Keeping Family Mealtimes
Children learn most of their eating habits from their
families in the first five years of life. What they learn at home will
establish their patterns at school and later in life. Family mealtimes also
provide opportunities for:
- Nutrition - Families who eat together eat more
balanced meals and a variety of foods
- Communication - Children who often hear adult
conversation improve vocabulary, reading test scores and speaking skills.
- Family traditions - Many family memories are
associated with foods. Family heritage can be presented through recipes
passed down through generations.
- Family bonds - Mealtime is a great opportunity for
parents and kids to be together. Adults are important role models for kids
and can influence foods they taste and learn to eat.
- Life skills - Children learn sharing, taking turns,
making healthy food choices and responsibility in setting the table,
preparing food and cleaning up.
Time is typically the number one reason why families state
they don't prepare and sit down for meals. Try these tips for making preparing
and serving healthy meals easier:
- Stock your pantry with frequently used foods. Keep a
piece of paper on the refrigerator and when you notice you're running out of
a food write it on the grocery list. Use the
Fit City Challenge Grocery List for help.
- Plan and shop for other foods for meals and snack
regularly. �Regularly� means what works for you- every other day, once a
week, twice a month, you decide. Sometimes it's easier to plan just 2 days
at a time than it is to decide on a week!
- Plan meals using your family's favorites, the Fit City
for Fit Families menus, cookbooks or searching the internet. Use the
Fit City Challenge Menu Helper to record plans.
- Don't stress about whether foods complement each
other, just balance the meal with foods from at least 3 different food
groups. Don't worry about making it elaborate. One mother once said, �cold
cereal with a banana can be a dinner.�
- Keep �emergency� dinner foods available for those days
when you don't feel like making what you thought you were going to make or
you don't have as much time as you thought.
- If time in the evening is too hectic to prepare and
cook meals find a solution that works best for you. Select one day of the
week (or the night before) where all ingredients are washed and prepped so
that the meal just has to be put together and cooked. Have time in the
morning? Cook dinner then and reheat in the evening. Want a hearty soup or
stew? Try crock-pot recipes.
- Make food in large batches and eat leftovers or freeze
for later use.
- Get the whole family involved! Divide
responsibilities into prep cook, chef, waiter and clean-up crew. Rotate
responsibilities so everyone gets a turn.