Health and nutrition for young children: Family meals

Help children enjoy mealtimes by creating a stable, comforting place to eat and engage with family.

According to “Nibbles for Health: Nutrition Newsletters for Parents of Young Children, there are positive, easy ways to build family mealtime routines, fostering good habits in young children. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Set a regular mealtime with the family. Routine times for eating will give your child a better chance to eat a variety of foods to get the right amount to continue to grow, stay healthy and keep a healthy weight.
  • Make it simple, make it quick. The goal is to spend more time at the table and less time in the kitchen. Simple meals – even cold sandwiches – can taste just as good and be as nutritious as a hot-cooked meal. Any meal can be special if everyone is relaxed and filled with caring feelings and laughter. Always remember to take care of yourself and eat with the family.
  • Show that family mealtime is important. During mealtime, turn off the television and do not answer the phone. Show your children that they are important and the mealtime is important.
  • Eat around a table. It is easier to talk and listen to all family members when you are facing each other. If you do not have a kitchen table, you can do the same sitting in the living room. Make sure you go by the same rules, such as, no TV/phone and make sure everyone is facing each other.
  • Enjoy mealtime talk. Conversations should be kept positive. This is not the time for complaining or nagging with family members. Always let everyone talk and be the star at mealtime. Your children will listen and learn by feeling included.
  • Be realistic about mealtime. Try your best to have everyone sit down together. Keep meals from lasting too long. If kids get fussy, your mealtime will not be relaxing for anyone.

Family mealtimes are very important! Families create close bonds and many positive memories around the family table. Mealtimes are also an opportunity for parents and caregivers to teach children about healthy eating. Remember that adults are role models and when they try new healthy foods, children are more apt to as well.

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