March is Nutrition Month in Canada and this year’s theme focuses on celebrating food by cooking and eating together as a family – an equally important message for us in Cayman.
With hectic schedules, meal time for many people often takes place from take-out or in the car, which usually means an unhealthy meal high in fat and calories.
Sitting together as a family at the dinner table, sharing a meal and enjoying each other’s company is for many children something seen in books and on TV, but rarely in their own homes.
It’s well documented in research that kids from families who eat together will eat better and healthier, not only during childhood but also as adults.
So take the time to eat as a family and get your children involved in meal time with these simple tips:
Take your child to the grocery store and have them select the vegetables for dinner.
Teens can help with all aspects of food preparation and younger children can shred lettuce, use a plastic knife to cut up fruits or spoon the rice onto dinner plates. Mashing potatoes is another fun activity for younger children.
Have each member of the family choose a theme for one night each month. It could be Mexican night with fajitas, Asian with stir fry or Italian with pasta.
Setting the dinner table is also a task in which children can be involved. On theme nights, have children come up with arts and crafts ideas to go along with the theme.
Trying new recipes is another way to get children involved. Ask them to use the Internet to find interesting and healthy recipes.
Not all meals need to be fancy and complicated. Soup and sandwiches with lots of veggies are perfectly fine for dinner. It’s eating together that’s important.
If dinner time is too hectic, focus on making breakfast the meal that the whole family enjoys together.
Make meals a time to talk to your children about things that interest them. Ask about school, their friends and hobbies or try some fun conversation starters, such as: “If you could be an animal, which one would it be and why?”
Remember to turn off the TV to avoid distractions so the focus can be on the good food and good company.
Celebrate food as a family and your kids will be happier and healthier because of it.
Brandi Propas is a registered dietician.