Every family meal is a special occasion, an opportunity to gather the family around one table, share quality time, and, of course, enjoy delicious food.
Mealtimes are also a wonderful opportunity to introduce the whole family to healthy eating and set a great example for kids, but as any family meal-maker, like myself who has cooked for four children will tell you, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do. I often hear fellow parents say the same thing: “Dinnertime at ours is awful. I dread it every day. I put so much effort into preparing healthy food, then there is always one that makes a fuss and a battle begins!”
However, difficult as it may be, it’s our job as parents to guide, support, and advise our children as they learn to navigate the world — and nutritional requirements are a huge part of that.
4 Ways To Get Household Members On Board With Health & Wellness
So how do we go about convincing our family members to eat more healthily? Here are a few tried and true ideas to bring healthy practices into your family’s dietary routine:
Start With Drinks
One simple change you can make right away is switching to only drinking water as a family instead of sugary, high-calorie drinks. This is an easy change that makes a huge difference.
Sugary drinks can be incredibly unhealthy without us realizing it. In a study of over 200 fruit juices marketed to kids, researchers found that the sugar content was unacceptably high. Most single servings contained more sugar than the entire daily recommended serving for children.
Make sure kids are aware of what is in beverages like soda and juice, and why water is always an easy, accessible, and healthier choice.
It’s important to make healthy eating feel as natural and normal as breathing. Strengthen nutritional habits early on by always having healthy food in a variety of options on hand. Offer these foods as standard and conventional — not a “healthy option” but simply a normal option.
If possible, involving all the family in the growing and gathering of nutritional food has great benefits. In our case, we’ve always had a vegetable garden, and it became commonplace for the children to go down to the garden and pick their food for mealtimes.
This way, they developed a close relationship to the food and saw first-hand the time and energy that it takes to plant, grow, and harvest healthy food. Children love being part of this process and choosing food they have grown themselves is very rewarding for them.
For children where space is not available, there are windowsills where sprouts can be grown. It’s very quick, simple, and enriching along with being very nutritious,
Aim For Education
Nutritional education empowers children with the knowledge and skills necessary to make healthy choices, now and for the rest of their lives.
Nutrition is key to our wellbeing, so it deserves to be talked about with our children. It might seem silly to share what you’ve learned about the carrot on your plate, but kids need to know that it’s more than just an orange vegetable and has many incredible benefits.
When our children were still in school, they were unhappy that other kids had snacks in their lunchboxes that they didn’t. I took them to the snacks section of the supermarket, and we looked at the packaging together and talked about the hidden sugars in the products that were listed under multiple different names. Simply giving them this information helped them understand the why behind not eating these snacks and empowered them to make healthy choices on their own.
Encourage Everybody To Participate In The Family Meal
Eating healthy as a family has to be a team effort. Unless everyone is on board and plays an active role in the healthy cooking and eating process, it just won’t work.
As my children got older, they took on the cooking responsibilities for themselves. Our eldest would take over the kitchen and put “no entry” signs on the door. His pizzas were great, but even better was the confidence he developed and the appreciation he felt through our many compliments to the chef.
Start Setting A Healthy Example Today
Building healthy habits for the whole family may seem difficult, but it’s a goal worth pursuing. It also helps to remember the importance of balance and there are times when it’s appropriate to make different food choices for special occasions.
Kids are very keen observers; they learn and develop habits through modeling and by emulating the adults in their lives. We give our children a powerful foundation for later life when we instill the right attitudes and decision-making toward nutrition and diet from day one.
Begin with these small steps and you’ll create a healthier, happier environment during the family meal, enabling you to cherish these moments in time and to share stories and create lasting memories together.
Sheryl Steens is the co-founder, co-owner, and Managing Director along with husband Paul of Steens Honey, New Zealand’s leading producer of award-winning, authentic Manuka honey. With nearly 40 years of beekeeping experience, they are dedicated and passionate about creating raw and unpasteurized honey — just as nature intended. Paul and Sheryl were founding members of the Active Manuka Honey Association. When Sheryl isn’t making honey, she enjoys pottery and experimenting with new cooking recipes using organic ingredients from her homegrown garden that she shares with her family and friends.