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2012 Goal: Plan More Family Meals Icon: Print this recipePrint This

Family Meals

It’s never too late to make another resolution for 2012. One important goal that I strongly believe in is eating together as a family. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there are benefits to spending more time with your kiddies at the table.

The Benefits

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of regular family meals. A 2007 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formally the Journal of the American Dietetic Association) found that teens who ate more family meals consumed more fruit and veggies and drank less soft drinks. These teens were also more likely to take in important nutrients like calcium, fiber, potassium, and magnesium.

A 2006 study published in the same journal found that family meals were perceived positively by both parents and kids. Mealtime is a way to bond with your family and model healthy eating behaviors to children.

A 2004 study published in The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine concluded that the more a family ate together, the less likely their kids used tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Furthermore, kids who didn’t eat as frequently with their families had lower grade point averages and higher chance of showing symptoms of depression.

Oh, My Picky Eater!

Do you find yourself becoming a personal chef for your picky eater? Mealtime shouldn’t be about fighting with your child or catering to them, but rather a time to relax, bond, and enjoy food. If your kid’s a fussy eater, here are some tactics to help make mealtime an enjoyable experience:

  • Let the child help plan the menu and participate in the cooking process.

  • Try to avoid unusual dishes with strong flavors that you know your child will dislike. Younger kids have sensitive taste buds, so they’re more likely to dislike spicy or very salty foods.

  • Choose one dish to prepare that you know your child likes.

  • Encourage a child to try food but don’t force them. It takes them time to “get used” to the food. According to studies, a child needs to be exposed to the food at least 15-20 times in order to accept it. Encourage touching, smelling, or even licking the food. This is all part of the acceptance process. Don’t worry if they decide against tasting it.

  • Remember to cut food up for toddlers into bite-size pieces (my daughter refused to eat her food until I did so). Don’t reward or bribe your child with dessert and don’t punish them if they don’t eat their dinner.Turn off outside distractions like the TV, cell phones, ipads, and other electronic devices.

Family-Friendly Meal Ideas

Here are family-friendly dishes to try:

  • Fruit smoothies.

  • For breakfast, frozen bananas dipped in yogurt and rolled in crushed cereal like corn flakes.

  • Make your own pizza with whole wheat crust, part-skim mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and family favorite veggies. Allow each family member to make their own mini pie.

  • Add eye appeal to sandwiches by using cookie cutters to shape them.

  • Serve fruit or vegetable skewers with dipping sauce like yogurt, hummus, or ranch dressing.

  • Offer a taco bar so each family member can choose their own toppings.

TELL ME: What’s your family’s favorite meal?

Categories: Dietitian Advice

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