How to teach your kids to eat slowly
This is a featured post from Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist Susie Burrell, a proud mother of two and leading expert in early childhood nutrition.
Homer Simpson has a lot to answer for – the shoveling of food which sees him finish his meal as quickly as possible portraying the exact feeding behavior we do not want our children to learn – eating too quickly.
Bellamy’s mum Rachael Finch and daughter Violet
What does the evidence tell us?
- There is new evidence to suggest that teaching young children that eat slowly may be an important factor predicting overeating and weight issues long term. So if you have one child who always finishes their meal before everyone else, it may be time to teach them to slow down.
- Recent research looking into children waiting 30 seconds between each mouthful of food they took coupled with drinking water before each meal, resulted in weight loss of around 3%.
Eating speed is linked to weight control for both children and adults for several reasons:
- Allows the brain to register that the stomach is full, a process which takes at least 15 minutes.
- Allows for mindful eating, a process that allows individuals to taste and savour the foods they are eating, rather than shoveling it down a mile a minute without enjoying the tastes and flavours.
- Leads to us eating fewer calories in a single meal, single meals which add up and lead to weight loss over time.
Why do we care about the weight of our children?
- Up to 1 in 4 Australian children has a significant weight issue which should not be overlooked as ‘puppy fat’.
- Carrying excess weight at a young age can increase the risk of developing chronic disease such as Diabetes in later life.
- Excess weight is often coupled with a poorer quality diet that is not nutritionally dense i.e. sweets, processed foods
Allegra eating slowly
How to help your kids to eat slowly:
- Ensure that meals are enjoyed at the table where possible without added distractions via television or hand-held devices.
- Encourage conversations at meal times to take the focus off food.
- Ask your child to count the number of times they are chewing each mouthful and aim for a small number of chews to start with, say 3-5 chews per mouthful and gradually increase it to 10 chews per mouthful.
- Assign a time in between each mouthful and encourage the consumption of water throughout a meal. Ideally a meal for a child aged 10 years and under should take at least 15-20 minutes in total.
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