Did you know that eating frequent family meals together has been linked to youth being successful in school, including better grades and higher scores on achievement tests? You may have to work a little to get everyone together, but it is worth it, and the whole family will eat healthier! Below are a few strategies for eating together as a family:
Start eating meals together when your children are young. This way it becomes a habit. If you are not able to eat a meal together every day, set a goal. For instance, you could try having meals together as a family four times a week.
Plan when you will eat together as a family. Write it on your calendar. Family meals do not have to be held at the same time every day or even be the same meal every day. Time can be spent together at breakfast, lunch, dinner or even snack time! Most importantly, you are spending quality time together, and healthy food is part of it.
Offer a variety of healthy foods at family meal times. Do not lecture or force your child to eat. Let your child choose how much of each food he or she wants to eat. Avoid power struggles over what gets eaten, remember that mealtime is not a time for discipline and realize mealtime can be a good opportunity to model good manners.
Try a new food. Family meals are a great time to introduce new fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. As a family, you can all try something different! By providing healthy options and trying new foods, you will serve as a role model for your family.
Focus on the meal and each other. Turn off the TV, video games, and mobile phones.
Make family meals happy. Try to make meals a stress-free time. Get children talking! Talk about fun and happy things. A few conversation starters could include the following:
- “What was the best thing that happened today?”
- “What made you laugh today?”
- “Tell me one thing you learned today.”