Friday, August 15, 2014

Family Mealtime Can Be Simple

As Food $ense and the principles that it teaches has become a bigger part of my life, I have been so thankful for the little things that it has taught me. (Is still teaching me!)

One of the biggest things that has changed is my attitude about Family Mealtime. It used to be such an incredibly stressful time. We didn't eat together and when we did, we didn't enjoy the time we were spending together as a family. I didn't think it was a big deal. I was just trying to get everyone fed and the mess cleaned up as soon as possible. 

As I began menu planning and stocking my pantry with basics dinner time became a lot less stressful and I was much more patient at dinner time. As I have become more confident in the kitchen and in providing for my family I have even begun to relax and not just enjoy but really look forward to sharing meals with my family.  

We have started to realize that family mealtime isn't just about making sure everyone isn't hungry anymore, but that we have fed our brains and our spirits and our relationships with each other. 

We are enjoying the last few days of summer sunshine and last few days trips of fun and frolicking. Pretty soon everyone will be back in school and the daily routines that we have are going to change in a big way.

Yesterday I decided instead of focusing on a big dinner or complicated recipe that I would just have the kids' favorites and we would enjoy some time together. I made sure that I gave them plenty of notice that dinner time was coming up and that we would be eating together. This prevents anyone from being upset that they have to come home from a friends house or feeling upset that dinner is interrupting their plans.

When it was time for dinner, to lessen my stress, I assigned everyone jobs and we all worked together. The little ones washed grapes and we all husked corn. We put the bread on a tray and added the cheese to melt. It was less than 5 minutes prep time with all of us helping. Having everyone help with the dinner prep teaches your kids basic cooking skills as well as gives them a partial responsibility for what everyone is eating. Kids are more likely to try new foods and eat healthy when they are involved in the preparation of meals.

I think one of the hardest part of family mealtime (put probably one of the most important parts) is that is be a positive experience.  You may be tempted to take over a task that your child is struggling (and perhaps complaining about), but don't - this is an invaluable learning experience. You may be tempted to take this time to "discuss" a bad report card or negative behavior that has been going on - please resist. No one wants to feel attacked every time they get cornered in the kitchen. 

Use this time to get to know your kids, ask them questions that let them open up to you. Involve your child in conversation. Ask questions like: What made you feel really happy today?  What did you have to eat at lunch today?  What's your favorite veggie? Why? Tell me one thing you learned today. What made you laugh today? Some of my kids have taken to opening up faster than others, and it has been harder for me to make sure that I am not criticizing and nagging at some more than others. But I am making changes, just like they are. 

Eating together as a family, doesn't just have to happen at dinner time. If you have older kids who have jobs or sports commitments, try making breakfast your family mealtime. If you have a spouse who works late and little ones who go to bed early, make lunchtime your family mealtime.  There are actually very few rules that are important to remember - mostly just enjoy being together as a family. 

Here are some great additional resources to help inspire and motivate you to make your time together more enjoyable (and of course, stress-free!) 

Food $ense has fantastic information and you will never regret starting to make even the smallest of changes. 

Choose My Plate has some great, easy to start tips for Family Mealtime.