Food for thought-developing a “gratitude for food”
Remember the first time your baby started to cry and scream from hunger pains. You were so nervous you only wanted to make her happy and stop crying. You followed all the instructions from the baby book to calm her down. Then you fed her and the crying suddenly stopped with the sounds of her swallowing down the milk one loud gulp at a time. Now that was gratitude for food. You lived from feeding to feeding. A big burp after eating was like music to your ears. It didn’t get any better than that.
Where did those magic moments go? Now you are grateful if you can get your children to the table away from their many distractions long enough to eat. You are happy if they will eat their meal without a struggle. Dinner is just another chore on the long list of things to do. With all the effort you put in you would think they would appreciate the food you make for them or at least remember what they ate for the last meal. Have you ever asked a child what they ate for the most recent meal? Nine times out of ten they do not remember what they ate let alone be grateful for whatever it was they ate. Certainly you want your children to eat healthier and be aware of the benefits of eating well, or at least know what they are eating. It would be nice if you could instill a sense of gratitude for their meal. You keep promising yourself you will get to it. You have been planning to do it, but quite frankly you don’t have the time or energy to change anything right now.
Do not wait until you have the time or you get the meal just right to introduce gratitude. That is part of the problem, we never think we are getting it completely right as parents. We wait until we feel adequate to make a change. If we keep waiting to show gratitude only on those special holidays then we are missing out on important opportunities to instill gratitude right now. But now is the best teacher. Here is the truth, it doesn’t matter what or where you are eating, if you have food on your plate then there is a reason to be grateful. It doesn’t have to be the perfect healthy meal to be thankful. As a matter of fact that is the point. Any recognition at all is good. Honoring the food we have on the table in front of us in any way you feel comfortable is an important start. Teaching our children the nutritional value of what they eat starts with gratitude for what they are fortunate to have. Do not wait for others to approve of what you are serving. Find a reason, any reason to be grateful for the food on the table. Make it part of the meal time routine now.
Once you begin the process of gratitude for what you are already eating, then everything else follows. It is like opening the door of appreciation, (good things will enter). Gratitude for the food you have will slowly awaken the awareness for the value of food in general. Don’t expect immediate results, be patient, understanding, and consistent. Up until now your children have expected the food to be there to fill them up when they are hungry. This idea of being grateful will be new to most children. But if you want to transform the whole view of what and how you eat as a family, and ultimately lead to better health; it starts right here with gratitude for the food in front of us.
Where do you begin? Start with tonight’s meal. No extra fuss or planning necessary.
A. Start by placing everything in the middle of the table, all the food whether in bowls, or bags. Cover it all up with paper, a towel, or a table cloth. Don’t answer the usual questions regarding what is for dinner. A little mystery will keep their interest.
B. Once everyone is seated you can begin the first phase of gratitude. Introduce your own tradition of being thankful for the food you have in front of you on the table. In any manner you feel comfortable. Ask everyone to show gratitude for the food you are about to eat. A simple thanks will do.
C. Ask everyone to think about the meal that awaits them . Taking in the smell of the food and the feeling of being together.
D. Now uncover the pile of food so everyone can see what is for dinner.
E. One by one have each person pass out the various items :
Use the following list of topics for suggestions on how to get started. It is best to begin with simple topics on top of the list then move down as your family becomes more expert at the process.
Always remember to include gratitude for food at every step.
1. Name that food. Have the child passing out the particular food recognize what it is called and the ingredients in it.
2. What are other forms that this food comes in?
3. Five senses- color, smell, taste, sound, and texture. Discuss the various qualities of each item.
4. Where does the food come from? Where and how was it grown? How did it get to your table?
5. How was it prepared? Discuss fresh versus frozen. Types of cooking.
6. Purpose-nutritional value. What nutrient does this food give to your body? Muscles. Brain. Heart. How does it help you grow?
7. Quality-Good food or not so good food for your health. What ingredients are healthy and which ones are not.
8. Portion size- how big is your bowl. Supersize down.
Have each child pay attention to when they are full.
It is not important exactly how you start teaching your children to be grateful, what is important is that you take just a few moments to initiate the tradition.