Family Meal Time: An Important Part Of Raising Healthy Kids

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Family Meal Time: An Important Part Of Raising Healthy Kids

These days, more and more of our children are spending hours a day engaged with screens and electronic devices rather than with their families. Not only that, more and more moms and dads in our communities are working full time, meaning that they’re often over-scheduled and over-stressed.

Lauren Adler, Westchester Health Pediatrics

Lauren Adler, MD

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we have found that a key way to address these issues is with family meal time. Fortunately, more and more families are also realizing the importance of eating together to support their children’s health and nutrition.

Eating together as a family launches a lifetime of healthy eating

In my family, we have always tried our best to sit down as a family for a healthy home-cooked meal most nights a week, and have found the benefits to be enormous.

First and foremost, we have the opportunity to model healthy eating habits to our children. Young children will often model behavior that they observe rather than what they are told to do. Want your kids to eat plenty of fruits and veggies? Eat them yourself and let your kids see you do it!

During meal time, turn off the phone, the TV and the iPad and tune in to each other.

Engage your children in simple conversation about their day. This is a great opportunity to get some insight into what your children are doing when they are not with you. What did they do in school? Who did they sit with at lunch? How did their math test go?

Also, I bet your kids would love to hear about your day, too. What did Mommy have for lunch? What did you do at work? What errands did you get done? One game we like to play is, “What was your favorite part of the day or weekend?” where everyone gets a turn to say what their favorite part was.

Start slow with one day a week; you’ll be amazed at the family interaction.

It may seem difficult at first to find the time to actually prepare a healthy meal and all sit down together to enjoy it. Helpful hint: Look up some quick and easy (and healthy) meals to prepare, even ahead of time. Everyone in the family will see the benefit of family meal time and soon will be asking to do it more often.

So why not start this week? Pick a night and mark it on the calendar. You can even print out a menu for fun! Involve the kids in the preparation: they can help set the table, older kids can cut up vegetables for a salad, and they can all help clear the table and wash up.

Before you know it, you’ve started a family tradition.

In no time, your family is talking together more, enjoying each other’s company, and everyone’s partaking in healthy eating habits. Great job!

By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

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About the Author: ML Ball