Does your family eat meals in front of the TV? Are you thinking about bringing mealtime back to the family table? If you are, then read on to learn how family meals with no TV can help your children’s health.
How do family meals impact children’s health?
Eating meals as a family is linked to better food choices and healthier weights in children. Children who regularly sit down to eat dinner with their family eat more vegetables and fruit and less fried foods, sweets, salty snacks and pop.
On the other hand, children who eat in front of the TV tend to eat fewer vegetables and fruit and more fatty foods and pop. Eating in front of the TV can also lead to overeating and a higher risk of being overweight.
Why eat together?
Tradition: Sharing meals with children helps pass along family and cultural traditions about food.
Comfort and security: Children who regularly eat meals with their family feel secure knowing when they will eat.
Learning: Sharing meals and helping with preparation helps children learn more about food. Parents are also important roles models who help children learn about how to make healthy food choices.
Communication: Sharing meals gives the family time to talk and share information about their day.
Tips on planning family meals
Make a plan. Meals should be quick and nutritious. Plan your busy weeknight meals ahead of time and buy the foods you need early in advance. Having a plan and the foods on hand when you need them can reduce mealtime stress and last minute trips to the store. Try these menu planning tools.
Be flexible with meal timing. When children are involved in sports or programs during mealtimes, plan to eat your meals when most of the family can be there. You can also take a breakfast, lunch or dinner as a “meal-to-go” and eat at the park, arena, pool or gym.
Involve kids in meal preparation.Kids who help make a meal are more likely to enjoy it and eat it too!
Be a good role model. Plan to serve healthy foods and have your kids see you eat them too. The more times your child sees you eating healthy foods, the more likely they will accept them.
Turn the TV off. Enjoy eating and talking with your family at mealtimes.
The bottom line
Families that eat together eat better! Eating meals together promotes healthier food choices and weights in children. Parents should provide a family meal environment that supports healthful eating. That means eating together and turning off the TV!
Have questions about healthy eating and your kids? Call an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.
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Last Update – October 9, 2016