I know it’s hard. For everyone. Especially if you have young kids. But that’s also why healthy eating habits are even more important (and stressful) since you are shaping your child’s relationship with nutritious food for their entire life! Healthy eating habits can be challenging to master, but, with the right approach, it just might be doable this year.

Let’s start by agreeing that making family mealtimes a priority is the appropriate starting place. When we make family mealtimes a priority, everything else follows in line with that! Snacking will be cut down because the phrase, “no sweetie, we are having dinner soon,” will help everyone prepare for the fact that a family meal together is on its way. Not to mention the added bonuses that having family meals together has proven to improve nutrition, promote healthy weight for kids, and foster family unity.

Therefore, it is worth taking the time and effort to cook when you can and involve your kids in the process. One of the parents who has seen noticeable improvement in his daughter’s eating habits here at Assential Therapies, Inc. attributed a lot of her success to putting on a chef’s hat and getting into character! It’s extra work, but making nutrition fun almost always pays off in the long run.

Because creating healthy eating habits is just that—a habit. We all know that habits are formed through repetition and, according to the latest finds, three other R’s: reminder, routine, and reward. I find that I need to make a list to remind myself of what I bought at the grocery store and what I was thinking we’d do for dinner this week. When my child is demanding a snack after school because she’s starving, one can tend to feel like a deer in headlights without a proper plan. Don’t give in! Remember to say, “no sweetie, we are having dinner soon,” and kick that routine into motion. Have your child get involved with the meal prep—the stirring, the lasagna layers, or simply just the cheese sprinkling… the reward will be a family meal (and maybe even dessert) that will feel calm, comforting, and nutritious for everyone.

When you can, remember to slip in important conversations around food choices with your children. For example, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation wants you to make food safety a priority by washing hands before meals. They also point out the value in listening to internal signals about choosing what to eat from the table and respecting how much to eat (when you are “done”). Teach your children to make positive food choices when you aren’t with them (or, at least keep trying… don’t get me started on our constant struggle with school lunches). Building a healthy relationship with food takes effort from every angle.

If your child truly can’t cope with the 2024 family dinner plan because she is overly picky, she has a texture aversion, or you are concerned about physical GI tract issues, contact feeding specialists like Assential Therapies, Inc. for a feeding therapy evaluation. This is the year your family can get on track for eating right!