With our hectic lives, more and more families are eating in front of the TV, or not eating together at all.
Meal times are an important time of day for people to come together and talk about their days, and for parents to act as positive healthy eating role models for their children. The family evening meal is a great time to show your kids the importance of veges and a balanced diet!
Because when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, children will not only inherit their parents’ genetics but their eating and exercise habits too! Did you know that taking the opportunity to talking and while sharing meals is a core part of a connected family life? In this way, family members learn about each other’s lives, and also learn vital general communication skills that they take into the broader world.
If you’re a parent of young children, use your evening meals with your children as a chance to:
- Learn how to have conversations – a basic but very important social skill
- Reinforce healthy eating messages - by discussing the food on the plate
- Teach kids to eat slowly – so that food has a chance to be digested and let them know when they are full. It takes about 15 minutes for the food we are eating to start to be digested and absorbed. We need to eat slowly to feedback to our body that we have had enough.
- Encourage kids to eating mindfully – show them how to enjoy food by engaging all the senses that help us to enjoy our food- smell, taste, sight and texture (feel).
There’s no doubt that eating together is important, but it can also be hard to achieve! Long work hours, commuting time and hobbies cut into the time we usually would have spent at home eating together. And being healthy and eating well takes time, effort and resources! There’s no doubt it’s easier to grab a take-away then have a sit-down meal with our loved ones. Valuing good food and an active lifestyle is worthwhile – as the pay off is not only good health but happiness!
Here’s some ideas to make family meals a regular event at your house:
- Switch off the TV! If you’re already having meals together, but you’re eating in front of the tv or another electronic device (game console, DVDs)- switch ‘em off! It’s great that you’ve got the time together as a family, so make use of it to talk about your days and the food that you’re enjoying, rather than zoning out to the TV.
- Make a date to have a meal together: We’re all busy, and many of us are involved with after work or school activities like sports, music and cultural clubs. All these events can make it hard to have any meals together as a complete family. Set aside one day (at least!) a week where you’ll all be home at an agreed time, and ready to eat together!
- Share the meal preparation amongst the whole family: Share the cooking duties and get kids (and big kids!) involved in making the meal, so they’re more engaged in the eating of the end product. Have a look through some of the healthy recipes at TastyRecipes.co.nz and find some easy, healthy recipes that the kids can take part in preparing. The more that children are involved in the making of a healthy meal, the more they’ll learn about the importance of great, healthy food.
- The ‘special plate’: A great way to recognise when kids have got something to celebrate (the first goal at netball or soccer, a great report or even just tidying their room) is to have a ‘special plate’ which they use for the evening meal on these celebratory days. A simple coloured or patterned plate will soon become a unique part of your family meals.
Eating is about so much more than the food and nutrients we receive from it. It should be pleasurable, social and most important a time to relax and connect with the people we love the most. Use these tips to enjoy more quality time with your family and reap the rewards of delicious, nutritious meals.