Is eating together at the dinner table as a family a thing of the past? Not if Eat Better, Eat Together Month (in October) has anything to do with it! Not only does eating as a group give you a chance to catch up with what’s happening with other family members, but it also encourages healthy eating choices.
Food is something to be celebrated and enjoyed, just like family. So instead of plopping yourself in front of the television with a microwave meal while junior eats pizza in another room while browsing his smartphone, take a look at these six tips to help your family nourish their bodies and souls…
Take Kids to the Source
Instead of ordering in and having a quick bite on the run, teach your kids to truly appreciate food by visiting a farmer’s market. While there, they can explore the different varieties of food they don’t always get to see at the grocery store, and even ask questions to the vendors.
Some markets are in busier urban areas, while others are more rural and become an excuse to go for a drive as a family. Buying from a farmer’s market ensures you have the freshest produce, while also helping to keep the local economy healthy.
Teach Mindful Eating
Everyone is on the go, and kids today seem to be staring continuously into their laps to respond to the latest online gossip. Instead of allowing texting and eating, why not encourage your kids to leave their phones in another room when they sit down—or insist on it.
There’s a lot to be said for slowing down during meals, free of distractions. “Get more enjoyment from each bite so you only have the number of bites you really need to be satisfied,” notes WebMD. The source notes that connecting with food in a healthy way can help lower the risk of obesity.
If you’re having trouble getting your kids to the table, perhaps they need more incentive. To give them a better sense of involvement, let them help you prepare the meal—this can give them needed cooking skills, as well as help choose (healthy) foods they enjoy the most.
When your children see the work that goes into preparing a meal, they may respect food a bit more—and feel more obliged to spend some time at the table. At the very least, you’ll have more time to chat with your family if they insist on leaving the table early to do “homework.”
Tend the Vegetable Garden Together
This suggestion comes from the American Heart Association, and it’s a good one. Building on the aforementioned visit to a farmer’s market, why not grow your own food right at home? Your kids are more likely to eat certain fruits and veggies when they’ve had some part of watching it grow from nothing, notes the source.
If you don’t have adequate space in your yard, you could always put some planters on the balcony (if there’s adequate sun) or use a plot at a community garden. Challenge your children to grow the biggest, best vegetables they can.
Stock Up on Healthy Foods
Let’s be honest, not every meal is going to be together (if it is, then good for you). That means sometimes your community meeting will take you away from the dinner table, and Sally’s dance class means she will have to eat a little earlier than everyone else.
That being said, make sure your fridge is full of nutritious (and delicious) foods that cover all the food groups. If you kids are looking to grab something on the run, have healthy options at the ready, even if you pre-cook meals for them. This may cut down on unhealthy food choices.
Ditch the Soda
An article from Parents.com explains the deep love Americans seem to have for soda and other sweetened drinks—it cites a study that estimates those aged as young as two (and older) consume 171 calories each day from sugar-sweetened beverages, including soda pop. That’s close to 10-percent of total calorie intake per day, in case you’re wondering.
If you’re eating at the table together as a family, you have more control over what your child drinks. Instead of letting them have their favorite cola, let them try some sparkling water, which has all the bubbles but much less of the troubles. Milk is another great alternative, especially for growing bones.