Family Dinners: 5 Tricks to Get Your Kids Involved

sxc.hu: pnijhuis

sxc.hu: pnijhuis

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 1What 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?

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Parker, M.D. January 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm

We simply make it a priority to eat together for the evening meal. No TV running in the background!

If the conversation starts to lag at the dinner table, we go from one person to the next, answering the questions: What was the best part of your day? What was the worst?

-Steve
.-= Steve Parker, M.D.´s last blog ..Does Diet Influence My Risk of Stroke? =-.

Reply

Melanie January 28, 2010 at 9:14 am

Hi Steve,
I LOVE your idea, wonderful! It’s inspiring to know there are families out there who still eat together :-)

Reply

Julie January 28, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I don’t find getting everyone together a challenge but I’m definitely going to use the time to follow #5.

What better time to catchup :)
.-= Julie´s last blog ..Diet Bars Are Not The Solution =-.

Reply

Melanie January 29, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Hi Julie,
I’m glad you don’t have that challenge, it’s half the battle, I think.

Reply

Ruth February 1, 2010 at 7:06 pm

I was greatly impressed by a lovely family who I met through Marie Curie work! The mum made a point of always getting the family together at dinner time with t.v switched off to catch up with each other! There were 5 children ranging from 9yrs to 23yrs old, an elderly aunt and granny and of course mum and dad. They were forbidden to take food to another room to eat in front of a tv.

Reply

Melanie February 2, 2010 at 9:57 am

Hi Ruth,
That’s such a nice idea, and I’m sure it will create lasting memories for the children in later life–very healthy.

I love the idea of not eating in another room, does that just apply for dinner time? What about having a cup of tea during the day or in the evenings?

Perhaps that’s a good solution to the problem we’ve discussed before about not eating biscuits with a cup of tea or coffee–no food allowed in other rooms of the house, just drinks perhaps!! lol

Reply

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