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Mindful & Healthy Eating for Families

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

According to the Center for Mindful Eating — Mindful Eating is:

  • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.

  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.

  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment.

  • Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to eating. The concept was developed by Evelyn Tribole MS RDN and Elyse Resch MS RDN CEDRD - Both Registered Dietitian’s and Authors of the book “Intuitive Eating”

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality

  2. Honor Your Hunger

  3. Make Peace with Food

  4. Challenge the Food Police

  5. Respect Your Fullness

  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

  7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food

  8. Respect Your Body

  9. Exercise—Feel the Difference

  10. Honor Your Health

Key Components
Develop a healthy relationship with food.
Be present in the moment - taking the time to choose and prepare foods that will be both satisfying and nutritious.
Not judging yourself for choosing/or not choosing a certain food
Be in tune with your body cues that tell you when you are hunger or full.
Respecting your body and encouraging physical activity for energy and health benefits

Impact eating behaviors have on children:

  • Eating behaviors can impact growth, development and mentality

  • Mindful eating helps develop self-regulation - allowing the body to respond to internal cues - feelings of hunger or satiety (fullness)

  • Promote the development of flavor and a variety of food preferences

Children gain knowledge of eating behaviors from watching others - family members, schoolmates, friends, and TV

  • Modeling a positive behavior is the best way to promote healthy behaviors and increase consumption of healthy foods

    • Parents who don’t eat fruits and vegetables tend to raise children who refuse those kinds of food

    • Restrictive eating or negative thoughts on food can lead to disordered eating at a young age and into adulthood

  • Children should be allowed to listen to their own internal cues of hunger and fullness for when to start and to stop eating

Ways to implement mindful and healthy eating:

  • Family mealtimes

  • Discuss flavor, color, and texture of food with kids

  • Allow children to help prepare food & to serve themselves

  • Offer a variety of foods at meals and snacks

  • Model positive eating behaviors

  • Limit screen time while eating

  • Be patient

Family meals

  • Offers a comforting routine

  • A place to catch up with your kids, and a chance introduce new foods

  • Allows parents to model positive eating behaviors

  • Choose a mealtime that works best

  • Eating out is still an opportunity to eat as a family and promote mindfulness

Be a Role Model

  • Children eat a certain food happily if they see a parent eating that same food

  • Have a positive attitude about food, talking about taste and flavor

  • Reinforce eating behaviors of feeling hunger and fullness instead of the amount of food eaten

Be patient and establish a pleasant atmosphere

  • Establish a schedule of meals and snacks

  • Try not to force or pressure children to clean their plates

  • Avoid using dessert as a reward for eating the meal

  • Don’t use food as a way to show love

Offer a variety of healthy foods at meals and snacks

  • Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are exposed to foods & beverages by their caregivers

  • Add variety of fruits and vegetables to every meal, and snacks

  • Keep fruits and vegetables on hand - washed, cut and ready to eat (frozen and canned food options)

  • Make half of grains as whole grain (wheat, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, pastas, barley)

  • Provide lean protein options - meats, eggs, seafood, beans, seeds, nuts

  • Limit fast food and low nutrient snacks - it’s OK to have a few favorite snacks

  • Avoid sugary drinks - Choose water, milk, and 100% juice okay at times

Involve kids in preparing meals and serving themselves

  • Talk to kids about food choices and planning a meal together

  • Allows kids to set up table, safely cut fruits/veggies, stir ingredients

  • Thank them for their help and praise their prepping skills

  • Creates a positive impact on decision making as they get older

Limit Screen time (TV, Phones, Tablets)

  • Keep TV off, and phones away during meals

  • TV advertising influences children food and beverage preferences

  • Viewing TV and commercials can lead to mindless eating which may lead overeating

  • Family movie nights with popcorn or snacks are okay as long as it’s not an everyday occurrence

Be Patient. Enjoy small talk during mealtime

  • Allow kids to take their time when eating

  • Chew slowly, take small bites, savoring the food

  • Ask them about the colors of foods, the texture, and flavors they taste — sweet, salty, spicy, bland.

Key nutrients to promote growth and development in toddlers and preschoolers

Water helps maintain internal balance and hydrates the body

Also, removes waste and transports nutrients to cells

Many foods contain water:

Fruits and Vegetables - Cucumbers, Watermelon,

Celery, Lettuce, Zucchini, Bok Choy, Grapefruit,

Oranges, and Strawberries

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for

the body and especially the brain

Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Starchy Vegetables

Limit processed foods which provide little to no nutrients

Protein is the building block for body tissues

builds, restores, and maintain muscles and organs

Meat sources: Chicken, Beef, Turkey, Fish, Eggs, Dairy

Plant sources: Legumes (beans, chickpeas), Soy (tofu), Lentil, Quinoa, Nuts, Nut Butters, Seeds, Oatmeal

Fat is essential for brain development, especially from infancy to 3 years of age

Dietary fat is a key element in providing satiety. Helps absorb vitamins A, D, E, K

Choose healthy fats such as:

Monounsaturated fats - olive oil, peanut and canola oils, avocados, nuts, seeds

Polyunsaturated fats - vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fatty oily fish

Omega 3 fatty acids

Limit Saturated Fat

Avoid Trans Fat - highly processed foods

Kid Friendly Snack Ideas

  • Air-popped popcorn

  • Assorted fresh fruits

  • Baby carrots/sliced veggies with hummus dip

  • Cheese on whole grain crackers

  • Fruit and veggie kabobs dipped in yogurt

  • Plain yogurt mixed with honey or jam and fruit

  • Whole grain muffins, breads, cereals

  • Fruit smoothies

  • Pretzels

  • Dried fruits and nuts

  • Roasted pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds

Kid Friendly Breakfast Ideas

Brown bag breakfasts - assemble 3 foods (fruit, whole grains, protein) in a brown paper bag the night before:

  • Mozzarella cheese stick, slice of whole wheat bread with jelly or butter, 1 cup of fruit of choice

  • Breakfast trail mix (1 cup chex cereal, 1/2 cup dried fruit, 1/2 ounce of pumpkin seeds, 1/8 cup dark chocolate mini chips) and 8oz low fat milk carton

  • 1/2 bagel with cream cheese sandwich with small banana

  • Slice of wheat bread with mashed avocado, boiled egg, and fruit of choice

  • Scrambled egg and cheese sandwich, and fruit of choice

Variety of Smoothies for on the go

Kid Friendly Lunch Ideas

Lunches should include at least 4 of the 5 food groups:

Protein: Turkey, chicken, tuna, salmon, chili, hardboiled eggs, chickpeas, hummus, tofu, seeds

Fruits: fresh, canned, or dried: Apples, banana, oranges, kiwi, peaches, fruit cup, pears, plums, apricots, melons, unsweetened applesauce

Vegetables: vegetable sticks - sweet peppers, carrots, cucumbers, asparagus. Green beans, sliced squash, green peas, broccoli, cauliflower

Grain products: Bread/buns (whole wheat, pumpernickel, cracked wheat), tortilla wraps, homemade muffins, bagels, fig bars, plain popcorn, rice, pasta salad, couscous

Dairy: cheese sticks, cheese cubes, sliced cheese

School Lunch Ideas:

  • Turkey and cheese sandwich on wheat bread, sliced fruit of choice, carrot sticks with or without hummus dip

  • Chicken salad sandwich on cracked wheat bread, mozzarella stick, sliced cucumbers, and dried fruit

  • Bowtie pasta salad with chickpeas, broccoli, and feta cheese. Popcorn, canned peaches


10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2018, from

Edelstein, S., & Sharlin, J. (2009). Life cycle nutrition: An evidence-based approach. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett. Normal Nutrition for Toddler through school-aged children and the role of parents in promoting healthy nutrition in early childhood

Pérez-Escamilla R, Segura-Pérez S, Lott M, on behalf of the RWJF HER Expert Panel on Best Practices for Promoting Healthy Nutrition, Feeding Patterns, and Weight Status for Infants and Toddlers from Birth to 24 Months. Feeding Guidelines for Infants and Young Toddlers: A Responsive Parenting Approach. Guidelines for Health Professionals. Durham, NC: Healthy Eating Research, 2017. Available at

What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating? Mathieu, Jennifer. Journal of the American Dietetic Association , Volume 109 , Issue 12 , 1987

The start healthy feeding guidelines for infants and toddlers. Butte, Nancy et al. Journal of the American Dietetic Association , Volume 104 , Issue 3 , 442 - 454

Choose MyPlate. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2018, from

Ben-Joseph, E. P. (Ed.). (2018, June). Healthy Eating. Retrieved November, 2018, from

Pediatric Nutrition. Willet, Gina PHD RD. Institute for Natural Resources. January 2011.

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