Families are busier than ever before and, like most parents, I often feel like I am pulled in many directions while juggling and multi-tasking responsibilities. Yet research clearly indicates that children who eat family dinner are healthier, happier and better students.
Being a social media and tech gadget family, it is a rule in our home that our family dinners be a tech free zone. We strive for our mealtime to be free from distractions to create an environment where we can all speak freely about the day’s occurrences and connect with one another. It is a designated time away from electronics, cell phones, gaming systems and anything that can cause a distraction. Eating together as a family does take time to coordinate and plan. With different aged children in a household, sometimes dinnertime can feel chaotic. However, perfection is not the focus since the result of being able to converse–uninterrupted–is the main priority.
When trying to create a family dinner routine, parents often want to have healthy meal options. However, when trying to create a healthy meal, especially with young children, undoubtedly there will be a child (or children) that will shake their head and turn up their nose at the sight of Brussels sprouts.
- Stick to the routine
Serve meals at about the same time every day. Nix juice, milk and snacks for at least one hour before meals. If your child comes to the table hungry, he or she may be more motivated to eat.
- Make it fun
Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters. Offer breakfast foods for dinner.
- Recruit your child’s help
At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Do not buy anything that you do not want your child to eat. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table.
- Set a good example
If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.
- Be sneaky
Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
- Minimize distractions
Turn off the television during meals and no gadgets at the table.
- Don’t be a short order cook
Preparing a separate meal for a child after they reject the original meal may encourage a child’s picky eating. Keep serving a child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred.
Want to sneak in some nutritious foods in your dishes? The following resources have great recipes for family dinner.