Issue 14 of Feeding Your Kids
Chewing well is a crucial step in digestion. Saliva contains the most important digestive enzymes for breaking down carbohydrates and their digestion begins in the mouth.
For healthy digestion to occur, it is important to thoroughly chew your food.
At your child’s next meal, experiment with encouraging them to chew food more completely before swallowing.
How can you tell if food is chewed enough? If the child can tell what kind of food they are eating from the texture of the food in their mouth, then it’s not chewed enough yet. For example, if they are chewing broccoli and they run their tongue over and can tell that it is the stalk part or the floret part, or elbow pasta and they can still tell the shape, then the food has not been chewed enough. Also, if they put more into their mouth when there is still some food there, they probably do not chew enough.
Try it yourself. You need to keep on chewing until you can't tell the parts.
It’s hard for parents to imagine that children’s chewing can be so off. Kids are often rushed, eat on the go, conditions are rarely conducive to experiencing the eating. So do not wait until your teenager has a stomach flu and throws up dinner, displaying entire pieces of carrots and beans intact, entirely un-chewed! True story.
Slow down. Chew. Swallow. Relax. Digest. Enjoy your food.
Thorough chewing is even more important when you eat food with high fiber content such as vegetables or when you increase the amount of fresh food at the expense of processed food, because this type of food is more difficult to break down through the digestion process. When the digestion process is not thorough enough, the bacteria in the gut cause the partially digested food to ferment, causing discomfort and gas. More thorough, mindful chewing can solve this problem.
The more distracted children are by watching TV, eating in the car or on the street, taking a phone call or texting while eating, shoving food down quickly in a fast food restaurant, the less their body can recognize that they’ve eaten enough and send fullness cues.
If you are thinking: What has chewing got to do with eating healthy?
Try this instead: There are many aspects to healthy eating besides what food you put in your mouth. Mindful eating techniques include putting your fork down in between bites, chewing your food, experiencing the taste sensation, eating more slowly and checking in on how full you are.
Next we will talk about how to benefit from family meals.