One of the parents’ concerns for their children’s health refers to food and the necessity to choose minimally processed, healthy, natural ingredients. Parents often opt for those cooking methods that best retain food nutrients. They try to use cookware and kitchen accessories which do not alter the food by releasing toxic substances. All these have one long term purpose: to teach children how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet. Inducing a healthy lifestyle to children when they are little will help build the framework for a lifetime of healthy habits.
Time spent eating together at the table, in the family, has both physical and emotional benefits. Family dinners are linked to children’s lower risk of obesity, strong family relationships and fewer behavioral problems.
1. Improve your family’s nutrition
Family meals are definitely a role model for healthy eating. While kids will see their parents eating healthy food, they will more likely want to try various, new foods. On the other hand, parents get the chance to offer nutritious food to their children and observe what their kids like and dislike. This is why eating together with your baby is a good habit to put into practice as soon as you start weaning. Studies suggest that family meals are associated with a reduced risk of childhood obesity in children and adolescents.
To improve your children’s nutrition, serve a variety of healthy foods and be a role model by eating healthy yourself during family meals (and not only). Because of this, the kids will make good decisions on their own, in the future, regarding the foods they want to eat.
Below are a few great resources that will help you stick to family meals:
The books above are full of worth trying delicious recipes for your whole family.
2. Improve communication skills and relationships with each other
Family meals bring benefits on several levels, but how family members interact at the table is, by far, the most important. During family meals, parents and kids can talk about how their day went (ex. “What is the best day that happened to you today?”), about their achievements or concerns. However, if the conversation becomes intense, it is best to try and express your appreciation that your child is sharing how he feels about the subject and suggest to talk about it after dinner (ex. “We will surely get back to this whenever you want to talk about it.”). The setting should be positive and dynamic, but also warm and relaxing. You can encourage conversation by expressing an interest in your child’s daily life, be an active listener and let your child participate, talk and listen as well.
Family meal is a great time for parents to teach their children good manners and polite conversation skills. It is a good means of conversation and connection and an opportunity to transmit family values and (cultural) traditions from one generation to the next, to so take full advantage of it and spend quality time together.
3. Prevent and avoid high-risk behaviours
Family meals are a good opportunity for parents to monitor their children’s moods and behaviors and model them through communication. They have a positive impact on children’s personal development, motivation and values. Kids who eat with their families become more receptive and understand easier their parents’ expectations and the boundaries they set.
Various studies show that children who eat together with their parents are less prone to depression or substance abuse, they develop a higher self-esteem, have better academic performance and they are less likely to have subsequent eating disorders.
Here are a few tips to help you maintain and enjoy family meals:
- Establish a predictable schedule of family meals.
- Involve your kid in meal preparation (select some age-appropriate tasks).
- Turn off television, radio and other mobile devices during the meal.
- Keep mealtime calm, friendly and fun.
- Experiment with fun recipes or have “themed” cuisine evenings (Italian, Mexican, Chinese etc.)
- Avoid battles over food.
- Don’t use food as a reward for your kid’s achievements.
- Clean up together after dinner, but don’t force kids to clean their plates.
- Have family meals at least four or five times a week.
The most important thing about family meals is to try to make them part of a daily routine, to make them fun and family-centered.
Do you enjoy family meals? Tell us more about it!