Eating together as a family can help to promote a healthy diet to children and support a healthy weight, as well as give you a chance to catch up on the family news!
Children learn behaviours from adults, who act as role models. Family meals are an opportunity for parents and carers to set good examples of healthy choices for children to adopt. By eating well yourself you can encourage children and the whole family to eat well too.
Life is often busy, so taking time out for a family meal can give you a chance to pause and share the day’s events. It can open up conversations about the good things that are happening, but also worries that your child may have.
The Eatwell Guide shows how the whole family can eat well together and share the same meal. The guide displays a variety of foods we need to eat to be healthy, and trying these together can encourage children to taste lots of new foods. Eating together from an early age will help to teach babies and children good habits, but if children are older it isn’t too late to start.
Eating well is important for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Making healthier choices as a whole family will help children and adults to reduce their risk of being overweight and obese. Remember that children need ‘me sized meals’.
Younger children need smaller portions than older children, and older children need less than adults.
Here are just a few ideas to increase how often you share family meals:
- Plan ahead. Busy and often different schedules for everyone in the household can make it difficult to find time to eat together. Plan which meal times you will share e.g. breakfast, lunch or dinner and on which days during the week and at weekends. You might also plan what you will eat, try to involve children in choosing meals too.
- Cook together. As well as eating as a family, think about cooking together too. Involving children in preparing meals can help to get them interested in healthy eating. Children could weigh ingredients, peel, grate or chop to help out for example.
- Find somewhere to sit down together, such as a kitchen or dining room table. Think about turning the television off and putting your mobiles or tablets away while you eat. This will reduce distractions and provide a better opportunity to talk and catch up as a family.
- If you have young children, or children that don’t like to sit still for long, then try getting creative by playing a game at the dinner table to make it a bit more fun! A game of ‘guess who’ or ‘10 things I love about…’ a chosen topic such as the summer for example.