Make Mealtimes Fun For the Whole Family

Eating together as a family is not only a great way to stay close but has been shown to help children maintain healthy habits later on in life. Here are some tips to help make your mealtimes healthy AND fun for the whole family!

Be a Role Model

  • Turn off the TV! Dinnertime is Family Time!
  • Even if your kids say they don't like "healthy foods," if YOU keep enjoying them, your child might try again. It might take months. It might take years. But keep trying!
  • Ask for a salad or a side of veggies instead of fries whenever you eat out.
  • Limit fast food to no more than once per week.

Set Famliy Goals and Keep Track of Your Progress

  • For example, one goal may be to eat five fruits and veggies a day, or to cook one new healthy dish each week!

Involve Your Child in Healthy Eating

  • Get your kids to help in planning meals. Make a weekly menu and shopping list together, and bring the kids with you to the store. Let them choose the fruits and veggies they would like to try!
  • Cooking is an art, and kids love art. There's room to be inventive, creative, and colorful. If your kids see you having fun cooking, they will want to be part of it!

Have Fun With Your Food

  • Have kids make menus for the table, take orders, and serve the food!
  • Cut foods into creative shapes. Try out the cookie cutters!
  • Try out new recipes. See the Food, Fun and Family Recipe Packet for ideas!

Tips for Parents of "Picky Eaters"

  • Be patient with kids who are shy about trying new foods. Children's tastes change as they grow, so don't be afraid to introduce new foods more than once or twice.
  • Most fussy eaters will eventually come out of this stage on their own, particularly if their closest role models (parents!) have healthy eating habits. Your child will look for your reaction to new and different foods. Show them that trying new things can be yummy and fun!
  • Encourage kids to try everything on their plate! Don't force your child to eat if he or she is not hungry, but also make sure to offer your kids the fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and water that they need!
  • Don't be a short-order cook. Make ONE family meal but be sure to include one or two options you know your child likes. Parents of picky eaters tend to offer their child new foods less often. However, many kids will need to be offered a new food at least 10 times before they are willing to try it!*
  • Don't give up!

NOTE: It's OK for kids to want the same thing over and over as long as their choice is a healthy addition to their day. A peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread is perfectly fine, especially if you add bananas, strawberries or 100% fruit spread.

*Source: Carruth et al., 2004.