Mindful eating for families

These days, many school-aged families are juggling remote learning schedules with other demanding work/life responsibilities, so finding time to enjoy regular meals together can be difficult. As the working parent of a fifth grader with special needs, I get it. Really, I do. The good news is that mindful eating requires only a few minutes, at most, in order to reap its benefits. Mindful eating practices can gradually be integrated into your family’s day – and provide you with a chance for your own short-and-sweet version of “recess.” Because play is good for adult mind/body health, too.

A review of the benefits of mindful eating for families:

  • Mindful eating increases awareness of hunger and fullness cues, and taste preferences. Mindful eaters = skillful eaters, over a lifetime.
  • Mindful eating encourages children to become more interested (and potentially involved) in the larger food system, as future food citizens.
  • Mindful eating offers opportunities for connection with nature, the food cycle, our bodies, and each other.
  • Mindful eating is a doorway into fun and nourishing experiences with food.

In honor of the fall harvest season, here are ten apple-themed mindful eating suggestions:

  1. Slice an apple, pick your family’s favorite dipping sauce as a treat (ours is local honey), and arrange the slices into a work of art.
  2. Engage in an apple tasting – ideally, with two or more varieties you buy from a local market or store. Which do you prefer, and why? Compare appearance, sweetness, flavor, texture, and scent.
  3. Decorate a caramel apple, as a special Halloween month treat. Get creative with raisins, nuts, candy corn, sprinkles, etc!
  4. Try out this apple meditation from the Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life book: https://www.oprah.com/spirit/apple-meditation
  5. Bake an apple sprinkled with something yummy like cinnamon or brown sugar, savor the aroma as it permeates your kitchen, and slice it up to serve ala mode with your favorite ice cream. Break the “rules” about when we’re supposed to eat dessert and make it a mid-day family treat, if you’re all schooling/working at home.
  6. Check out (and even buy) this book on mindful eating for children. No Ordinary Apple has been on our bookshelf for years. And free coloring pages for the littlest ones!
  7. Identify the closest apple orchard, farmer’s market, or farm stand. Can you schedule a visit sometime this fall, as a family field trip? Bonus round: Which apple varieties are grown in your region?
  8. Read about the history of apples, from this National Geographic article to this article from Whatscookingamerica.net to this fun Apple Facts video for kids and this wacky video about how apples make their way from farms to local stores. Does your family have a personal or cultural connection to anything you’ve learned? For example, our tiny farm includes several apple trees, so we’ve learned a bunch about fruit tree care (including pests), and we celebrate with apples and honey during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, every September.
  9. Draw an apple, eat an apple. Yep, it’s that simple.
  10. Watch this apple mindfulness video by Susan Greenland.

October contest for parents who have read this far (congrats!) – follow the @thesavorproject on Instagram, take a picture of your kiddo’s apple food art or pictures, and tag us when you post. At the end of this month, I’ll randomly pick one family to receive a free mailed copy of No Ordinary Apple (see #6, above). One entry per family, please.

Most importantly, however – know that you’re doing your best as a parent. Be kind to yourself (which is great modeling for children, too). When you’re able, savor something that’s in season, and give your family permission to play with their food. Remember, most doctors would prescribe a bit of fun in your daily diet, too.