The modern family often is rushing home from work, school, and after-school activities feeling low on fuel exhausted. It’s easy to pick up take-out and start eating in the car or order in and sit in front of the TV than make a home-cooked meal. Worse than what we eat for meals is how we eat during mealtime. And this affects our kids.
There was once a time where the housewife would have dinner hot and ready to go when the father walked in from work, kids politely sitting at the table and chatting about how their day was. While many societal norms and ideals should be left in the past, eating together as a family shouldn’t be.
In a world of a children’s diet of chicken nuggets and French fries or pizza, parents need to find ways to trick their little ones into eating healthier. Or at the very least set them up to be exposed to better eating habits.
Eating together as a family is one of the ways to do this.
It doesn’t matter what your family looks like or what roles each person plays. What matters is that the family comes together, using food as a way to bond and share memories.
There are a few things parents should keep in mind about food.
Food is Good!
Eating doesn’t have to have this negative connotation. Food is meant to be delicious and enjoyed. Instead of focusing on our poor eating habits such as late-night snacking or our kids’ love for snack foods, look at the positives like how delicious a fresh-picked apple in the fall is with some peanut butter.
While everyone loves some good takeout, try to cook more at home so that the kids expect this as part of their routine. Become a creature of habit to expose them to healthier eating habits. This means always cooking that one vegetable everyone likes or having a “try a new vegetable a week” game.
Cook colorful and flavorful vegetables and serve a variety of fruit. It’s okay if the kids don’t eat it at first. In fact, expect them not to want to try new foods. But just having it on the table and on their plate is enough for a first step to getting them exposed to a variety of foods.
Food is Fuel
Even though food should take good, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be good for us. Start teaching the family that food is a way to fuel the body. We should be eating so that our bodies grow healthy and strong and have the energy to play. Not to eat quick and stuff our bellies until they are too full.
And eating together is a great way to teach this principle. Many parents struggle with finding time in the morning and don’t sit down to eat their own breakfast. Sitting down and eating this meal together then becomes something that also benefits them. It teaches kids the importance of this meal to wake up their brains and recharge their batteries for the day. And helps for everyone to start the day on the right foot.
Food Brings People Together
Some of the best memories are surrounding food. Birthday parties, weddings, Thanksgiving, and other holidays. White food brings us together, it’s the company and conversation that make it so memorable.
Eating together and talking is a way to connect the family. There is always time for TV watching after!
With these things in mind, eating together helps kids create healthy ideas about food.
Key takeaways on family mealtime are:
- The structure of sitting down at the table with no distraction is all that it might take for picky toddlers to eat a meal.
- Offering healthy options exposes them to the food and they might actually enjoy it.
- It teaches kids that meals are meant to be enjoyed and slows them down.
- If an older sibling is eating some food, there is a good chance the little one might want to try it. Lead by example and also eat mindfully and practice good habits. Invite the kids in the kitchen to help with prepping the food or baking dessert for after dinner.
- Eating together as a family is one of the best ways to introduce new foods, encourage healthy eating, and spend time together.