Meals should be enjoyable; family moments where you give your children the nutrition their bodies need and deserve, but a peaceful and nutritious dinner isn’t always as easy and simple as it sounds. With so much information in the media, it can be hard to know what choices to make. Getting children to change their eating habits and add variety to their favorite foods can be even more difficult.
Here are a few simple tips for success when planning family meals:
- Set the scene and establish a routine:
Setting aside time to get everyone at the table can be challenging, but it is worth it! Even one meal a week can give you valuable time with your kids and loved ones that is important not only for their nutrition, but their development as well.
Time with you at the table is great for your relationships as well as helping your children develop language and communication skills. Try to keep distractions to a minimum by turning off the television and focusing on food and family.
- Get the kids in the kitchen:
Let your children be involved in as many safe ways as possible with planning and preparing meals. They can help pick out fresh produce at the store, wash fruits and veggies for dinner, or even set and decorate the table in their own style. Make a trip to the local farmer’s market a family outing or even let them test out their green thumbs by growing a small, sturdy plant like cherry tomatoes (these can be grown in a container for those of you with limited outdoor space!) Children are much more likely to try a new food if they have been involved in the preparation and decision-making.
- Be a good example:
Make sure the “grown-ups” at the table are setting a good example by speaking in a positive way about the meal and being good sports. If you don’t try it, they probably won’t either! Prepare meals with lots of fruits and vegetables and be sure to pile your plate full of them, too.
- Try something new:
Meals can be an opportunity for education about foods, cultures, and even history. Give your meal a theme like “foods from around the world,” and try foods from a different culture. You can even include customs by eating your meal using traditional utensils or settings such as chop sticks or sitting on the floor. Set a goal with your family to try one new food each week. Focus on fresh, whole foods in place of processed items. Don’t forget to keep the kids involved in the planning and decisions as much as possible and have fun as a family!
For more meal-time tips and ideas, visit choosemyplate.gov/