Today’s busy lifestyle can make eating together a challenge, but it’s certainly worth the effort. There are many benefits of enjoying a meal with your family. Family meals are shown to have a positive nutritional, mental and social impact on children. People of all ages eat better when they share a meal, consuming more nutrient-rich foods and less fast food type meals. Here are some trips and strategies to help get you started.
Schedule Your Mealtime
Pick the meal that works best for your schedule. This could be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whatever meal gives you the most time to connect. Once you choose the mealtime that works best, try to schedule other activities around that meal so that they don’t interfere. Mark it on your calendar. Ask your children what they’d like to see on the menu. They are more likely to enjoy the meal if they can have a say in what will be served.
Choose Family-Friendly Recipes
Keep your recipes simple. Choose one-pot meals or make a casserole that includes fresh ingredients. Have your children help by taking the food out of the fridge, by washing fruit or vegetables or cracking eggs. Ask them to measure the ingredients or stir them in the bowl. Children are more likely to eat the food if they helped prepare it and are involved in picking the ingredients. Try to keep recipes simple so that you can enjoy time together and not have to keep referring to an intricate recipe. Use this opportunity to teach your kids about kitchen safety. A great reference is the Canada Food Guide.
Be Together and Present
Eliminate distractions like television, cell phones, toys and books. Focus on being together and keep meal conversations positive and encouraging. If you’re enjoying a meal at dinner, ask about their day to encourage communication. Don’t focus so much on how much a child is eating, instead just use the mealtime to connect and converse with all members of your family. This goes for you as well, keep your phones away from the table. Children will assume it’s okay that they have their devices too. Make this a family rule.
Enjoying family meals together has the potential to strengthen a family bond, providing a sense of security and belonging. Family meals lead to healthier food choices, contributing to the overall wellbeing of children. At the table, manners are learned, traditions are started, and life moments are celebrated.