With our increasingly busy lifestyles, mealtimes can almost turn into a dreaded chore, especially if you have children. It becomes the easy choice to resort to fast and effortless food options to cut down on time spent in the kitchen so that we can focus more energy on all of life’s demands.
But, as parents, we want to ensure that our children are equipped with the knowledge and skill necessary for healthy eating, yet it can be difficult to find an effective way of doing so that doesn’t involve being in the kitchen all day.
Well, despite the busyness of life, we want to be an advocate for bringing back family mealtime. It’s been shown in many studies just how powerful family mealtimes are in impacting kids’ behavior, self-esteem, and family connection. But did you know there is also research to show that family meals also impact nutrition?
The research suggests that family meals can positively influence the number of fruits and vegetables a person consumes. Even if you can only squeeze in 1-2 dinners together a week, they provide ample opportunity to improve your family’s nutrition and for teaching healthy food habits.
Getting Your Family Involved in Meal Planning
One of the most effective ways to teach your family about nutrition is by involving them in meal planning. Don’t worry, meal planning doesn’t have to be a daunting task. You can keep it simple, and make it a fun activity for the whole family. If you are just starting with meal planning, start by planning out just those 1-2 family meals for the next two weeks.
Sit down with your family and ask them what kind of food they like or don’t like. You can also find out if there is anything new they want to try. This will help you narrow down what kind of recipes you’ll look for when searching online or going through cookbooks.
Next, include your family in grocery shopping by allowing them to choose some of the ingredients for their favorite recipes, or if you are looking for some healthier substitutes, let them help you find them. This helps build their decision-making skills while teaching them how to make healthy choices when buying food. When children observe their parents shopping for wholesome foods, they are more likely to practice what they see and carry these dietary habits into adulthood.
Now that the recipes have been picked, and the grocery shopping is done, you can involved your family in cooking the meal. It’s a great opportunity for your children to learn the basics of cooking, such as reading and following recipes, measuring ingredients, and using kitchen tools.
Not only do your kids learn essential life skills that will stay with them for the rest of their lives, but the time spent cooking together opens up the opportunity to talk about nutrition. Try talking to them about the nutritional benefits of different foods and how they help keep our bodies healthy. These conversations can carry over into mealtime when everyone sits down to enjoy the meal that all of you helped create.
Good nutrition is a complete experience that includes choosing the food, prepping and cooking it, then sitting down and enjoying the meal together. Including your family in the process from start to finish will have the biggest, lasting impact on your kids’ nutrition habits.