The Benefits of Family Mealtimes Together
The benefits of family meal times together may get totally lost in our busy working schedules, but experts agree that a regular routine of family mealtimes provides powerful rewards. Here are four to consider…
1. Family Mealtimes Together Improve Children’s Eating Habits & Social Development
Did you know that the benefits of family meal times together include avoiding or overcoming fussy eating in toddlers? Making the effort to sit down together, even if it is just at the weekends, will be of huge benefit to your children’s eating habits and social development.
By turning off TVs, laptops, tablets, phones etc. and sitting down as a family, you have the perfect opportunity to interact and bond with each other. Research has shown that family mealtimes can also boost children’s vocabulary even more than reading stories to them. Children’s nutrition for performance is more likely to become a habit if the whole family has the habit of eating well together.
2. Children Eat More Vegetables at Family Mealtimes
Research shows that children who experience the benefits of family meal times together will regularly consume more vegetables and fruits and fewer soft drinks. Studies also show that children are less likely to be overweight and obese in their teenage and adult years if they regularly sit down for family meals at the toddler stage.
Why? Because toddlers copy their parents and siblings when it comes to the foods they eat, so by sitting down as a family it will be easier to get them to eat the foods you want them to. Remember to lead by good example though!
3. Dealing with Fussy Eaters
- It is important that you just cook one meal for the whole family to help maximise the benefits of family meal times together.
- If there’s salt, sugar, stock, gravy, soy sauce or any other sugary/salty condiments in the meal just make sure to remove your toddler’s portion first before you add these.
- Try not to offer alternatives to your toddler if they don’t eat the meal you’ve prepared, as they will get into a habit of this and will never eat what you want them to. Even though it can be hard at first to not give them an alternative, fearing they will starve, don’t worry, they will not! And they will learn their lesson for the following day.
You may also notice that your toddler will take preference to using their hands to eat over using their cutlery, which is absolutely fine and natural. It will get messy, but this kind of messy is good! Allow your toddler to explore the feel of different foods with their hands. If your toddler is going through a fussy eating phase it can sometimes help to leave bowls of food in the centre of the table and allow them to pick what they want.
4. Mealtimes are Family Bonding Time
Keep the dinner table a happy, relaxed environment – which can be difficult if your toddler refuses to eat the lovely meal you’ve just prepared. Try not to make a fuss or a big deal if they don’t eat their meal and just quietly take the plate away after about 30 minutes. If your toddler sees you getting angry and shouting they might associate meal times with this less happy feeling and it may be even more difficult to get them to sit down and eat their meal in the following days.
Some toddlers may actually like this attention that they are getting for not eating their meal and they will therefore continue to refuse their meals in the future. One of the benefits of family meal times together is that younger children can see and imitate everyone’s behaviour of always remaining calm at the table. Keep the calm vibe consistent and always provide a wide variety of foods for them to try. They especially like bright colours, so make the most of coloured capsicum strips, carrot strips and fruits like strawberries.
Making the effort to create the above benefits of family meal times together not only provides short and long-term developmental benefits, but will also create great childhood and family memories.