The foundation to a healthy relationship with food is often formed in childhood, and can last a lifetime.
Sharing meal time together gives families a chance to connect, and can also improve nutrition and benefit mental health. It has been shown to reduce unhealthy eating behaviour, eating disorders, substance use and depression in children and youth.
The experience of eating as a family makes a lasting impression on children.
With busy schedules today, managing family mealtimes can be difficult. So, start with small steps. Schedule time to have one meal together, or even a snack, and then build up from there.
It doesn’t need to be the traditional dinner time, just find a time when everyone is home. If dinner doesn’t work, try for a bedtime snack.
Tips for making mealtime a positive experience
1. Avoid distractions
Make mealtime “family time” by reducing distractions. While it’s tempting to turn on the TV or use an ipad, or feed your child while they’re playing or studying, it’s better to avoid doing so. When everyone pays attention at meals, they are more mindful of their eating, and can listen to hunger and fullness cues. Take this time, while everyone is in the same space, to enjoy conversations and check-in with each other!
2. Try to sit together in one place
Make it a habit to have everyone eat at the family dinner table. Skip serving them in bedrooms, or separate spaces. Sure, it can be a difficult adjustment at first. But doing so helps children learn the positives of mealtimes and build healthy habits.
3. Keep mealtimes short
Many children find sitting still for long periods difficult. This can be more difficult for some children, such as those living with ADHD. Start with what your child is able to do and slowly lengthen from there. Aim for 30 minutes for mealtime.
4. Make it fun and involve your child
Family meals can be something your child looks forward to. Here are some great resources to help make mealtime more fun.