Can you remember times when your mum harped on about being home for dinner on time?
She had good reason to–children’s eating patterns are formed by the time they reach 12 years old. And, family dinners are the perfect way to set healthy habits for years to come.
Unfortunately, as we grow older, our habits become more and more difficult to change. So, now is the perfect time to set healthy habits for your children.
A Harvard study found that families who eat together are twice as likely to get five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, compared with families who don’t.
Those who ate together also consumed fewer fried food and soda, and less saturated and trans fats. They also got more fiber, calcium, folate, iron and several other nutrients.
Pretty interesting stuff!
Do you try to make family dinners a daily event in your home?
If your excuse is, “I’ve no time,” sorry–that simply won’t cut it!
The study pointed out the older children were, the less often they ate dinner with their parents. So, putting things off, may eventually mean you won’t be able to do anything to help your kids, even if you did want to.
Right now is the perfect time to act.
If you simply don’t know where to begin, here are a few tips:
Your main aim here is to make eating together fun and interesting…
#1 Involve your children
Pretty basic stuff, but get your children involved in the process wherever you can.
Granted, it’ll probably take you much longer than before. But, I think it’s a worthy investment, don’t you?
Your children can be involved in making decisions about what to eat, helping you shop, cook, and set the table.
Supermarkets, farmers markets and butchers shops are fantastic places for kids to see and learn about the different foods they eat.
If your children are young, they could perhaps help at home by stirring, or tearing up lettuce leaves. Older children may be able to chop, with your help, or arrange the table, etc.
#2 Play games
Are your kids stuck in a rut, eating the same foods all the time?
Try coaxing them to move beyond their old favorites with fun games, such as highlighting the favorite foods of each family member.
Or, how about combining eating with a geography lesson?
Why not put a map up in your kitchen and then mark off the countries from which you’ve tasted their culinary delights?
Here’s a few examples:
- Pita bread from the Middle East, chapatis from India and East Africa, rye bread from Sweden, baguettes from France.
- Then there’s pizza and pasta from Italy, haggis from Scotland, curries from India and Thailand, kangaroo from Australia.
- Or, how about trying new and exciting fruits: cape gooseberries, dragon fruit or custard apples anyone?
- Perhaps you’d prefer collard greens or rutabaga??? ;-)
- If you’re really up for a challenge, go for the slightly query-some option of seaweed. (Interesting, but useless fact: dulse is actually extremely popular here in Northern Ireland!)
Anyway, I could go on, but I think you get my idea.
For a fascinating insight into what the world eats in pictures from, Time.com have put together a three part series, What the world eats, part 1, What the world eats, part 2, and What the world eats, part 3.
#3 Food group countdown
Get your whole family competing to see how many different foods they can eat from each food group during the day/week.
Your children may like to make a poster of the pyramid as a fun way to teach them about healthy eating, and also to keep a tally of everyones scores during the week.
The goal is to get everyone in your family to add more variety and balance to their diet. Perhaps you can celebrate with family workout, or a trip to the park.
#4 Tasting session
Have a family tasting party to introduce new foods to everyone.
Try out some different foods, such as papayas, cherries, mango and raspberries. You can encourage everyone to take part by asking questions about the new flavours, colours, textures, and smells.
#5 Family catchup
Dinnertime shouldn’t be about gobbling up what’s on your plate, while slouching in front of the TV! Make it a chance to catch up with your partner and your kids, and show you care about what’s going on in their life.
What happened in their day? What did they learn? Is anything bothering them?
What are your tips for keeping family dinners a family time? Do you find getting everyone together a challenge?