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Healthy Parenting: Less Stress at Mealtime

We all know that mealtime for parents can be stressful. Here are a few tips for healthy and happy meals with your family.

Prep and plan meals together: Encourage your kids to give you meal ideas or suggestions, then build your weekly meals around them as best you can. Depending on what’s appropriate for your child’s age, get your kids involved in the cooking or meal prep. Make it fun and keep it simple. For example, maybe they can set the table or help you gather ingredients from the pantry.

Share one meal: No one has time to be a short order cook. Make one meal for the entire family so that everyone has the same food on their plates – or at least a similar version. For example, on taco night, you might create a deconstructed version for your toddler. If you are serving your child something new, be sure to also include something familiar.

Eat mindfully: Mindful eating means intentionally making yourself aware of your thoughts and actions while eating. Forcing children to eat at a specific pace or making them eat everything on their plates does not allow them to follow their own internal hunger and fullness cues. Encourage them to notice these cues the same way you do while also encouraging them to stay focused on eating (kids can easily get distracted) and eat until they are full. Over time, this will help them develop long-term healthy eating habits.

And, here are a few additional tips for healthy and happy mealtime:

  • Focus on the people at the table and the meal. This is a great time for conversation with your family. Be sure to remove distractions such as TV, phones or tablets.
  • Have a picky eater at home? Ask them to help you prepare the meal and talk about the foods that they think are “gross.” This may help build their confidence toward trying new foods.
  • Sit down and eat as a family whenever possible. Research has shown that kids are more likely to choose healthy options when eating with their family.
  • Be a good example. If you want your kids to choose healthy food options, you need to too.

For related resources, download the resources below, provided by our partners at Optum.