Make Meal Time Family Time
With kids returning to school soon, there may be some anxiety about returning to the hustle and bustle. However, as chaotic as evenings can get between pick up from extracurricular activities, helping with homework, and sticking to a bedtime routine, make sure to prioritize healthy dinners together as a family. Eating together yields numerous benefits, according to the Family Dinner Project:
- Lowers rates of childhood obesity and eating disorders
- Builds children’s self-esteem
- Younger kids learn new vocabulary during dinner conversations
- Higher grades
- Lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression
In many households, dinner time as a family is the only chance for family members to come together, unwind, destress, bond, catch up on each other’s day, and share successes and setbacks. It doesn’t have to be everyone coming together for a gourmet meal. Make something simple, or even get food delivered (preferably something healthy). And it’s okay if one parent works in the evening–as long as at least two family members are sitting together, it still counts as a family meal. The best setting is to have the TV turned off to focus on having conversations.
As an added bonus, getting the kids involved in dinner time makes them more willing to try new food, whether it’s giving them a task during the cooking process, setting the table, help with clean up, joining you at the grocery store, or helping decide the meal plan for the week. If your kid is considered a “picky eater,” just know that it takes up to 15 reintroductions of the same food to get them to try it. The more they see the food, the higher the chance that they will eat it.
To prevent picky eating, the best thing you can do is be a good role model and to serve the food in a family-sized dish; once they see you scoop some food onto your plate, they will want to do the same. Just make sure to let them decide on their servings so they can properly learn hunger and fullness cues and establish a good relationship with food (ie: don’t pressure them to clear their plate).
If family dinners are too hard to come by due to time restrictions and scheduling conflicts, then find opportunities at other times, whether it’s during breakfast on a school day, sharing a healthy dessert together like fruit, or lunches on the weekend.
FAQ. Fishel, A. (N.D.). Retrieved from https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/resources/faq/