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7 Tips for Family Mealtime Ver en Español

family at dinner table

Families who eat together regularly unlock a long list of potential benefits. These may include a lowered risk for obesity, improved school performance, and higher self-esteem in kids. Eating together also promotes better overall nutrition and a stronger family bond. Here's how to make it work for your family:

Sources:
"The Benefits & Tricks to Having a Family Dinner." HealthyChildren.org. December 30, 2015.
"Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Related to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents?" American Academy of Pediatrics. April 2011.
"Enrich your life by sharing meals with family, friends." Mayo Clinic. September 12, 2014.
"7 benefits of eating together as a family." Swedish Medical Center. October 13, 2014.

1. Set a Goal

There's no magic number of meals when all these benefits suddenly appear, but making a minimum of three weekly meals your goal is a good start. Family breakfasts and lunches count, too!

Sources:
"The Benefits & Tricks to Having a Family Dinner." HealthyChildren.org. December 30, 2015.
"Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Related to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents?" American Academy of Pediatrics. April 2011.
"The Medical Benefits of Family Dinner: Five ways eating together keeps kids healthy." ChildrensMD. September 28, 2015.

2. Mealtime Rules

Set some guidelines that promote a happy mood and connection. A few suggestions to start with: no hot-button topics, no interrupting, and no screens.

Sources:
"Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Related to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents?" American Academy of Pediatrics. April 2011.
"Eating and Mealtime Problems." Nemours Health and Prevention Services. 2009.
"Children's nutrition: 10 tips for picky eaters." Mayo Clinic. September 6, 2014.

3. Lighten the Load

Share meal-prep responsibility with every family member. Many hands make light work when planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. Even little kids can help set and clear the table.

Sources:
"FAQ." The Family Dinner Project. 2017.
"Children's nutrition: 10 tips for picky eaters." Mayo Clinic. September 6, 2014.

4. Train Tiny Taste Buds

Don't feel limited by your child's narrow list of favorite foods. Simply serve options the whole family can enjoy, and let children eat what they eat—no bribes, threats, or negotiations. Persistence pays. It's normal to have to offer a food many times over before a child even takes a bite.

Sources:
"FAQ." The Family Dinner Project. 2017.
"Toddlers at the Table: Avoiding Power Struggles." KidsHealth. November 2014.

5. Table Talk

Get conversation flowing with a game of I Spy, or open-ended questions everyone can take turns answering. For example, even toddlers can tell their favorite parts of the day, or what animals they would like to be and why. For more ideas, search "family conversation starters" online.

Sources:
"FAQ." The Family Dinner Project. 2017.
"34 Conversation Starters for Your Family." Playworks. December 23, 2012.

6. Manners Count

To avoid making meals feel like lessons, target one table manner at a time. Model and praise good manners such as speaking when it's your turn, using "please" and "thank you," and not saying bad things about the food served.

Sources:
"FAQ." The Family Dinner Project. 2017.
"Feeding & Nutrition Tips: 4-to 5-Year-Olds." HealthyChildren.org. September 26, 2016.
"Teach Your Children Good Table Manners." Novak Djokovic Foundation. January 21, 2015.

7. Practice Patience

Don't expect too much from toddlers; they may not be able to sit still for more than five or ten minutes at first. Just aim to make those five or ten minutes as pleasant as possible, and stay with it—their stamina will build. Better to have a short, happy meal than a long, difficult one.

Sources:
"FAQ." The Family Dinner Project. 2017.
"Getting Toddlers to Sit at the Table for Dinner." Aha! Parenting. 2017.


Have a picky eater on your hands? Try these kid-friendly dinner ideas.

This content is provided for general information purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or a guarantee of prevention, improvement, or treatment of specific conditions. Always consult with your healthcare provider about your specific medical questions or concerns.