Making Mealtime Successful
Let’s bring back family mealtime. Yes, our hectic lives all too often force out this once staple daily activity. But it’s SO important and here’s why. Having a meal together is one of the easiest and most essential activities you can do to encourage healthier eating. And, it’s simpler than you think!
Kids learn by example. As parents, you already know what you say ‘speaks’ to them but what you do ‘screams’ to them. “Do as I say, not as I do,” has no place (setting) at the kitchen table. Mealtimes are key opportunities for kids to learn about foods and preferences. Starting at a very young age, children start to develop lasting impressions about different foods, both positive and negative. We want to encourage the right balance of the what, the when and the where: healthy food choices at regular times in a pleasant setting.
Here are some simple steps to get your family’s nutrition headed in the right direction:
- Plan it. Review the schedule for the week and pick a day or two when you can eat together as a family. Gradually add another day each week.
- Pull up a chair. Sit down together at the table to eat. This allows for better conversation with fewer distractions. Try to keep the conversation light and fun. Catch up on the events of the day. Enjoy each other’s company.
- Turn off the distractions and be more mindful about eating. This can be a challenging step but a rewarding one too. Just turn off the TV, put the cell phones and iPods and any other ‘noise’ out of reach. Focus on enjoying a delicious meal together.
- Try something new. Each week introduce one new food or recipe. Get your kids involved in the deciding what to try. This will get them pumped up about what they are going to eat. Children are more likely to eat foods if they have a hand in picking them out.
- Prepare the meal together. It may only take a few minutes. Ask your kids to spin the lettuce, snap the green beans or stir the bowl of pasta. When your kids help make the meal they are more likely to eat what is served.
- Be creative and make it fun. Kids can make name cards for their seats. They can create a decorative centerpiece for the table or fold the napkins in a creative way (I loved doing that as a kid!).
- Be a positive role model. You as parents and the older children can help model healthy eating habits. Now that’s rewarding!
Kids who eat with their families are more likely to eat healthier foods. And healthy families are happy families!