happens when a family decides to eat meals together? A lot,
say nutrition experts. More and more research shows that kids
who eat a meal (any meal) at least three times a week with
their families do better in school, are more likely to resist
unhealthy peer pressure and are less likely to be overweight
or have eating disorders.
prepared meals also help us stretch hard-earned dollars and
are usually more nutritious, say researchers. Not surprising,
when we eat out, our tendency is to eat more fat, sodium and
calories than when we eat at home.
my definition of a family meal: Household members sit down
together in the same spot — television and phones turned off
— to share the same food at the same time. Talking, as in
having pleasant conversation, is encouraged. No screaming or
harping about weight or other sensitive issues at the table,
important points: Children are expected to show up … and
maybe even help with prep and clean-up. Parents provide meals
that are healthfully balanced but not depriving.
that work? We don’t have to force or bribe our kids to eat
healthy foods, says registered dietitian nutritionist Claire
St. John. We can rely instead on the Division of
Responsibility, developed by internationally recognized child
nutrition expert Ellyn Satter. Parents decide which foods are
placed on the table and children get to choose what and how
much they will eat. (I saw this in action when my two-year old
grandson was not impressed with the meal his mommie made one
evening. She calmly made it clear, "This is what we are
having for dinner." He took one bite, drank his milk and
shows this feeding strategy results in children
being more likely to branch out and expand their food
choices," says St. John, "even if they do it slowly.
Forcing kids to eat certain foods makes it less likely that
they’ll choose those foods as adults. And overly restricting
foods (like sweets) in childhood will make those foods seem
does a healthy plate for a child look like? Harvard University
TH Chan School of Public Health developed the "Kids
Healthy Eating Plate" that can be downloaded at
And check out Choose My Plate for Kids at
www.choosemyplate.gov/kids, compliments of your tax
good site for meal ideas is ww.healthyeating.org sponsored by
the Dairy Council of California. In their "Healthy Eating
Made Easier" section, you can plug in what you’re
looking for to find healthful recipes for any criteria. For
example, I selected "Protein" "Vegetable"
"Dinner Entree" "Kids Love It" and
"Quick to Prepare" and up popped 8 recipes!
try it? Set a family goal to eat at least 3 meals together
this week and put it on your calendars. Or make it even one
meal. It’s that important.