dinner, just a time when everyone can be together for a family meal. 
Connect It. Encourage experimenting with foods to connect the eating experience with things your kids love. 
Make It. Involve your child in the process of meal making—at any age. 
Honor It. Take the pressure off your kids and yourself to join the clean plate club. They’re good at listening to their bodies—so if they say they are full, honor it.  
Sharing a meal together as a family is fun; plus, it encourages kids to have healthy relationships with food. We know it can be challenging, but we’ve got some tips to bring everyone to the table and ways to stay engaged once you get there. 
But first, the 80/20 rule. Before we even dive into specific tips, we know that raising tiny awesome humans is the absolute best, but there are some moments that are more challenging than others. And that's why the 80/20 rule is so great. Try to be consistent and work through your schedule MOST of the time, keeping the rhythm of your days the same, even if the times may not be. But also remember, there’s a lot of life happening, from birthdays and holidays to days when not everyone is feeling well and cuddles on the couch are needed. When you aim for 80% of the time, you’re providing your kiddo with the consistency they need while giving yourself the grace you need.  
toddlers at mealtime
Schedule It. Choose your family meal—there is no magic at dinner, the magic is in the family meal and that can happen any time. For example, if one adult works nights, breakfast might be your family meal. The key is to keep it consistent and communicate these times with everyone, so it becomes part of the daily schedule. Kiddos need to eat 5-6 times each day, so try to avoid too much snacking and high-calorie drinks in-between. If you keep a schedule of all meals and snacks, it will help to sync up to your daily rhythm and little bodies will be ready to eat at the time you want them to be. And when they have a great appetite, they may be more willing to experiment with new foods.  
Connect It. A fun way to encourage experimenting with foods is to use a technique that grounds and connects the eating experience with what they love. For example, if your child is really into dinosaurs, talk about what kinds of foods dinosaurs ate. Add some broccoli to their plate and ask, did you know that some dinosaurs ate trees? You can eat them too!   Or maybe they love blue or purple colors—talk about what fruits and veggies are found in those colors (raspberries, purple carrots, etc.) and see if they can eat their favorite hue in food. Use foods to make faces, pictures, or designs on your plates—have fun with it! 
Make It. Involve your child in the process of meal making—at any age. Ask your toddler to wash some veggies to prep them for dinner, ask your kiddo to set out the silverware, and see if your school-ager wants to cut up some ingredients—click here to check out our video on how kids can develop chef-worthy knife skills. And when you visit the grocery store, ask everyone what fruits and veggies look yummy or interesting. One of our KinderCare families asks their kiddo to pick something new they want to try in the produce section. Then when they get home, they all try it as a family. When children are part of the process, it can demystify foods and get them excited about eating and trying new things. 
Honor It. Let's take the anxiety and pressure off mealtimes for your kids and for you. Kids are good at listening to their bodies—they can enjoy food and drink, observe how the food makes them feel, and know when they are full. By creating in-the-moment awareness and not forcing them to eat more or have a clean plate, you can help them develop healthy relationships with food that will grow with them into adulthood. And if there is something new and scary on the table, they don’t have to eat it either. As a family you can eat it, talk about how yummy it is—maybe they will put it on their plate; that is a great first step. Every time they experience a new food, it leads to future acceptance, so with consistency, you can set healthy expectations in an encouraging atmosphere.
As you work through these tips, just know that things won’t always be perfect. Make mealtime more about being together and try not to stress. Remember that 80/20 rule and you’ll help your child be successful—and enjoy eating—one meal at a time.  
*This information is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult a qualified medical professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment. 
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