• Through the proper attitude and environment toward food, children can learn to eat in a healthy way. Moderation, celebration and sanctification are key. How can we teach children about food moderation? By demonstrating that there is a time and place for both nutrition and delight. There are special times for celebrating food. There is a yearly cycle of holidays, each with its own representative of food. If a chocolate bar or a popsicle is a rare and special experience, it will be appreciated and celebrated. If eaten often or daily, it demeans the experience.

    A series of studies in Psychological Science suggests that any food ritual (even a very small one) not only strengthens social ties but might also enhance the taste experience. The researchers from the University of Harvard and Minnesota examined the results of performing rituals before consuming foods. In one experiment, they had one group eat a chocolate bar by first unwrapping it, breaking it in half, re-wrapping the other half and eating the first half. Then the subjects unwrapped and ate the second half. Those that participated in this ritual of wrapping and unwrapping the chocolate bar rated the experience as more pleasurable than those in the control group which didn’t have any ritual around eating their chocolate bar. In other experiments they ran, they found that delaying consumption after performing ritual gestures increased enjoyment even more.

    Here are just a few ways to teach our children (and ourselves) about food moderation and appreciation.

    • We need to sanctify mealtime. Add a ritual to your mealtime. Perhaps have your kids be involved in the preparation of mealtime, either setting the table or preparing one of the items, if age appropriate.
    • Create a peaceful environment for eating, eat slowly and chew food well. Start sitting down for as many meals as possible together. Keep meals out of the car rides.
    • Try saying a blessing or words of thankfulness before meals to encourage you to slow down and reflect on the meal before you and the people sitting with you.
    • Change your rules at home: Only eat at a table and not while sitting on the sofa or in bed.
    • Remind yourself and your children where food originates from, what it is for (to fuel bodies), and what attitude they should have toward it (self-discipline and full enjoyment).

    Your children will take to new rituals (slowly at first) and more structured mealtimes. Your lives will feel less hurried when you have to plan activities around mealtime instead of the other way around. Oh, and your car will be cleaner. By applying specific principles to our powerful hunger drive, we can learn to use food as a path to nutritional balance and harmony within the family. It is easier than you think to find a healthy balance between eating to live and living to eat.