Family meals are an important part of setting children up to make healthy food choices. When toddlers eat with their families they tend to be more interested in trying new foods, eat more healthily and build strong relationships with their family members. Eating family meals with toddlers also provides the ideal setting for practising the 5 rules of engagement
Why is it So Important to Eat Family Meals with Toddlers?
Family meals are beneficial for your toddler and growing child for a number of reasons. In addition to setting the tone for healthy eating habits, eating family meals together also promotes trying new foods, establishing routine and strengthening your family’s bond.
Modeling Healthy Eating Habits
Family meals give parents, caregivers and family members the opportunity to model healthy eating habits for toddlers and children. They can show little ones what healthy food looks like, how to prepare meals and explain why certain foods are good for them. This teaches children the importance of eating nutritious meals and helps shape their attitudes towards food from a young age.
Healthy eating habits can also include mealtime manners . When eating meals together as a family, you’re able to demonstrate proper etiquette and table manners in addition to principles of nutrition. Eating with family members also offers toddlers the chance to learn social interaction skills such as turn-taking and sharing.
Get Your Toddler to Try New Foods
Family meals are a great way for parents to show their children that trying new foods can be fun and rewarding. The family meal provides an opportunity for children to learn from adults about the importance of trying different types of food and how to do it in a safe and enjoyable way.
Family meals also provide a chance for fussy eaters to experiment with different tastes and textures without pressure. This encourages them to become more adventurous eaters and to develop an appreciation for variety in their diets. With a supportive and positive attitude from parents, children can learn to explore different foods, discover new flavours, and have fun doing it!
Family meals provide an ideal opportunity for a toddler to establish a consistent routine. Consistent meal times can give toddlers the chance to anticipate the food they will be eating, increasing their familiarity with various flavours and textures.
By creating a predictable routine at mealtimes, children learn how to plan ahead and stick to a daily schedule. This can help them become more organised and disciplined in other areas of their life like school work or extracurricular activities.
Balanced Nutrition for the Whole Family
For parents, it’s often all too easy to forget that they need a balanced diet as much as their children do. Family meals offer a great way for the entire family to get the right balance of macronutrients and vitamins and minerals that they need, in an enjoyable setting. By providing nutritious, healthy food for everyone at meal times, it encourages good eating habits in both adults and children.
For busy parents, it’s not always easy to plan and prepare nutritious meals for their whole family. However, with a little creativity and resourcefulness, it can be done! Eating together as a family provides an opportunity to learn about making healthy choices, and to make sure everyone in the family is getting nutritious food.
Strengthen the Family Bond
Sharing family meals helps to create a strong bond between parents or caregivers and their toddlers. Conversations over dinner can provide opportunities for family members to connect, share stories and build relationships. Spending time together in this way helps toddlers feel secure, loved and supported, which may make them more likely to trust the adults around them when it comes to making healthy food decisions.
Eating with family can help build a strong bond between the parent/caregiver and child, giving them an opportunity to strengthen their relationship while having quality time together and creating lasting memories.
Family-Friendly Meal Ideas for Toddlers and Adults Alike
Some of our toddler-friendly recipes will make great additions to the roster of family meal ideas! Some of our favourites include:
- Chicken and Baby Corn Stir-Fry
- Pork and Vegetable Curry
- Chicken Vegetable Bake
- Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Hearty Bean Stew
- Potato and Leek Soup
- Spaghetti with Salmon, Avocado and Parsley
- Lamb with Mushroom and Tomato
Spend some time exploring our recipes to find something your whole family will enjoy!
Tips for Family Meals with Toddlers
- Involve your child as much as possible in the process. Whether it’s help with grocery shopping, creating lists, helping food prep or any other tasks he/she can be involved in – this will help your child to feel included as well as teach them some important life skills. By involving children in the planning and preparation of meals, they are more likely to be engaged in the meal and more likely to try something new.
- Before seasoning the family meal with spices, salt and pepper, remove a small portion for your child.
- Chop larger meats, such as chicken and fish portions into small manageable bite sized pieces.
- Share meal times as a family as much as possible to provide healthy eating role models.
- Expose your children to different tastes and textures by serving them healthy food that your family eats all the time.
- Encourage the entire family (parents, caregivers, older siblings, etc.) to put down electronic devices during mealtime in order to be fully present and demonstrate these values to your little one.