I’d like my kids to develop a more spiritual relationship to their food? Any ideas? Foody Mum, Fargo, ND
It’s been half-birthday season for my oldest two kids, which meant “that” discussion again. “That” discussion is about what I think is an appropriate birthday snack to send to school. The year Leo took in oatmeal-raisin cookies with berries for his half-birthday, I was told they were the “worst treats in history!” When I responded to Yasmin’s recent request for half-birthday donuts with “pretzels, popcorn, strawberries and raisins,” her derisive, “Just forget it, Mom!” made me doubt myself. But the truth is, while my kids think I’m getting it wrong, I’m trying my best to get food right — heart, mind and soul!
Many kids do eat the right kinds of food most of the time — fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, some dairy and fish — and drink the correct amount of water (one quart for every 1,000 calories they expend) and they should! After all, we are what we eat — and when our kids eat nutritiously, they’ll grow, flourish, have good energy and feel great about themselves. As Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” said, “Food should be our medicine,” but sometimes food is more like a poison.
The problem, of course, is sugar and saturated Fats. Even with healthy changes to school menus, kids (especially our big kids) are more likely to choose soda, flavored milk, juice and sports drinks over water and prefer processed food (think fries, burgers and pizza) to healthy fruit and veggies. The result? Between 16 and 33 percent of all American children are currently diagnosed as obese (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry), about 1 in every 400 children and adolescents has diabetes (www.diabetes.org) and many kids experience poor hydration, sugar highs and lows and over-caffeination each day, which has major implications for their mental performance and learning ability.
As Chef Jamie Oliver says, “Our kids are growing up overweight and malnourished from a diet of processed foods, and today’s children will be the first generation ever to live shorter lives than their parents. It’s time for change. It’s time for a Food Revolution.” For me, that Food Revolution begins with some inspired action at home.
Changing what our kids eat necessitates changing how they eat, too! Buddhists teach a mindful approach to eating, which encourages us to slow down and enjoy our food with great results. Use these mindful tips and notice how your children’s approach to food becomes less “grab-n-go” and more “heart and soul.”
- Can I have some Mozart with that? — Turn off the TV, the PlayStation and the iPad and play some uplifting music during dinner instead. Why? According to a 2006 report on “physiology and behavior,” kids who eat while undistracted consume between 37 to 71 percent less food than while watching the box or something else. That’s because undistracted kids eat more slowly, eat for shorter periods and are more in tune with those full-up feelings!
- Give thanks before or after dinner — Encourage your kids to express gratitude for their meal, bless their food, or say a prayer for families who won’t have food on the table today. Encouraging gratitude at the dining table helps children understand that food is a gift, to be savored, enjoyed and appreciated. In a society that throws half of its food away daily ($165 billion worth) that’s a lesson worth learning.
- Encourage chewing — Ensure your kids eat slowly and chew thoroughly for improved digestion. Saliva is full of enzymes that break down up to 40 percent of starch in the mouth, thus beginning the digestive process. Enzymes also stimulate the body to release the correct digestive juices in the stomach before the food makes its way in. That means fewer belly aches and constipation tomorrow, because there’s less rush today.
- Green Up! — It’s our job as parents to serve up those greens, as well as those red, orange and yellow fruits and veggies at every meal, says Ellyn Satter in her book, Child of Mine. Vegetables are not only packed full of nutrients, but Taoists believe they are packed full of life force, too. Higher life-force foods help our kids “feel lighter, brighter, more energetic, and more aware of Divine guidance,” says angel author Doreen Virtue. What’s not to love?
- Bless that Water — Forget the juice. Put water on the table — and bless it too! Masaru Emoto, a Japanese author and entrepreneur, believes water takes on the resonance of the energy that is directed at it. Through vivid crystalline photography, Emoto shows how polluted water can be restored through prayer and positive visualization. Drinking water is vital for our kids’ well-being, and blessing water before drinking should raise the water’s vibration — to make it a truly divine drink!
- Invite a friend — Nutritional education is not a school requirement, but it should be! Help educate your kids about food and nutrition by having them open their hearts and minds and cook for a friend. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Rochester and Burnsville, Minnesota, did just this with their Kids Feeding Kids program this past January. In cooking for others, kids learned to read recipes, understand measurements, and get educated in nutritional safety, kitchen safety, and sanitation and they had fun, too!
- Compost — Get your kids composting and teach them about food waste, how to recycle and how composting can help create a richer, healthier soil for trees and gardens. Kids who participate in gardening are more likely to eat fruit and vegetables and eat them as adults, too!
We want what’s best for our kids — body, mind and spirit. Teaching kids to eat with mindfulness is vital. It encourages them to develop a reverence for their bodies (the temple of their spirit) and for what they eat. That will keep them happy and healthy well into old age. So banish fast food living from your home today. Encourage your kids to eat slowly and with gratitude, and pile your kids’ plates high with some soul food that will have them, like Oliver Twist, begging for more. Bon Appetite!
In Buddhism You Are What You Eat
Food Waste: Americans Throw Away Nearly Half Their Food
The Importance of Eating Slowly and Chewing Your Food Completely
Mindful Eating as Food for Thought
What Happens When you Eat Mindlessly
Food, Appetite and Spirituality
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
Water, Consciousness and Intent: Dr. Masaru Emoto
How to Feed Children
What is a Healthy Balanced Diet
Getting Teenagers to Eat Right
Composting with Kids
Pawn America Supports Kids Feeding Kids
Kids Need Water!
Caffeine and Your Kids
Soda Facts: Kick the Can
Optimize Digestion And Chew Your Way to Better Beauty and Health
Composting for Kids
Composting for Kids; Benefits of Recycling