Submitted by Danielle Labonte, MAN, RD, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
Family Meals for Children and Youth
Related: Eating and Cooking Together Part I
Family meals provide an important opportunity to include children and youth. Children of all ages can help with grocery shopping, meal planning, preparation and clean up. A tip for a successful family meal is to get everyone involved; when children help plan, prepare and cook meals at home, they are more likely to build healthy eating habits and eat the foods they helped prepare. Help younger children learn about food safety by teaching the importance of hand washing, keeping workspaces clean, and washing fruit and vegetables before eating them. Teach children about food science by talking about the changes that happen to food when it is heated or cooled. Having children pick a vegetable for a meal while at the grocery store is another way to include them in the meal planning.
For youth, ask them to plan a meal one or two nights a week. Encourage them to include a variety of foods from all food categories: protein foods, whole grains, and fruit and vegetables. Youth can also help with grocery shopping.
Family meals provide an opportunity for adults and caregivers to role model healthy choices, table manners, social skills and positive body image. Adults can role modelling politely refusing foods, and help children develop social skills by engaging in conversations. After the family meal is a great time for everyone to be active together. For example, the whole family could go for a walk around the neighbourhood or go to the park.
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