Children who regularly eat with their families tend to have healthier diets, are less likely to be overweight and do better in school than their peers.
Busy working mom LeAnne Ruzzamenti believes so strongly in the power of family meals her toddler twins already have a year of family meals under their belts. She encourages familes everywhere join her and Eat Better, Eat Together!
Recently the eyes of my friend’s 5-year-old daughter lit up when she overheard me remind my three-year-old twins, “You never have to eat anything you don’t want to.” Her mom quickly dashed her hopes and said, “Don’t get any ideas. I’m sure the twins eat much better than you.”
I shrugged. I’m not sure how well they eat compared to other kids. I just know that they eat a good variety of foods from everything I offer throughout the day. And I leave it at that.
Nutrition expert Ellyn Satter coined this feeding philosophy “division of responsibility,” and I follow it to the letter. The parent prepares healthy meals with nutritious foods from all five food groups – whole grains, milk, fruit, vegetables and meat or eggs – and the child chooses what they want to eat at each meal.
Of course, I encourage my toddlers to try new and different foods by preparing and eating them myself. I might suggest that my son try the green beans or lovingly remind my daughter to drink her milk, but I feel confident in stopping there.
I committed to this philosophy and having family meals as my twins turned two, and I have seen enough in the past year to know that some nights they aren’t going to touch a vegetable and the next night they’ll eat them until the serving dish is emptied.
I learned to stop worrying about what my toddlers are eating at each meal, instead directing my energy towards getting well-balanced, healthy meals on the table night after night.
Meal planning, shopping, cooking and clean-up take commitment, but it’s a labor of love. I know that my children are learning to eat the foods that I eat and love our shared mealtime. As they get older, we’ll have more opportunity to connect and share details about our days. The benefits are just beginning.
Whether you are just starting out and need motivation or could use some recipes to help you prepare balanced meals, take the Eat Better, Eat Together Pledge” from Meals Matter and learn to stop worrying and love feeding your family healthy meals.
Written by Guest Contributor, LeAnne Ruzzamenti. A marketing communications professional, LeAnne is passionate about a healthy lifestyle and hopes to instill that passion in others. She holds a master’s degree in communication studies, is a mother to toddler twins and includes red wine, dark chocolate and feta cheese among her favorite foods. She encourages familes everywhere join her and Eat Better, Eat Together! You can find LeAnne on twitter @LeAnneRuzz