I recently read something about how to measure success at family meals and it really stuck with me. Success should not be defined by how much your child ate but instead by whether you and your child enjoyed your meal together! I repeat, it is not about HOW MUCH your child ate but rather about making sure the meal was ENJOYABLE. We often get so hung up on the number of bites our child takes that it steals all the joy of mealtimes. Your goal as a parent is to offer your child balanced meals and snacks. The goal of your child is to choose whether he/she will eat the meals and snacks you offer. My goal as a pediatric dietitian is to make sure your child is growing and meeting his/her nutrition needs. If we all do our individual jobs we will have thriving children!
In your effort to make family meals even more enjoyable, consider these fun ideas:
- Have your child help prepare some conversation topics in advance to discuss at the table!
What is your favorite holiday?
If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?
Where is your favorite place in the world?
- Switch things up!
Try eating outside on the patio or having a picnic at the park. Pull out some toothpicks or mini tongs for some interesting utensils. Try out a muffin tin snack tray. The options are endless and your child will love the novelty!
- Serve the meal family style!
The more involvement your child has in the meal the better. Try serving platters of food that are passed around the table and let your child serve himself. This can start from a very young age by letting her serve herself hand-over-hand for extra assistance. Don’t forget to pull out some yummy dips to make it even more fun!