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How to have happy healthy meals

Updated on July 5, 2016

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How can we have happy, healthy meals? It might be easier than you think. Start with the most basic ingredient, family. Research has shown, families that sit down for meals together without the added distraction of digital devices eat less and are a lot healthier.

Families that sit down for dinner without any added distractions from electronic devices such as radio, television, or cell phones, at least five nights a week are happier and healthier. Take this time to make conversation and catch up with the family.

Scheduling meal times at the same time, every night also helps to aid in proper digestion and prevent overeating.

Licenced Dietitian; Becky Hand

A licensed Dietitian, Becky Hand, lists eight reasons why families should try to eat at least five to six meals a week together. The first she says is because it opens up the lines of communication. Conversations during meal times provide excellent opportunities for family bonding, to plan other events that the family would be interested in doing and to reconnect. Family meals, she adds foster a warmth, security and love, as well as a feeling of belonging.

Her second reason is that it is at the family table that young children and teens pick up on good manners, and manners are important in life. You get a lot further in life with good manners, and these are things that you learn more from your parents than anyone. She goes on to add that mealtime is important because you learn proper etiquette, and social skills. She suggests keeping the mood light and relaxed; this is a loving environment and children pick up more from a friendly environment than a hostile one.

Number three involves trying different foods, by testing out different tastes at home your child once again will know how to react when offered something unique or different away from home. Giving children a chance to try new foods without feeling forced or coerced. Hand emphasizes don't bribe your kids into trying something. Instead, use a little encouragement by adding new foods to already family favorites, and be patient, it may take 10 or more times being offered the food before your child accepts. Remember that trying new foods is like starting a new hobby, it gives the child a chance to expand their knowledge, experience, and skill.

Her fourth reason is nourishment, foods made from scratch at home are going to be healthier than fast food or takeout. However, part of this is going to fall on you the parent. You have to buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, include dairy and protein, finally try to avoid processed foods whenever you can.
You should also avoid cooking with salt and keep away from fried foods since they are not good for you.

Reason number five has to do with being self-sufficient, teach children to plan and prepare meals, basic cooking, baking and food preparation skills. Children who are involved in the cooking process are more willing to try new foods. Unfortunately most children eat at fast food restaurants do not see the cost involved in cooking a home made meal. It can be a fun and rewarding experience to involve your children in making the grocery list, shopping, and preparing the meals. This will teach them how to budget, how much of items to buy, and also how to prepare food.

Her sixth reason has to do with preventing destructive behavior. Research has suggested that teens and pre-teens who eat frequent family dinners together are less likely to smoke, drink, or do illegal drugs. Eating together five nights a week reduces risky behavior then only eating together one or two times a week. Her seventh reason is that families who eat together also score higher on standardized tests in school. Dinner time is a good time to talk to your children about any issues they might be facing in their schooling and work them out together. It builds unity and teamwork.

Her final reason is one that we all could agree with right now, and that is eating at home as a family saves money. By making the same meals for all members of the family, you are going to save money. Eating at home is just more economically responsible.

Proper Shopping

The next step is to train yourself on good shopping if the item is not in the house then you cannot eat it. Reading labels is a lot easier than most people think, and in some cases it is as simple as purchasing brown rice instead of white rice.

When it comes to buying flour, rice, or other grains, you want to buy items that are 100% whole grain. Otherwise, you are essentially buying something that has all of the nutrients removed and then artificial nutrients placed in it. If a loaf of bread reads 100% Whole Wheat in the name, then it is a good bet that the first ingredient will be whole wheat flour. However, it doesn't hurt to get into the habit of checking ingredients anyway.

Involving the children in the shopping experience can be positive and rewarding experience. For Preschoolers, it is a good time to work on basic math skills as you count number of items in that you put in your cart. With older children, you can explain why some items are healthier and discourage them from eating unhealthy things by not purchasing them, but at the same time explaining why you aren't purchasing them. As your children mature, it is, also good to start teaching them how to buy the right foods for their homes someday.

Getting Involved

After the shopping experience is done, get your children involved in the cooking. There are some excellent cookbooks specifically for children, and a lot of them give age-appropriate assignments, including having Preschoolers tear lettuce, cut bananas, and set the table. Children can mix the batter, measure and pour liquids, or peel vegetables. Teenagers can chop, dice, and of course help with the actual cooking including baking or using an outside grill. Working together puts the meal on the table faster and makes everyone feel more responsible for the outcome. Giving everybody a sense of "ownership" of the meal, and that is the first step in creating healthy eating habits, which will last a lifetime.


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    • rachellrobinson profile image

      rachellrobinson 7 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      kats48: thanks for the comment.

    • kats48 profile image

      kats48 7 years ago

      Hello, this is a great hub! It answered some questions I had been wondering about.