A recent study lead by Jaclyn Saltzman, a doctoral candidate in the department of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois, has revealed how the emotional environment at mealtime, can affect children’s eating habits. When dinnertime becomes a place when the family comes together, where everyone is happy and engaging, children are more open to consuming healthy foods – especially young pre-school aged kids. On average children ate an additional serving of fruit or vegetables during happy mealtimes.

Involving children in the grocery shopping and meal planning of dinner can help create a positive setting.

Little girl helping mother shop for produce in grocery store

Here are a few other suggestions Saltzman suggests to make your dinnertime a positive experience:

  • Be clear about what is expected during meals.
  • Establish a routine, eating at about the same time and in the same room or setting each day.
  • Give kids jobs. Assign individual tasks, such as setting the table.
  • Remind kids to express themselves with words and not scream when they are upset.
  • Don’t force it. Parents should encourage their children to try new foods, but after several tries it may be time to move on. Kids don’t have to like everything.
  • Stay calm. Parents should try techniques such as breathing exercises to help them keep their emotions in check.

The more you involve your children and create excitement/purpose for mealtime, the more dinnertime will become something the whole family looks forward to.

Fall is in full swing. Why bake some dessert with kids tonight!? These pumpkin cheesecake muffins make a delicious after-dinner treat or can also be saved and had at breakfast time!

The study was published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.
More information: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more on childhood nutrition.  SOURCE: University of Illinois, news release, Oct. 4, 2017