Eating is so much less stressful when you are a kid.
You haven’t read anything about antioxdiants or trans fats. You aren’t worried about your cholesterol or whether or not those apples are GMOs or not. You haven’t tried any “diets.” There are downsides too, for sure, since as a kid you may not get to choose all of your own food, but we can learn a lot from the choices kids make when they eat.
1. Be picky; only eat your favorites.
Instead of buying vegetables that are the superfood of the month and watching them wilt away uneaten in the fridge, buy fruits and vegetables you love and enjoy them. Same goes for treats. You don’t see many kids eating reduced fat, sugar free, calorie free chemical bomb cookies. Have one real cookie—your favorite kind—from a bakery and let yourself enjoy it.
2. Slow things down.
Ever really watch a small child eat? It’s a little like watching an archeologist at work. As adults, we often end up treating meals like one more thing we have to get finished. We don’t take our time with our food or take pleasure in it. When we slow down and treat our meal as something pleasurable and playful, we eat less and we enjoy what we’ve eaten more. We also allow ourselves to notice our bodies satiety signals instead of eating until we are “done.”
3. Keep it simple.
We get in these preconceived ideas of what different meals need to look like. “Dinner” has to contain certain elements in order to feel like it’s been done right. The reality is, if we did like kids and just ate what we were hungry for, most of the time things would balance out nicely. I can think of a friend who is a big “meat and potatoes” eater; dinner has to have a meat, a starch and a vegetable to be dinner. Some days, that’s a lot more than our bodies need in the evening. If we ate kid style, sometimes we might just eat watermelon for dinner on a hot July night. (And yes, I’ve opted for that dinner more than once this month!)
4. Eat with your hands.
This ties in nicely with number two as well. When was the last time you skipped the fork and knife and ate with your fingers? Bonus points if it wasn’t typically conceived as a finger food. When we let ourselves enjoy our meal with as many senses as possible, we get more out of it. We experience it fully. When we pair slowing down, eating with our hands and some good conversation, we have a meal that actually feels pleasurable instead of just mindlessly scarfing down whatever is put in front of us.
5. Eat when you’re hungry; stop when you’re full.
If left to their own devices, this is what kids do. Barring the occasional “hey look, there are cookies!” moments when they eat for pure enjoyment, kids don’t eat because it’s time to eat, unless we make them. Whether it’s a few bites, or a second helping, they stop when they are full. When it comes to intuitive eating, it isn’t something we are born having to learn; it’s something we are conditioned out of and have to re-learn as adults.
So while we may have more nutritional information available to us as adults, we can learn a lot from how to put it into practice by watching kids eat.
Photo credit: Flickr / Tdring