Behavior Modification: Practice Mindful Eating

The way you eat has a big impact on your weight and health. Parents have the unique opportunity to help shape a child’s eating habits. Behavior modification for children helps kids develop good habits in the long run. Use this chance to have a positive impact on your child’s health and weight loss therapy by establishing mindful eating habits in the home.

Dinner Table Habits

Avoid distractions at mealtime. Television, computers, toys, text messaging, and reading encourage mindless eating and negative eating issues. These “amnesia calories” can really add up. Instead of giving in to distractions, make mealtime a social time for your family. Pause between bites, set your fork down, ask questions and encourage your child to talk. Teach children that it’s okay to leave food on their plates if they’re full.

Plating Meals

Put thought into the way you fill a plate. One simple technique recommended by Dr. Wendy Scinta of Medical Weight Loss of New York is to downsize plate and cup sizes. Dr. Scinta says, “An overflowing plate of food, even if the plate is smaller, looks far more appetizing than a large plate with the same quantity of food.”

Another plating trick: have the child divide the plate into 2 equal halves. On the first half, put only veggies and fruits. The second half of the plate should be 2/3 protein (chicken for example). The last 1/3 should be saved for carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, rice).

Healthy Food Cues

Add positive food cues to the house. Instead of leaving unhealthy snacks around, make healthy snack options and whole foods available in the kitchen. Avoid keeping high calorie and high fat snacks like potato chips in the kitchen, even if they’re only for grown-ups. Better yet- get rid of them all together. Chances are that if the child has a weight problem, most likely others do in the family. Teach children healthy eating habits by example. Never make your child feel that certain foods are only available for dad or sister Sue.

Healthy Beverages

Soda is the #1 source of calories in the United States. Avoid temptation by getting rid of soft drinks in the house. Minimize the availability of juice and offer water instead. If the child doesn’t like the taste of water, flavor it with fresh fruit in a pitcher in the fridge. Lemon, melon, strawberries all work to add a hint of flavor. Encourage children to carry water with them to drink water frequently. If they are not allowed to carry it in school, have their doctor provide a note to show that it is for medical reasons. Only 10% of female adolescents and 25% of male adolescents get recommended levels of calcium, so make sure skim milk is available at home. Maximum bone growth occurs between 2 to 18 years of age, and calcium is essential during this important time.

Fruits and Vegetables

Introduce more fruits and veggies into your family’s diet. Try establishing rules like banning everything but fruits and vegetables from the car. Help your children understand where food comes from by shopping for seasonal and local vegetables when possible. Don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t love vegetables right away. Recent studies suggested that kids may need to try a new food 10-18 times before accepting it. Some kids may be more inclined to eat if they feel like they’ve participated in meal creation. Try gardening and preparing meals together. Juicing and blending fruits and veggies into smoothies allow a creative way to sneak the good food groups into their diet.