Eating together feeds the family heart.
Between work, school, shopping, homework and daily activities it seems that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Simply trying to find a mutual schedule becomes almost impossible. However, the dinner table can become the best place to engage our family.
Sitting as a family at the table brings us together and sharing food strengthens us as a family group. The table offers a unique space to promote and consolidate healthy eating behaviors. Those behaviors are influenced by us as parents via the food options we bring to the table.
A family meal not only satisfies our hunger but it is also an opportunity to connect with others, listen to others and express our feelings. A primary benefits for children and teenagers is that they can ultimately be encouraged to stay away from bad eating habits.
Usually habits relating to food begin to form before our babies begin to crawl, and start to consolidate when they reach pre-adolescence. They then become established over a lifetime. Therefore, it is especially important to share the table with our children, a space that will be a constant throughout their lives.
These benefits mean that there should be no excuses for not dining together as a family. Changes to habits might start by simply turning off the TV and leaving our mobile phones in another part of the house. These devices have a tendency to interfere with family conversation which should be instead focused exclusively on savoring what we are eating, conversing and enjoying time as a family. Establish a pleasant environment by leaving aside all negative daily loads. This time should be positive.
To get started, follow these simple steps:
- Meals don’t necessarily need to be elaborate or complicated. You can share this space with some simple and healthy dishes.
- Anticipating the week ahead using a shopping list can help organise the weekly menu. Make sure to provide variety and stay away from repetitive menus. Vary the type vegetables and meat options while including legumes.
- If you have a busy week, leave pre-cooked meals in the freezer. Keep pre washed and dried vegetables in a cool, dry place. This means that no matter how busy your day has been, a good and healthy meal can be enjoyed in as little as a few minutes by reheating over the stove or in the microwave.
- Invite everyone to participate. If they are old enough to cook, ask if they are willing to choose a recipe and cook once a week. If your child is still too young, instead ask them to help you cook. Allow them to participate by helping decide the weekly menu or going to the market. Even setting up the table promotes family involvement and helps them communicate with you.
- Do not let them eat alone in their rooms or in the living room watching TV. You have to encourage the importance of respecting the routine of mealtimes, sharing opinions, comments and experiences at least once a day.
All these benefits can help improve the quality of our children’s diets. So why not start today? What’s for dinner?
Article written by Luciana Ambrosi, MS RD