Thursday, 10 April 2014

Could a table really make that much of a difference?

To say the morning breakfast routine is a little relaxed in our house would be an understatement! The husband gets up with the girls at 6am, he gives them a breakfast bar in-between turning on Cbeebies and jumping in the shower. Then when the girls have finished their bars they'll come and find me, I give them dry cereal (neither will eat it with milk!) whilst snuggling in front of the tv and then as the whines of 'I'm hungry' start up, they get the option of fruit.

The whines never really stop though. I can usually fend them off with distractions until 9.30/10am when I give them a snack, but as soon as they are finished, its back to 'muuuuuuummmmmm I'm hungry'. At 11.30 its lunch time and the girls are apparently 'starving'. Lunch time is another meal that is eaten in front of the TV, the girls are distracted and I I can get on with household chores, blogging or grabbing a 30 minute nap while they are watching a DVD. It's never long before the crys of  'I'm hungry', 'I'm starving', 'please can we have a small snack' start up again and needless to say, the relentless whining really does go on all day until they go to bed. I find myself throwing processed sugary snacks their way as It cheap, its easy and I'm just so tried with the pregnancy I don't have the energy to do anything more than open a packet or butter a scone.

The husband and I decided this couldn't continue we're not teaching them healthy habits for later life, so after a little research, decided breakfast needed a complete overhaul, as did their diets in general. They were eating far too much sugar and not enough protein for breakfast and maybe that was why they never felt full and then the processed sugary snacks weren't helping the situation. So breakfast became, wholemeal toast with peanut butter, eggs or beans, Wheat-a-Bix or vegetable omelettes. I offered fruit when the inevitable 'I'm hungry' whines started and tried out some low sugar home made snacks like wholemeal apple muffins. But it didn't make any difference, I started to wonder if they really were this hungry and I would never succeed in filling them up!

Then, last night whilst flicking through the TV, I came across 'Secret Eaters'. They were doing an experiment with 2 families and the results were really quite interesting. One family had their evening meal in front of the TV and the other had their meal at the dining room table with little distractions. They were then given some snacks and board games to play, and the amount of snacks they ate were secretly recorded. Surprisingly the family who ate in front of the tv ate 98% more snacks than the family who had eaten at the dinner table. Even taking into account the small sample size (2 families) and existing habits (maybe the TV family are big evening snackers), 98% is still a considerable amount more!

The Husband and I were shocked, the psychology behind the experiment was that when you sit down at a table to eat, the brain processes it as a meal, it says, 'I'm eating now' and records the meal in the brain. When the meal was eaten in front of the TV or other distraction device, the brain would 'forget' all about the meal and still insist that it was hungry because it hadn't eaten. The husband and I have always been big advocates of having a family dinner around the table each day, but had never really considered other meals. It always seems so much easier just to sit them in front of the tv with a DVD or Cbeebies so I could get a few moments peace, but how is this simple act affecting their diets?

After discussing it last night, we decided to try our own experiment. From today all meals are to be eaten at the dinner table together with whoever is home. So far I am shocked, since finishing breakfast neither child has mentioned the hungry word! They've found other things to complain and whine about, but not that they're hungry. Its early days yet, but could it really be that simple? Could eating at the table really make that much of a difference?

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