Habit #3: Eating on the Go
If you're just joining in on our toddler eating series with our holistic nutrition expert, Natasha Uspensky, catch up and take a read through our first two entries on toddler eating habits:
#1 - Distracting your child with food
#2 - Excessive reliance on snacks
Why this is a bad habit: It is a common occurrence in this country to see kids walking around with food, eating while being pushed in their strollers, or being fed piecemeal while they’re busy playing or doing other things. This is a bad habit for several reasons: first, it discourages the healthy habit of mindfully eating a full, balanced meal, seated at the table. Second, it is a safety hazard — eating while walking, running or playing increases the risk of choking. Thirdly, distracted eating on the go means being less connected to the body’s signs of hunger and fullness, which can lead to over or under-eating. Lastly, eating on the go usually means eating packaged or processed foods, which are not a nutritious food option for growing bodies (see number 4 below).
Long-term impact: The bad habit of eating on the go is one that so many of us are guilty of as adults. Grabbing a quick sandwich while walking to a meeting or eating a protein bar in the car, while sometimes more convenient than sitting down to an actual meal, leads to unhealthy food choices, not feeling satisfied (which leads to overeating later), nutrient deficiency, and stress. If you’re eating on the go, it also means you’re not taking time out of your day to refuel and take care of your body, the effects of which can permeate many areas of your health: weight gain, breakouts, hormonal imbalances, chronic stress, anxiety and depression just to name a few.
What to do instead:
Institute regular mealtimes. Just like with avoiding excessive snacking, it is super important to keep regular mealtimes in mind when you are planning your day to avoid eating on the run. If you find that you are regularly missing your toddler’s mealtimes, you might be over-scheduling them!
Pack a lunch to bring with you. If you know you’ll be out and about during your and your child’s mealtime, pack a healthy lunch or stop to eat at a healthy restaurant (read: NO FAST FOOD!!!). I love our little LunchBots stainless steel bento box, which I pack with a healthy meal and bring along whenever we’re out during mealtime.
Institute a “bottoms down” rule when eating. If your child is eating, they must be seated, always. In a highchair or other seat, in your lap, or seated in front of you. Not only is this much safer from a choking perspective, it also encourages mindful eating of a meal, as opposed to distracted eating on the go.
Model healthy eating habits. Again, if your toddler sees you eating on the go all the time, they will think that’s an acceptable option. Share meals with your little, seated at the table together to really engrain the concept of what mealtimes should look like. And follow the suggestions above for yourself as well!
Natasha Uspensky is a mama, holistic nutritionist, wellness expert, and founder of The Organic Beauty Blog. She believes in a holistic approach to wellness; that true health and happiness come from achieving a sense of balance in all areas of life — from food, movement and environment, to relationships, community and career. Through her private practice, writing, and online programs, she works with women all over the world to heal their health, and start living the lives they crave, in a body they love. She is the founder of NU Health & Wellness, and has been featured in Marie Claire, Redbook, Livestrong, All-Parenting, Giada Weekly, and Mind Body Green. Check out her Gorgeous Mama programs, designed especially for moms in any stage of their motherhood journey, to create a strong, healthy body, and a joyful, balanced lifestyle!