Many families find it hard to schedule mealtimes when family members eat together. It may seem that getting everyone to choose and eat healthful food is enough. Lessons children learn by eating with family members are important too.
“Eat Together PA” is a campaign of The Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network (PA NEN). The nearly 1500 member organization receives USDA funds through the PA Department of Human Services. PA NEN offers nutrition resources, fact sheets, budgeting information, recipes, cooking tips and more. PA NEN members include dietitians, public health professionals, educators, chefs, food service directors, child care providers, WIC counselors, and many others.
The PA NEN website includes information about why eating together matters. Look there for practical tips about how to start having better family breakfasts and dinners together. The PA NEN website offers these tips:
Children learn from watching you: Smile when you eat your fruits and vegetables. You may not know it, but your child is looking at the foods you eat and how much you like to eat them. Choose healthy, and they will eat like you!
Make time to talk: Dinner is time for every-one to talk—a chance to chat positively, yet honestly—even if you don’t have all the answers!
Have technology-free time: Silence all the cell phones. Turn off the computer, tab-lets and TV. Many people spend a big part of their day watching screen devices. Schedule some of this time to share a meal and a pleasant conversation.
Make mealtime a family experience: Cook family favorites, share a meal, shop with a family member for food, and share the work of cleaning up after a meal. Everyone can help!
Give children a chance to choose: Let them decide which vegetable to include with some meals. They will want to eat the foods they picked.
Make the healthy choice, the easy choice: Have fruits and vegetables washed, cut and handy for snacks.
Enjoy each other while enjoying meals: Eating meals together helps to strength-en relationships with one another.
How to Start
Ease into it: Try setting a goal of eating to-gether once or twice a week.
Start simple: You can always prepare an easy breakfast recipe like oatmeal. Even pre-pare the meal ahead of time. Just store it in the refigerator until it’s time to reheat and eat it.
Create calm: Phones, TV, computer, video games and even the radio can interrupt your meal. Turn all or them off to help everyone relax.
Get everyone involved: Make a list of tasks and let family members choose which they will do. Ideas include: shopping, choosing a healthful food for breakfast or dinner, setting or clearing the table and/or making the meal.
Relax and connect: Agree to talk about problems at a time other than mealtime.
Adapted from www.EatTogetherPA.org website, part of USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Published 10/5/15 at www.ecels-healthychildcarepa.org.