Nowadays, we eat more food away from home, compared to our grandparents’ generation, which is unfortunate because there are many benefits of home cooking and family meal time.
As new moms, we start off being very careful as to what we feed our babies, introducing one vegetable or fruit at a time. We enjoy the expressions on their little faces as their taste buds explode. We learn their likes and dislikes from early, allowing us to nurture them with home cooked meals as needed.
Then comes kindergarten, we send them off to school and try our best to pack their lunch kits with foods that are, whole and natural. And all of a sudden, you get this picky eater who no longer wants the greens and you begin to wonder what changed, what happened?
You realize your pantry is now full of packaged snacks and juices, but have no clue as to why you had started off so well at the beginning. Was it you that changed the rules? Or was it your little ones who decided that they were getting funner food from school, either by their friends or by the fun birthday parties, Halloween or Christmas events that took place over the last year?
We get busy and fall into a comfortable routine and convenience foods become part of the family meals. Why bother to cook a home cooked meal, to hear the kids protest of eating their greens and beans? When all you want at the end of the day is to feed your kids something they will eat and like, with no complaints, and get to bed.
Home Cooking and Family Meals have many benefits that become life skills that are passed on from generation to generation and nurture the child into a family oriented healthy adult.
Start Simple, when kids are young, you have the advantage because they eat at least half their meals at home. If you stock your cupboards and fridge with nutritious foods and toss out the junk, then the whole family will be eating the same healthy foods. Although adults usually decide what kids eat, we all know that kids eat what is available. Therefore, surrounding them with healthier options leaves them no choice but to eat healthier food.
Sitting down to regular meals as a family is a great way to connect with one another and offers the opportunity to instill proper eating habits in your children at an early age. Dinner times are the best occasions for kids to explore new foods.
Constant snacking throughout the day can set kids up for weight gain and leave them uninterested in eating when it’s time to sit down for lunch or dinner. And if they are less hungry, they’ll be less willing to try new foods – like vegetables. As a parent, it’s important to set snacking guidelines. Try to stick to a consistent meal and snack schedule, spacing snacks and meals at least two hours apart, allowing for more than two or three snacks a day.(You can find great snack recipes in this book)
Small changes can make huge differences and so I have 6 rules when it comes to eating healthier as a family:
1. Eat Fruits and Vegetables:
Kids should eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day
Serve fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
Provide fruit, carrot and cucumber as great snacks in school
Offer 100% juice, with no added sugar. Fresh squeezed juice, smoothies are the best choice.
Mix vegetables into dishes, like adding pureed broccoli in pasta, peas in rice or lettuce/cucumber in sandwiches.
2. Consume less sugar and fat
Choose lean cuts of meat like skinless chicken or ground turkey for hamburgers or pasta sauces.
Bake or grill instead of fry
Substitute coconut oil, olive oil and grass-fed unsalted butter for vegetable oil and margarine
Substitute water for milk, sodas or sweetened beverages
Consume natural sugars like honey, stevia, 100% maple syrup, xylitol or coconut sugar rather than refined white or brown sugar
3. Eat healthier snacks
Reduce the number of snacks served each day
Leave a bowl of fruit or veggie sticks on the kitchen table
Have kids drink water at snack times
Save “treats” for special occasions
4. Watch portion size
Kids are smaller than adults and should eat smaller portions
Use smaller plates for kids
Don’t force kids to clean their plates if they are full
Portions should be about the size of the back of a fist – a child’s fist for a child’s portion
Start with a small portion. Children can have seconds if they are still hungry
5. Drink lots of water
Make water the #1 beverage in the house and make it always available
Choose a day of the week that will be only water day – no other beverage is to be drunk other than water
Kids should drink half their body weight in ounces. If doing physical activity, kids should drink a little more than half their body weight in ounces.
Make water a fun drink and add slices of fresh or frozen fruit or a vegetable like cucumber.
6. Eat Together as a Family
Family meals focus on eating and enjoying food and each other
Eating together is a chance to model good behavior
Regularly scheduled meal and snack times help kids learn structure for eating