Making sure that your family eats well can be a challenge. These simple tips will help you whether you are a seasoned family nutrition guru or just starting to change your family’s eating habits for the better. Not all of the tips have an apparent connection to nutrition; instead, they create a framework for successful mealtimes which are essential for good eating habits.

  1. Eat meals together. According to new research from Rutgers University, about 40% of the average family’s budget is spent eating out, and most of the time families do not eat together. On the other hand, kids who eat family meals regularly tend to have more fruits, vegetables, fiber- and calcium-rich foods in their diet and less junk food. The key to success is to prioritize mealtimes and schedule after school activities around dinner.
  2. Make mealtimes pleasant. We all know that stress directly affects digestion and absorption of nutrients. But no food gets even a chance to become nutritious before it is actually eaten. And it is a fact that neither adults nor children eat well in a stressful environment. Using the division of responsibility at the dinner table will help parents relax and appreciate the time together while giving kids more opportunities to pick and choose from the nutritious options in a stress-free environment. To create wonderful mealtime memories for everyone, focus on the social aspect of meals instead of counting the number of bites and fighting over vegetables.
  3. Serve a leafy green or an orange vegetable with each dinner. They are chock-full of phytonutrients called beta-carotene – a cancer-fighting compound which has also been shown to enhance immunity. Fewer sniffles and colds, anyone? Great sources of beta-carotene include kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, sweet potato, squash, and carrots.
  4. Master a few simple and quick recipes.  Meals do not have to be elaborate to be nutritious and healthy. Besides, preparing meals at home will give you control over the ingredients and help save money. Check these recipes for some ideas. Look for something that you can easily whip together in 15-20 minutes, and make sure your pantry is stocked with the healthy basics like wholegrain bread, olive oil, garlic, onion, tomato sauce, canned beans, pasta and dried herbs.
  5. Serve water with meals. It is hardly surprising that accompanying meals with something sweet like soda or juice makes us eat more of the salty/crunchy/fried foods. Besides, kids tend to eat fewer vegetables if they have a sweet drink with their meal. So if the broccoli is left untouched, try to replace the chocolate milk or apple juice with water and it may just do the trick!


T. Bettina Cornwall, Anna R. McAlister. Contingent Choice: Exploring the Relationship Between Sweetened Beverages and Vegetable Consumption. Appetite, 2012 (accepted)

Why Families Who eat Together Are Healthier