#Mum Hacks

How to Teach your Kids to Eat Slowly

Teaching kids the correct eating habits can be tricky business, but lead to a healthy approach to food in the long run. One of the common issues parents come across is their kids shovelling down their food because, let’s face it, toddler life is hectic and there are toys to be played with.

We caught up with Marisa Nastasi, an Accredited Practising Dietitian for Bellamy’s Organic to share her wisdom and tricks to slow those muchkins down a tad over their favourite meal.

Marisa specialises in children’s nutrition and has recently completed further studies in paediatric dietetics. She has worked in the industry for 8 years and has developed a strong working knowledge on how good quality diets can benefit the health of children so that they can develop to their full potential. So who better to chat slow eating with? Let’s get into it…

What does the evidence tell us?

There is new evidence to suggest that teaching young children to 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:

  • It allows the brain to register that the stomach is full, a process which takes at least 15 minutes.
  • It allows for mindful eating, a process that allows individuals to taste and savour the foods they are eating rather than shovelling it down a mile a minute without enjoying the tastes and flavours.
  • It leads to us eating fewer calories in a single meal which adds up and leads 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 such as sweets and processed foods.

How to help your kids to eat slowly:

  • Ensure that meals are enjoyed at the table, where possible, without added distractions like television or hand-held devices.
  • Encourage conversations at meal time 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. Start with 3-5 chews per mouthful and gradually increase it to 10 chews per mouthful.
  • Assign a time in between each mouthful and encourage them to drink water throughout the meal. Ideally a meal for a child aged 10 years and under should take at least 15-20 minutes in total.

About the author

Marisa Nastasi is an Accredited Practising Dietitian for Bellamy’s Organic. She specialises in children’s nutrition and has recently completed further studies in paediatric dietetics. She has worked in the industry for 8 years and has developed a strong working knowledge on how good quality diets can benefit the health of children so that they can develop to their full potential.

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