Family meals are the perfect place for children to learn about healthy eating. Parents should model healthy eating habits and encourage kids to try new foods. Eating meals together promotes healthier eating and give families time to talk, listen, and build relationships. It also teaches everyone to choose and prepare better foods during family meals and beyond. Children who eat with their families are better nourished, maintain a healthier weight, have better grades, and are less likely to smoke, drink, or use marijuana. Eating together helps improve connections to one another.
How to get started:
Ease into it. Set a goal of eating together twice a week and build from there.
Keep it simple. Focus on family favorites and enhance with salads and vegetables. Cook when you have more time - maybe on weekends. Make soups, stews, or casseroles to freeze for the next week.
Do some tasks ahead: wash and trim vegetables, or make fruit salad. Cook whole-grain noodles for pasta salad. Cook lean ground meat for tacos.
Buy partly prepared foods. Try grated cheese, cut-up chicken, or mixed salad greens to save time.
Avoid portion distortion. Keep serving sizes under control, whether you are at home or eating out.
Get the family involved. Let your family help plan the menu, choose their favorite dinner, set the table, and make the meal.
Make it enjoyable. Leave serious discussions for another time.
Remove distractions. No TV or phones! Use this time for listening, sharing, and nurturing.
Grow a family garden and include the fresh fruits and vegetables as part of your meals.
Hydrate right. There are benefits to increasing your daily water intake including:
- Maintaining normal bowel function, managing weight by reducing calories, and saving money when you go out to eat.
- Choosing water over sugary beverages, which fill you up and displace nutrient-dense food.
- Increase your water intake:
- Have water with every meal and snack.
- Add a wedge of lemon or lime to give your water some pizazz.
- Carry a bottle of water with you while you are at work, running errands, or in your car.
Snack smart. The majority of healthy diets allow for 1 or 2 small snacks a day. Instead of buying a snack from a vending machine at work or when running errands, choose to bring cut-up vegetables or fruit from home. You will save money AND calories!
Build a healthy plate with your child by:
- Eating whole grains (such as 100% whole-wheat pasta or bread, brown rice, and whole-grain cereals).
- Making half the plate fruits and vegetables.
MyPlate to guide your food choices when shopping.
- Choosing fat-free or reduced-fat dairy products (such as 1% milk, yogurt, and cheese).
- Eating a variety of protein foods (such as lean meats, seafood, nuts, eggs, beans, and peas).
- Making water the first beverage choice; if drinking juice, be sure to choose 100% juice and limit to 4-6 oz portions.
- Using healthy fats such as olive oil or canola oil.
Resources for more information on nutrition