Denman W18 Masthead 2

Why Children Need to Eat the Same Food as You

Kate Freeman

I passionately believe in family meal times.

In fact, I prioritise and cherish the family mealtime as a fantastic opportunity to spend time with my partner and children and teach them the art of eating well!

As a mum, it’s really important to me that my children grow up enjoying fresh, whole foods. I want them to feel confident in making healthy food choices when the time comes for them to start feeding themselves. Fussy children often grow into fussy adults and I’ve met many fussy adults over the years who find it difficult to eat out and socialise for this reason.

One of the best ways to teach children healthy eating habits is around the dinner table. Regular family mealtimes encourages children to eat more fruits and vegetables, reduces their risk of overweight and obesity and equips them to make healthy food choices when they are away from home.

I have so many wonderful childhood memories from growing up around the dinner table. Not only was I taught things about food that have stuck with me for life, but I have also loved, laughed, been disciplined, encouraged, listened to stories, had geography and history lessons and learned about the solar system through the aid of an orange and a pea!

Growing up around the dinner table has taught me many valuable things about life that I’ll never forget. I’d like to leave the same fond memories in my children’s minds as well as equip them with vital skills for keeping themselves healthy when they start to feed themselves.

So turn the TV off, set the table and sit the family down together for some good old home cooking. Laugh and spend time together.

Research shows that family dinners and regularly eating together as a family has a significant impact on your child’s eating habits, as well as your own. Here’s what the research says:

  • A US study on pre-school children found that family routines such as family meal times, limiting screen viewing and adequate nighttime sleep decreased the prevalence of obesity by 40% compared to children who didn’t have exposure to these routines.
  • An Italian study found that daily dinner with parents, having strict family food rules and low television viewing behaviours was a positive influence on daily fruit and vegetable intake.
  • Three other studies with teenagers all found that regular family meals had a positive influence on healthy eating behaviours and reduced the risk of obesity.

When it comes to young children under the age of four, family meals times are an opportunity to expand their food repertoire. The research shows very clearly that parental modeling of healthy eating habits is a vital part of your child’s willingness to try new foods. Children need to be offered the same food as the whole family and eat with the whole family as much as possible. It’s this social inclusion that helps your child feel confident in eating certain foods. “If it’s good for the family it must be good for me too.”

Try not to get into the habit of cooking your children separate meals. “One meal for all” is a fantastic ‘food policy” (for the public servants amongst us) that I strongly encourage you to start implementing in your household. It really will make a world of difference with your fussy eater.

Have a go at making family mealtimes a regular occurrence in your home. Make it fun! Light candles, make name place cards, put on nice background music and enjoy some quality family time as you teach your kids, the art of eating well!

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Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author