5 Ways to Model Healthy Eating at Family Meals
5 Ways to Model Healthy Eating at Family Meals

5 Ways to Model Healthy Eating at Family Meals

5 Ways to Model Healthy Eating at Family Meals

Family mealtime is important for many reasons, not the least of which is because it gives you a chance to model healthy eating habits. Like it or not, and especially when your kids are young, you remain the strongest influence on their mealtime behaviors and their relationship with food. So anything YOU do to modeling healthy eating is sure to have an impact on them too.  

But being a good role model does not mean being a perfect role model. Showing your kids that you are also still learning to taste and like new foods, that you are willing to share in their experience (by talking about it, learning about it, and sharing their favorites), and that you value their opinion you are modeling growth and learning, which is really the goal.

So, here are 5 concrete actions you can take to help be a good (not perfect) role model for healthy family mealtimes.

1. Serve foods you don't like. Then be brave enough to taste them. Ok. You might not like this one, but hear me out. If your kids see YOU trying foods that you don't like, they will be more likely to try this themselves (although, maybe not at first). Watching you DO the same thing you're asking of them will ultimately give them confidence in their ability. As you taste these foods, be sure to talk about them. Describe the texture and flavor and talk about them with your kids. (Here are some more great tips for being a more mindful eater). Think about how this time tasting is different than (or similar to) the last time you tried the food, or recount the very first time tasted it. These stories are equally powerful and will help your little ones process their own experience with foods they don't like (yet!).

2. Serve food at the dinner table {rather than pre-plating}. Bringing food to the table and allowing your family - including your kids - to serve themselves is a great opportunity for everyone to practice taking what they need to fill their bellies. Knowing what the right size is, of course, will take some practice and you may have to help your younger kiddos, but encouraging your little ones to practice serving themselves will give them more confidence. If you don't like having the food on the table, let your family serve themselves in the kitchen and bring their plates to the table.

3. Take reasonable portion sizes. Then have seconds. Related to #2, when YOU serve yourself show your kids what a reasonable starting portion is. Show your kids that they can take a little bit to start, and serve themselves seconds if they are still hungry. (For those of you who serve sweets with dinner this "you can always have seconds" doesn't have to apply to dessert!) By taking small amounts to begin, and allowing seconds, you kids will also have a chance to feel fullness before they take more. Hopefully food waste will go down too so it's win-win!

4. Make one meal. {But you can customize.}  This is a biggie. You are not a short-order cook, but when you create (entirely) separate meals for different family members you are showing your family that you are. And they will come to expect it! This does NOT mean that you can't make foods that your kids love, or adjust grown-up favorites to be more appealing to kids. Deconstructed salads - either greens or grain-based - curries, tacos, and stews (among so many others) is an easy way to make one meal work for multiple family members.     

5. Ask your kids for help and let them choose. Your kids have favorite foods, which is a great thing. Truly. (If even their favorites are bread, bread, spaghetti, and rolls. LOL. Having favorites means they have opinions, and you can use those favorites as a starting point for discussing other foods.) Embrace these favorites by making it a point to serve every family member's favorite meal at some point. Beyond serving their favorites, however, you can also involve your kids in meal planning and prep - either for their favorite foods or planning for and experimenting with new ones. Ask them for help grocery shopping or cleaning salad greens (have you ever let your kids loose on a salad spinner?) or actually preparing the meal. Kids who choose and cook foods are much more likely to consume them, so finding little ways to involve your kids with meal planning and prep can have hugely positive consequences on their eating habits.  

You've got this, mama! And we've got you!


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