Should you eat dinner with your kids?

By Justine Simard Lebrun |

I Quit Sugar - Should you eat dinner with your kids?

Between homework, baths, laundry and actually getting something cooked, carving out time to eat as a family at night can be downright impossible.

But it’s so worth the time-carving. Eating as a family in a positive and engaging environment is great for your little ones! And it goes so much further than establishing healthy habits around food.

Research suggests children who eat meals with their family are more emotionally balanced, more likely perform better at school, less likely to be overweight and less likely to form other unhealthy habits like smoking. Wow!

So, how do you do it?

Don’t try and be perfect.

A happy, healthy mealtime doesn’t have to be complicated or lengthy. You need to create a positive environment that works for your family lifestyle.

This probably doesn’t mean sitting down for a roast at 6pm with the whole mob every night (complete with perfect hair and a frilly apron).

For most families, work and other activities dictate the schedule, so find your free nights and mark them down for dinner. Do it as often as you can, and consider eating a little earlier or later if it can accommodate everyone.

Sit down with your child.

Maybe you’d rather have a grown-up dinner and conversation with your partner instead of a messy and noisy family meal… and that’s okay – you can have both! The most important thing is to sit down with your child while they eat.

Resist the temptation to empty the dishwasher or fold a basket of clothes. And limit distractions – yes, turn off the TV!

When your child is eating (whether or not you are eating too), be there. Be present. Your child will love spending this time with you.

Model behaviour.

Eating with your kids gives you the opportunity to model the positive eating behaviours you’d like to see in your child.

Encourage them to talk about the food their eating. Describe the textures or flavours, talk about where the food comes from or explore recipe ideas.

Talking about food helps kids feel more familiar with a wider range of foods, and will encourage them to try new things.

It’s also a great opportunity to connect as a family, share stories and have a laugh!

Keep it fresh!

Take a few minutes to set the table and plate up nicely (the kids can help too!). Dim the lights and add soft music every now and then.

Or break the routine all together! Have a picnic in the lounge room, light some candles or eat in your pyjamas!

The more the little ones enjoy mealtime, the less likely they are to complain, refuse to eat or throw a tantrum.

Looking for more ways to create positive mealtimes and deal with fussy eating? Check out Justine’s book Try It You’ll Like It: A parent’s guide to raising healthy, adventurous eaters.

Justine Simard Lebrun
Justine Simard-Lebrun is the founder of Kids Love Good Food and the author of the book Try It You’ll Like It – A parent’s guide to raising healthy, adventurous eaters. As a mother of two and parenting educator with a background in behavioural and nutrition psychology, Justine provides simple, down-to-earth strategies that help parents beat fussy eating and raise children who love good food.

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