Fitting in a meal can sometimes feel impossible, let alone eating together as a family. But according to registered dietitian Nishta Saxena, that is crucial to developing healthy eating habits.
See below for some of her healthy eating habits the whole family should follow.
This obviously may not always be possible due to work or timing, but the point is, whenever it is possible, have the whole family eat together as a unit. Studies have shown this is a very beneficial habit; children that came from homes where eating meals was a regular occurrence had much lower rates of depression, substance abuse and risky sexual behaviours compared to those that ate alone or with friends.
Even if only 50 per cent of your family is present, eat together.
Eat the same food as each other
It can be temptying to want to cater to everyone’s needs and wants at mealtimes; we as humans living together are influenced in many ways through our day about food. Aside from outright allergies, families should try to eat the same meals as much as possible. If children watch their parents eat foods that are healthy and nutritious, they will want to do the same thing to be strong and connected to the group.
It can feel helpful to define our family members by perceived likes and dislikes, but when it comes to food and eating you want to reduce or eliminate the use of labels. Calling a baby or child, or even an adult, “picky” or “fussy” reinforces those ideas. It isn’t helpful and it can promote or worsen those behaviours.
Some studies have shown that a negative focus and labeling in childhood can increase the risk of disordered eating behaviours and patterns in adolescent and adulthood. Instead of labeling, focus on providing a role model for the behaviours you want to see less off. If your child is less inclines to enjoy vegetables, serve them anyways, even if in very small quantities. If someone doesn’t eat theirs, don’t comment on it. You want as much positive reinforcement as possible when it comes to healthy eating patterns.
Make food together
Though homemade foods are a 2017 hot trend in the food world, making food together seems to be a lost art. Shopping for and making food together as a family is a great opportunity to learn about each other, learn how to prepare and cook food, and it’s a form of valuable quality time.
Serve small to large
Many children (and parents) are super hungry by the time dinner is on the table, which can mean our eyes may think we need a huge portion of food—larger than what we need. It’s a huge mistake to over-serve on the plate because we’re hungry. Huge portions of food can overwhelm babies and children, and this can discourage trying new foods or eating at all. The unspoken rule of “you must clean your plate” doesn’t help the overeating issue.
Serve small portions of all foods in equal proportion. Let your family know they can have more if their body tells them they need it. Keep meals to around 20 to 30 minutes, which is enough time for our brain to tell us we’re full.