One of the best habits families can establish and enjoy is eating meals together. Aside from promoting bonding and open discussion/interaction, family meals also have an impact on health. Studies have shown that families who eat together tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and less fat. There is also evidence suggesting that eating as a family may prevent obesity. In addition, children who eat with their family three times or more a week do better in school. Preparing meals together as a family is also a good idea.
I realize with today’s hustle and bustle of work, multiple jobs, school, daycare and extra-curricular activities, it may be hard to find the time. However, if you can, try to schedule a family meal together at least three times per week. In addition, as soon as new baby can sit in a high chair, have him or her at the table as well. Eating baby food or finger food with the family creates a life-long healthy habit of eating together. Here are some tips and facts adapted from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit on family meals:
- Keep a sense of humour and laugh a lot. Simple foods served with love and laughter will outshine gourmet food.
- Cook meals quickly but eat them slowly together. Though you may be in a hurry when preparing a meal, allow enough time to enjoy the meal and talk with each other.
- Work towards happy, positive and relaxing conversations at meals. Encourage everyone to talk – children as well as adults.
- If rushed, make quick and easy meals. Food does not have to be hot to be nourishing and healthy. For example, tuna sandwiches, a fruit, and a glass of milk are healthy choices.
- Shop for food and cook together. Grocery shopping and cooking together can be fun and promotes family togetherness.
- Take telephone calls later.
- Turn the TV and other distractions off.
- Do not allow smartphones or similar mobile devices at the table. This goes for the adults too!
Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.