What Kids Can Teach Us About Eating
10 super tips on learning from your little ones.
-Michelle May, M.D.
There are a lot of crucial things we need to teach children as they grow – but they have some behaviors that we shouldn’t try to change. In fact, we can learn a few things from kids, especially about eating! Don’t believe me? Here are some important lessons we know as children, and forget as adults:
Eat when you’re hungry. From birth, babies know when and how much they need to eat – and they cry to let us know, too! As they grow, this important instinct is often un-learned. By the time we are adults, most of us have learned to eat for many other reasons besides hunger – mealtimes, tempting food, advertising, free food, stress, anger, boredom, reward, consolation and celebration. By recognizing the difference between needing to eat and wanting to eat, adults can re-learn when and how much food they really need.
Stop when you’re full. Infants turn their head away when they’ve had enough to eat, and toddlers will throw a plate of food on the floor when they’re done. But as adults, we clean our plates because “there are starving children” somewhere, out of obligation or just because something tastes good (even though it never tastes as good as it did at the beginning.) I’m not suggesting that we start throwing our plates on the floor again. But we need to remember that food is abundant in our society, so there’s no need to eat it all now.
Hunger makes you grouchy. Being hungry, tired, or frustrated will make a child crabby, and adults are no different. Take care of your needs instead of taking it out on everyone around you.
Snacks are good. Kids naturally prefer to eat smaller meals, with snacks in between whenever they get hungry. That pattern of eating keeps their metabolism stoked all day. Adults who need to fire up their metabolism should try this, too.
Play with your food. Most kids love to examine, smell, and touch their food. Since eating is a total sensory experience, they get the most from every morsel. This childlike approach will help you eat less while enjoying it more. And you’ll appreciate the aroma, appearance, and flavors more if you aren’t driving, watching TV, or standing over the sink.