What do we mean by family meals?
A family meal is as an occasion when food is eaten simultaneously in the same location by more than one family member, involving at least one child and adult. This is something that used to happen spontaneously but has become more uncommon in many households. Breakfast time is often a hurried affair as all family members rush to get to school or work – be it at home or away from home. The business of the day tends to go on until bedtime, with meals taken at different times.
When your child eats alone, they will leave whatever food they do not like on the plate, especially the vegetables that you have spent time preparing. It will also be hard for you to monitor what food your child has eaten and how much thereof. Some of the food may have been fed to the family dog or even gone to the bin.
This situation can also result in ‘finish all your food’ commands which may lead to unhealthy eating behaviours, because being forced to finish a plate of food when full teaches the brain to ignore its ‘you are full’ signals – leading to overeating. You may even resort to offering certain foods your child likes as a reward for eating – a bad practice that will also lead to unhealthy eating behaviours.
Family meals are an important piece of the puzzle in getting children involved in food preparation, creating that mealtime environment where a variety of nutritious food is offered, and for them to see all members of the family – regardless of how many you are – enjoying healthy food.