One of the biggest questions I get as a dietitian is if you could only do ONE thing to make your diet better, what would it be? My answer sometimes comes as a surprise. Embracing home cooked meals and family meal time makes the most impact in how we eat. It forces us to slow down, bond, and most importantly, it teaches our children life-long healthy eating habits they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. With back-to-school craziness approaching, now is a fantastic time to get your kids involved. Here are some quick tips on how to get your kids excited about cooking and dinner time!
1) Start with weekly dinner meal planning. Take a few minutes before the start of the week and ask each family member to pick a favorite meal. Everyone has a say, everyone is involved, and it exposes them to trying other family member’s favorite dishes
2) When you haul the kids to the grocery store, make them a part. Have them pick a favorite fruit or vegetable for the week, and teach them how to pick out good produce. For example, looking for apples without bruises, the right firmness of an avocado, etc.
3) Kids love to be helpers! When preparing a meal, find age-appropriate tasks to help you. While I can relate that sometimes it is easier to just get it done yourself, the more you can allow your little ones to do a simple task, they more enthusiastic and excited they will be about dinner time because they were a part of it. Younger kids can help with stirring, sprinkling spices, kneading dough, setting the table, and washing produce, where older kids may be able to be taught how to cut vegetables, use a mixer, or how to preheat the oven with the right temperature. Once they get going, it can be a huge help to you!
4) Try to keep kids from grazing right before a meal. Have set meal times and snacks so they are hungry when dinner rolls around.
5) Avoid the meal time battle. Let your kids decide how much to eat. While it is a struggle sometimes to get our kids to eat what we want them to, allowing them to listen to their internal hunger cues is important when they are growing. Parents should provide the meal, children will decide how much they will eat.
6) Try not to become the “short-order cook.” One family, one meal. Children need regular exposure to new foods to increase acceptance over time. Providing constant alternatives can sometimes prevent that from happening.
7) Turn off distractions. Avoid TV to encourage family conversation. Have everyone take turns telling each other about their day. Light music is OK too!
8) Get everyone involved in clean-up, even if it is just a tiny task. Kids can help bring dishes to the kitchen, or put them in the dishwasher. This teaches responsibility, allows for more bonding time before everyone heads up for homework or bedtime, and is also a great help to you!
About our expert mom:
Elissa Lueckemeyer is the proud Mama of Matthew age 4 and Emily age 1, a messy cook, and a registered dietitian. She is the owner of Food 4 Success, LLC and provides nutritional counseling and education in New Braunfels. She is passionate about spreading credible nutrition knowledge, sharing healthy recipes, and eating delicious food.
If you would like more information please contact Elissa at:
Elissa Lueckemeyer RDN, LD
Food 4 Success, LLC
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