We all grew up watching films and tv shows with the perfect family having a calm evening meal together. No one is throwing food, everyone is eating their vegetables and it is all smiles….the reality is very different when you become a parent yourself! Often your little one is ready for dinner by 5pm, it is 50/50 if the food will end up in their mouth or on the floor and it is far from calm…. it’s more likely somewhere between energetic and chaotic.
Despite the challenges we face,
there is so much value in family mealtimes.
Research has shown that eating a meal as a family, even just 3 times a week, can have a huge benefit to our kids. Eating as a family can:
- Promote a varied and healthy diet
- Increase connection
- Improve fruit and vegetable intake into adolescence
- Promote language development and academic performance
- Improve health and wellbeing
Family mealtimes can also help with fussy eating, a phase almost all kids will go through. Up to 50% of toddlers are considered to be fussy eaters (this is peak picky age) so know if your little one is suddenly refusing to eat anything green it is not your fault, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do to support them. We can help you navigate this with our one on one fussy eater consultations.
Eating together gives you an opportunity to role model eating behaviour and doing this from the get-go can reduce fussiness in the first place. It is important to take the pressure off during meals, as this can make fussy eating worse. Try to avoid using food rewards, forcing them to eat, bribery or even praise at the table. I know, it is almost instinct to say “yummy” when they finally take a bite but try describing the food or celebrate how well they are using their cutlery instead. Eating together in a pressure free environment is one of the best things you can do to reduce fussiness.
Now, you don’t need to feel pressure to do “dinner perfectly” every night or guilty over the leftovers you served for your 10-month-old at 5pm because tonight’s dinner wasn’t even close to being prepared. If trying to have dinner as a family is stressful and unrealistic for you then it isn’t going to have the benefits you’re aiming for. Instead, think about other meals you could do together, like breakfast on the weekends or a picnic lunch on the floor of the lounge room. It doesn’t need to be complicated.
Remember as little as 3 meals a week together (and this doesn’t mean everyone in the house it might just be you and one kid eating the same food together) can have a positive effect. If you are looking for quick and easy one pot meals for the whole family check out our recipe library for some inspiration.
(1)Hammons, A & Fiese, B 2011, ‘Is frequency of shared family meals related to the nutritional health of children and adolescents?’, Pediatrics, vol. 127(6), p. e1565.
(2)Videon TM, Manning CK. Influences on adolescent eating patterns: the importance of family meals. J Adolesc Health. 2003 May;32(5):365-73. doi: 10.1016/s1054-139x(02)00711-5. PMID: 12729986.
(3)Fiese, B & Schwartz, M 2008, ‘Reclaiming the family table: mealtimes and child health and wellbeing’, Society for Research in Child Development Social Policy Report, vol. 22(4), pp. 3–18.