I have one kid who loves to eat meat. I have one daughter who loves vegetables. And I have a third daughter who grazes but eats a variety of foods. I’m not a strict mom when it comes to food choices, but I do prioritize sitting down to dinner together. Of course, those dinner meals aren’t always smooth, people often have complaints about food, and I have to remind at least one kid to sit down.
In addition to prioritizing family dinners, I also want to champion healthy eating at our home. Here are some ways we can do that:
Make cooking a family activity
Most of us take more interest in meals we have made ourselves, and we’re more inclined to give new dishes a go if we’ve played a part in their creation. There will be times parents (me definitely included!) want a quick, easy dish for the family with minimal hassle, but it’s a great idea to let your children help out if you have time. Make cooking a family-friendly activity, let your children help out in the kitchen, and encourage them to share ideas for dishes they’d like to try to cook with you. When I need meal ideas, I often find inspiration in my kids’ suggestions. They know how to add foods to our grocery list, thanks to Alexa. Of course, sometimes I Google quick, simple ideas like a garlic aioli recipe or other side dishes.
Talk to children about nutrition
When promoting healthy eating, nutrition not dieting should be the focus. Each body is reliant on the nutrients it needs to function properly. Talk to your kids about why healthy eating is beneficial, highlight the benefits of eating different foods, and explain what different ingredients and products offer.
I try to include a fruit or vegetable with almost every meal we make at home, even if that’s sliced apples with the Red Baron pizza. I know my youngest two kids are less likely to eat sauteed vegetables with the rest of us, so I will often cut up a cucumber for them to share. Feeding your family doesn’t have to be complicated!
Of course, food fuels us physically, but I believe food can be the catalyst to deep, meaningful relationships too. I wrote a whole book about that.
Make mealtimes enjoyable
It’s important for children to have a positive relationship with food, but it’s not always easy to achieve this goal. If you’re eager to encourage your kids to embrace healthy eating, make mealtimes enjoyable. Sit down together as much as possible, chat about the day, catch up, and put phones and devices down. Take this time to engage with each other. This month we’ve started an “Attitude of Gratitude” activity during which each person names what they’re thankful for from that day. I record the gratitude gifts in a journal. (And, yes, I’ve referenced Ben Rector’s song “Thank You” as we do this.)
Most parents go through times when getting children to try new foods or eat healthily is a challenge. If you’re keen to encourage your kids to take an interest in healthy eating, cook together, try new recipes, talk to your children about the importance of nutrition, and make mealtimes a fun, regular part of the day.
Also, I need meal inspiration, if anyone has any easy, delicious recipes to send my way!