My daughter is a grazer. I think she’s eating enough food, but it’s a real struggle to get her to sit down for a family meal. Is this ok, or should I try to break habit?
Definitely try to break that habit! It’s not just about the nutrition intake, it’s about the social nature of the meal experience among the family. Family meals are still one of my favorite childhood memories, with the highlight being Sundays when all of my cousins and grandparents ate and talked for hours! Unfortunately, in my experience, kids don’t just grow out of those habits, so it’s important to set some ground rules and some good examples!
- Snacks are snacks and meals are meals. You’ll need to be firm that there is a time for snacks and there is a time for meals. If you allow her to keep grazing or snacking throughout the day, in a few years it will be nearly impossible to get her to sit down for a family meal. And eating as a family is one of the most important things you can do to keep the lines of communication open with the people you love! Research shows that family meals can reduce stress and anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, teen pregnancies and improve grades and self-esteem.
- Involve her in the cooking and recipe selection. Giving kids the power of choice is a real game changer. Once she’s engaged in choosing a healthy, balanced meal and helping to cook it, the idea of a meal will become a whole lot more appealing.
- Set an example. Kids learn a lot from their parents. Make sure that you’re setting a good example for your daughter by not grazing yourself. Carve out time for breakfast in the morning and dinner at night, and make sure the whole family stays at the table for the whole meal. Even if she still picks at her dinner at first, your daughter will be internalizing what it is to sit down for a family meal.
Snacks, of course, aren’t out of the question, but the focus should be on making meal-time fun, nutritious, and appetizing! Make that available to her, and your daughter’s grazing habit should soon disappear.
– Stacey Antine, MS RD, author, Appetite for Life, founder, HealthBarn USA, co-host, Family Food Expert Internet Radio Show, and recognized as top 10 dietitians nationally by Today’s Dietitian magazine for her work with HealthBarn USA
What puzzles you about keeping your family healthy? Tell us what’s on your mind by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Stacey will answer those questions here weekly.