Take a New Look at Family Mealtime

Take a New Look at Family Mealtime

Are you finding mealtimes a struggle? Do you spend more time worrying about what the kids eat than eating your own meal? Here are some tips to reduce the mealtime battle and put a bit of joy back into family meal times. If you don’t have family meals maybe these tips will help get you started.

It’s never too late to start

Studies show that families who share meals together eat meals that are more nutritious and have better health and well being. Despite the effort required it is a lot easier to start a family mealtime habit when children are young, but it’s never too late to start. Remember, not all family meals are perfect. It doesn’t matter if it’s not every meal or even every day, or if not all the family members are there. You don’t even need a table. A family meal can be anywhere where you’re sitting and eating. If it suits your family routine to make breakfast your family mealtime do that.

Quit worrying

Do you worry about what or how much your child is eating? Ask yourself. Are they content and healthy? If yes then you are doing ok. It is good to think about what and how much they eat over a week rather than a day. Eating behaviour is linked to how active children are and their sleep routines. This changes as they grow, so expect their appetite to vary as well.

If your child seems choosy about what they eat, getting frustrated or worrying about it won’t change it. Give yourself permission not to worry about what they eat. Put out the food you want your family to choose from and let them do just that. Remember it takes time, patience and guidance for a child to learn how and what to eat. It is your role to provide this. Read more about how to feed children

Make meal times comfortable for you and your child

Make sure they can sit comfortably at the table. A young child will not be able to concentrate on the task of eating if they are not seated comfortably. Some wriggling is to be expected. Once a child has sat to eat enough so that they feel full, allow them to leave and play quietly. This allows you time to finish your meal.

Be OK with mess

Young children are not neat eaters. They are still learning how to eat and this takes time. You can put a mat under their chair to collect spills. Wait to the end of their meal to wipe the child down. Try not to fuss if your child is making a bit of a mess. Messy food can make eating fun for your child.

Have regular meal times

Put a stop to your child grazing or constantly snacking over the day. Serve meals and snacks regularly over the day when possible and try to serve food at a table if possible. This helps a child come to the meal hungry and more likely to eat. A good rule of thumb is space meals and snack times out every 2 to 3 hours. Make mealtimes early enough so that they are not too tired to eat.

Get them involved

Give your child a task. Make it play activity like set the table or wash vegetables. On days when you have extra time (and patience!), ask your child to help prepare some or all of the meal with you. Read more about involving kids

Go screen free

Screens can get in the way of the family connecting through conversation over mealtime. They can also distract you from listening to your appetite signals. Put them away well before meal times.

If you are worried about how your child is growing or eating, talk to your child health nurse or GP and seek some help.