3 ways to make the most of family meals

Families sitting down and eating meals together is one of the most important steps you can take when nurturing the relationship you and your family have with their food. Nothing is quite as satisfying and fulfilling as preparing a nutritious meal for yourself and your loved ones and sitting around the table together to enjoy it as a family unit.

It makes no difference whether it is fruit and yogurt for breakfast or a store bought roast chicken for dinner, as long as you make an effort to sit down and eat as many meals as you can together. This is the perfect way for everyone to connect with one another, create and build on relationships and bonds, catch up on your day and provide a feeling of comfort and security for your children.

When I was growing up, eating at the table was not optional. My mother planned the meals, the children (all 4 of us) would help her prepare dinner and then we would sit down together and eat. I believe that our close relationships now are partly because she made family dinner time a priority in our lives. We all knew we could talk about what was going on in our lives anytime, but dinner was just the natural time to connect. Those are some of my fondest childhood memories and I would not trade those minutes together for anything.

You may be wondering how you get everyone around the table together if this has not been a big deal in your household before.

1.    Your house, your rules

You are the boss, so make the rule, lay down the law. No meals in front of the TV and no smart phones or other electronic devices at the table. Period.

2.    Involve everyone

Giving everyone mealtime chores will not only help you out, it will make your children feel more involved in the process, making it more likely that they want to sit down and eat with you. Start at the grocery store by letting the kids decide which vegetables to buy. Explain the difference between organic  (and non-GMO) foods and conventionally grown foods. Really begin to educate your kids about where their food comes from. At home, depending on the ages of your children, you can have them do all kinds of tasks from washing and/or peeling vegetables to stirring sauces and setting the table. In my experience, they will probably be much more anxious to help with the preparation than they will be with the cleaning up making it a better place to start.

3.    Make it fun

It will be easier to get the entire family to the table with you if you serve food they like. That is probably a no-brainer. When planning for the week, give everyone a few options for dinner and hold a family vote on what will be served - majority rules! If it’s pizza night, get everyone involved with their own individual pizza or customizing their own toppings from a few they help you prepare. For fajita night place all the toppings on the table and let everyone choose their own here too. When roast meat/chicken and vegetables are on the menu, serve them family style by bringing everything to the table and allowing them serve themselves. This may sound a touch crazy but kids are more likely to eat food they put on their plates themselves.

With a few simple steps and a little determination, creating your own dinner tradition will become your family routine sooner and with greater ease than you may think.

If you're struggling with a picky eater (even if that person is you) read this post.  

Great tips for introducing new foods to children can be found in this post.

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