We know how tough it can be to get the family together for one meal. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a cozy family of 3 or a larger family with doting grandparents and relatives!
Let’s start with what we mean by a “family meal.” It’s that joyous, slightly chaotic (!) time where your little one gets to sit with the rest of your family as you enjoy a meal together. Family meals enable you to share beautiful bonds and create new memories.
Family meals are also the ideal setting to eat with intention. When you eat with intention, you’re fully present in the moment, conscious of the food on your plate and the loved ones around you. When you eat mindfully, you savor the subtlest of flavors, textures, and aromas! You’re mindful of the act of eating itself, and you’re not distracted or mentally absent.
We cannot ignore the fact that the pandemic introduced the dreaded D word: devices. And across the world, kids of all ages were getting used to devices for education, play, and connecting with friends or even family.
In such a scenario, it’s not easy to get family members to leave their devices and eat a mindful meal together as a whole unit. But more than that, it’s not easy for busy parents to make time to plan and prepare family meals. We completely understand this and that’s why we have shared effective tips and tricks that are customized for busy parents.
Why Are Family Meals Important?
Family meals are the perfect setting for you and your family to spend mindful moments bonding over food and sharing your day’s updates. It’s a time that is designated for every family member to drop what they’re doing, and be present around the dinner table.
What’s more, it’s the best time for you to bond intentionally with your baby. Let’s looks at more reasons why eating together as a family is important
Research shows that having structured meal times and family meals are associated with more food enjoyment, better nutrition intake, less fussiness, and less emotional eating later on in life. As parents, don’t we all want this?
Babies have mirror neurons, so they tend to copy or imitate whatever the parent is doing. You would have observed this cute behavior during other activities too, so it’s best to leverage this for the baby’s benefit. Sit across your baby and watch how they observe and absorb your actions! This is them learning how to eat, chew, mix food, etc.
When little ones see their parents and siblings (and even grandparents) enjoy a variety of healthy foods, they are more likely to follow suit.
Parents are also motivated to make better food choices when their little ones are joining them at mealtimes! There will be a greater emphasis on ensuring balanced meals (including veggies or a side salad). Studies have found that children who ate with their families are more likely to have a positive relationship with food overall.
Also, by making eating together a priority, you’re setting a good example by prioritizing healthy eating habits. In today’s world of “Netflix and chilling,” wouldn’t it be nice if we could try and share at least one meal together with the rest of the family?
P.S. You’re also introducing a sweet family ritual or tradition, which your child may choose to continue in their family.
While daytime is busy for all family members (with school, college, work, and home tasks), it’s good to end the day with a family dinner. Sit around the dining table, partake in a hot meal, and share anecdotes from your respective days (or simply crack lame jokes — an onus that usually lies with the dads, hence “dad jokes!”).
Sharing meals as a family can help improve communication and strengthen bonds among family members.
Tips for Making Family Meals a Regular Thing
(Note: Some of the below tips may not apply for your child at this age, but will definitely help when they’re a bit older and are eating regular food that the family is eating.)
1) Plan ahead
Set aside some time each week or weekend (if you’re a working parent) to plan meals. If you can, get kids involved in choosing the menu for the week and assign small tasks like peeling, washing, or prepping (depending on how old your child is; safety is of utmost importance!). This will make them understand the value of humility and teamwork.
2) Keep it simple
You don't need to whip up MasterChef-level meals, and nobody expects you to either — especially if you don’t have help or are a single parent. Focus on simple, nutritious dishes that are easy to prepare.
There are many easy recipes on YouTube that don’t require exotic or expensive ingredients. Search and you’ll literally find 10 cool recipes for different types of dal!
3) Make it fun
If time permits, get creative with your meals. You don’t need to do much. Just come up with a fun theme that makes it interesting for your kids. Examples: “Stir-Fry Saturday” or “Fishy Friday” or “Macaroni Monday.”
Something like “Macaroni Monday” does not have to be unhealthy or overly cheesy. You can slip in a side of stir-fried or roasted veggies or some shredded roast chicken.
4) No gadgets
This is the most important rule. Everyone, including the adults, have to keep digital distractions at bay. Kids will learn to focus on each other and the food on the table.
5) Practice gratitude
Encourage your child to express simple gratitude to all people who have worked hard to bring this food to their plates—from the farmers to your house help. While doing so, adding a silent “thank you” to the soil and plants that have made this meal possible is a beautiful gesture.