It’s time to make mealtimes with your family fun – and healthy!
A healthy relationship with food is being able to make mindful choices and eat in a non-restrictive way that nourishes you, is stress-free, and enables you to feel good, both physically and mentally. As parents, this may take extra work, patience and planning, but I promise, the outcome will be worth it for you, and your whole family.
Understand your body’s needs
Having a basic understanding of what your body requires nutritionally, and which foods are the most nourishing is fundamental and a great place to start; knowledge is power. Being aware of how certain foods make you and your family feel will help you make more mindful and considered choices when it comes to mealtimes. If we feel our optimal best as a result of what we consume, we are more likely to form healthy relationships with our nutritional choices.
Let go of unrealistic expectations
Having unrealistic expectations around what your family’s diet ‘should’ look like will inevitably end in disappointment. No one is perfect – and we do not need to be! Understand there are many complexities to life, and we cannot be on top of everything all the time, particularly as parents. Allow yourself the freedom to be in the moment and adapt if necessary. This may mean scoffing down kids’ breaky leftovers as you head out the door, grabbing a takeaway meal for the family after work, or enjoying an extra glass of wine while chatting with a friend about your day. Practice self-compassion and understand that a balanced life and being able to adapt is vitally more important than eating an infallible diet. Provided your day-today nutritional habits and lifestyle choices are balanced, your body will cope with the unexpected and, who knows, your family may even benefit from a break in routine.
Reconnect with food
With perpetually busy lifestyles and a mountain of priorities, many rely heavily on takeaway or eating for convenience rather than nourishment and enjoyment. As a result, we have lost our connection with food and no longer savour the act of eating. Connecting with your nutritional choices and enjoying meals mindfully fosters appreciation and builds on your relationship with food. Reigniting this lost connection is simple. Visit the farmers markets or supermarket; touch, smell and admire the fresh food on offer. Encourage children to do the same, as this tactile experience helps children become comfortable with and curious about food, enhancing their relationship with the edible, too. Aim to purchase inviting, bright-coloured produce and spend a little time in the kitchen playing around to create nourishing meals.
Keep food exciting
Eating the same foods day in and day out can trigger boredom and even resentment of mealtimes. Try incorporating new ingredients to your family’s diet weekly. This can be as simple as attempting a different recipe each week or selecting some new and exciting fresh produce to cook with. Feeling inspired by our nutritional choices is an important part of having a healthy relationship with food.
Cook as a family
Get your children involved. Allocate a simple task such as mashing avocado, grating carrot or setting the table. Invite your children to help select the meals for the week. Take them shopping, let them select some fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes or meats and then come home and plan some meals around these items. Being involved helps strike a greater interest in food, its backstory, and an appreciation for what they’re eating.
Make food fun
If you get tired of eating meat-and-three-veg on rotation, it only requires a small amount of effort and forethought to make mealtimes more enjoyable. A simple yet profound change is in how meals are served. As a child, I recall many memorable moments spent around the dinner table picking my preferred ingredients from the centre of the table, finding delight and feeling independent in making my own choices. Tacos are a great conduit for this; place mince or scrambled tofu, lettuce, tomato, cheese, avocado and any extras in the centre of the table and allow children to make up their own plates.
Think outside the box
Trying a new cuisine can make food a memorable experience as you reawaken your senses. Write a list of cuisines different to your usual meals such as Italian, French, Japanese, Greek or Moroccan and jot down some dishes to try as a family. Schedule in a night where you can experiment with new dishes and make it a family bonding experience.