The thought of trying to feed a family can be very stressful, especially in this day and age where food messages are found all over the place. Messages like: watch out for carbs, always pick organic, don’t have too much sugar, go for all natural, and no processed foods are just a few. For this month’s blog, we wanted to give some guidance to hopefully clear up some of this confusion.
First, make a commitment for family meals as often as possible. Research has shown that children who are involved in regular family meals tend to do better academically, have better self-esteem, have lower rates of obesity, and lower rates of eating disorders. Make mealtimes as stress free as possible, and enjoy time together as a family. If you are stressed, there is a good chance that your family will feel that and be stressed as well. Limit distractions at the dinner table. Take it as an opportunity to put TV and phones away and focus on each other’s company and the experience of the food in front of you.
In terms of what to feed at family meals, using the My Plate guidelines (pictured above), can be a great starting point. Incorporating all food groups through fun recipes that the family can take part in preparing together is a perfect way of making mealtime fun. See below for some sample cookbooks. Remember that the role of the parent is to provide the food and the role of the child is to eat the food to their own satiety. Trust the child to eat the right amount and try to limit controlling how much they are eating. Also remember that it can take 12-15 times for a child to try a new food before they accept it, so don’t give up on offering a certain food. To prevent food waste during the exposure phase to new foods, offer small portions, maybe a tablespoon at a time. These smaller portions can also be less overwhelming for kids. Colorful placemats, fun designs on napkins, divided plates, etc can make meal times more exciting and engaging for kids. Kids can also get involved in the cooking process. Whether its washing vegetables or stirring ingredients together, kids will get some exposure to new foods just by being around them in the kitchen.
We recommend the philosophy that “all foods fit” and that there are no “good” or “bad” foods because this helps with the ability to be intuitive eaters even into adulthood.
Ellyn Satter is a wonderful resource for this topic and she has written many books that can be helpful. This is the link for her website with some resources: