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Family Nutrition

Family Mealtime Tips

Our family life teaches us communication and relationship skills that serve us throughout our lives. Despite the daily lure of extracurricular activities like sports and music lessons, what sustains most of us is the enduring ties of family. That rooted feeling begins at the family dining table, day after day, when you set aside time for a family meal.

Tick through these tips and make these important family values last a lifetime.

Let the family know that this is an important commitment. If you can’t make it a 7-night activity, commit to dining together at least 2-3 nights each week.
   • Sharing conversation and food with those we love – and who love us – is one
     of life’s ongoing pleasures.
   • Set simple ground rules. For example, everyone stays at the table until the last
     person has finished.

Clear the table of all homework, bills, papers and distractions.
   • Set the table so everyone has a place.
   • Eat facing each other to encourage conversation and sharing.
   • Even if you’re eating take-out, set the table and eat together.

Do not force, bribe or coerce anyone to eat.
   • For the littlest ones, use cookie cutters to shape cucumber or stars
     and create geometric chicken breast chunks.
   • Employ sauces and dips, dunking foods they won’t try on their own.

Encourage picky eaters to try new things with one or more of these tactics:
   • Serve a “no thank you portion” that’s very small but must be tasted.
   • If they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it again for 3 months. Then they
     must try it again.
   • They must try one bite. Just one. Or one for every year of their age. 

Make mealtime pleasant.
   • Leave the TV and cell phones off to encourage real-time, real-life chats.
   • If the phone rings, don’t answer it. This is family time only.
   • Try to direct the conversation to positive topics, not touchy ones. Ask
     about favorite things that happened during the day and share your own
     positive experiences. Listen respectfully and give everyone a chance
     to talk without being pushy about it.

Encourage kids to help in meal planning, preparation, and cleanup. 
   • Take kids shopping and have them each pick out fruits, grains and veggies.
     If they select it, they must try it.
   • Ask your pickiest eater to help in the kitchen by stirring, mixing, adding spices
     and arranging food on platters.
   • Assign tasks like scraping plates, wiping the table and resetting it for the next
     family meal.

Know that food “binges” are phases that will eventually pass. 
   • If you’re concerned about nutrition, sneak it in by adding veggies
      to casseroles/sauces or by serving fruit for dessert.

Accept the fact that children are individuals who will dislike certain foods. 
   • Do your best to make every food you serve delicious and nutritious. Look
     for new ways of preparing foods they previously disliked. She didn’t like
     steamed zucchini? Try grilling it or sautéing it next time.
   • Serve several dishes, not just one, so everyone can find something they like.
   • Give every child, especially picky eaters, a multivitamin-mineral supplement.

Remember, you are responsible for deciding when and what to serve your family. But your child knows how much they want to eat.

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