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.
- Visit Better Together BC for inspiring ideas on eating together, family friendly recipes, and tips for getting children to help out in the kitchen.
- Get your child involved in the process from choosing the recipe to helping prepare the food, using the Chef Fromage Cookbook.
Better Together BC
A hands-on approach to family, food and fun! Check out recipes, videos, and blogs to experience the joys of eating together.
Chef Fromage Cookbook
The Chef Fromage Cookbook is an interactive healthy eating resource that includes lessons on food and safety skills, nutrition, and a variety of recipes and activities to facilitate for youth.
You can also view The Chef Fromage Facilitator’s Manual here which was developed to help care providers facilitate the healthy eating lessons and activities for youth found in the Chef Fromage Cookbook.
On UnlockFood.ca you’ll find information on nutrition, food and healthy eating as well as recipes, videos and interactive healthy eating tools. The content is written and reviewed by dietitians. There is also information about contacting a dietitian in BC.