Eat Smart Idaho at University of Idaho Extension
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Hello Idaho,

Time to Eat Together.

Studies show that children who eat healthy meals with their families perform better in school, make healthier choices on their own and are less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety. Being together at meal time is a simple way to influence better health and develop a strong relationship with your kids. Here are some great tips for getting together at the table for dinner tonight.

Kids associate healthy food with good times with their parents.

Ideas to bring to the table: 

  1. Show by example. Eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains with meals or as snacks. Let your child see that you like to munch on raw vegetables. 
  2. Go food shopping together. Grocery shopping can teach your child about food and nutrition. Discuss where vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein foods come from. Let your children make healthy choices.
  3. Get creative in the kitchen. Cut food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters. Name a food your child helps make. Serve “Janie’s Salad” or “Jackie’s Sweet Potatoes” for dinner. Encourage your child to invent new snacks. Make your own trail mixes from dry whole-grain, low-sugar cereal and dried fruit. 
  4. Offer the same foods for everyone. Stop being a “short-order cook” by making different dishes to please children. It’s easier to plan family meals when everyone eats the same foods. 
  5. Reward with attention, not food. Show your love with hugs and kisses. Comfort with hugs and talks. Choose not to offer sweets as rewards. It lets your child think sweets or dessert foods are better than other foods. When meals are not eaten, kids do not need “extras” — such as candy or cookies — as replacement foods. 
  6. Focus on each other at the table. Talk about fun and happy things at mealtime. Turn off the television. Take phone calls later. Try to make eating meals a stress-free time. 
  7. Listen to your child. If your child says he or she is hungry, offer a small, healthy snack — even if it is not a scheduled time to eat. Offer choices. Ask “Which would you like for dinner: broccoli or cauliflower?” instead of “Do you want broccoli for dinner?”
  8. Be a good food role model. Try new foods yourself. Describe its taste, texture and smell. Offer one new food at a time. Serve something your child likes along with new food. Offer new foods at the beginning of a meal, when your child is hungry. Avoid lecturing or forcing your child to eat.

Until Next Week,

Eat Smart Idaho, University of Idaho Extension