A lot has been said about families sharing meals together. Many attest that family dinners contribute to the overall well-being of both the adults and youngsters. It is at lunchtime or dinner time that manners are learned, life moments are celebrated, and affections are shared. No doubt then that connecting with family members over mealtime is one habit worth nurturing.
Studies have it, too, that children who regularly share the dining table with their family are more likely to do good at school. The same manner that teenagers who eat with their parents are less likely to use alcohol and drugs.
This momi shares ways to make family mealtime an exciting affair and something everyone looks forward to doing. I have seen the enthusiasm and decisive effect it brought in our small house.
Serve what the kids love to eat outside
I used to be so conscious about nutrition. I would want the kids to have their vegetables to the point of forcing them to finish everything I cooked. I would see unhappy faces. There would be leftovers.
Now, I tried to prepare burgers and cheese sticks for lunch. I made a frittata and flavored rice for breakfast. I introduced different pasta sauces and even pasta shells. This mother learned how to make lasagna. I don’t mind serving nachos for lunch as long as we have pasta or pansit.
I begin to experiment with the ingredients, too. I have noticed that the kids love cheese very much. So instead of grating cheese, I use Cheez Whiz in some of our meals – spaghetti, cheese sticks, burgers, and lasagna. They love them, too, because of the cheesier flavor and creamier texture.
I tried to be sensitive and serve what my boys love to eat when we dine out. When I serve vegetables and fish, they consume them, perhaps because they missed eating some. The same way when I make burgers and nachos, pasta and cake. They would eat everything as these are the same food they love to eat every time we go out. I have noticed, too, that there were no leftovers anymore.
Serve in small portions
I used to cook a big casserole of adobo or nilaga for lunch and dinner. It turns out even how delicious my cooking can be, the children would feel overwhelmed. They were forced to finish everything as well.
Now, I cook several new dishes the family hasn’t tried yet. These are served in smaller, tasting portions. If we have leftovers, I use them as added ingredients on the new dish I will be cooking up. For instance, we have leftover picadillo for lunch; I will drain the soup and fry the meat and use it as the ground beef for our nachos. I will just chop tomatoes, onions, and cabbage, and drizzle Cheez Whiz on top, and we now have a big bowl of nachos for merienda.
Enlist the help of members
As much as possible, I cook on my own. I love it when I am alone in the kitchen. I could move freely and experiment with my cooking.
I have noticed, though, that it is when I cook something the kids haven’t tasted yet that they are eager to help. Perhaps they are too excited to dig on the food. So when I could sense their enthusiasm, I give them an assignment.
As I prepare the frosting, for instance, for our cake, I would request my eldest to make the batter. The other one would set the oven and even the table. Enlisting means help creates a shared experience, making the family dinner more fun and memorable. Everyone looks forward to sitting on the dining table. And I have noticed too that conversations are livelier and even animated.
Get out of the dining room
Dinners do not happen in dining rooms only. If you have a garden, it would be an inviting place to have your breakfast. If you’ve got a pretty pleasant lawn, you may bring out a blanket and have your dinner in your backyard.
It wouldn’t hurt as well to try taking out your food and visit parks and lakes. These are fun venues you may have your family lunch. After a sumptuous meal, the kids may go biking or merely play Frisbee or catch the ball.
I have noticed that this kind of set up makes the boys more relaxed. I would hear more laughter and even see an exchange of pleasant tap on the shoulder.
Eat together as a family
Family mealtime means eating together. It doesn’t mean letting one join the family after everyone’s almost done. Or excusing the father because he needs to finish plotting a project in AutoCAD. Neither does it mean everyone on the table but all eyes glued to the television screen or mobile phone. Again, family mealtime means all members are in their designated chair, sharing the food with the rest of group.
At family dinners, social interactions happen, traditions are born, and love and concern are nurtured.
Make it a habit of eating together as a family. Children used to the idea would grow to that kind of practice which they may unconsciously bring as they build their own family.
The importance of family mealtime
It is at family mealtimes that the stomachs aren’t just filled with food. The same menu is what feeds each member emotionally and draws them together. Make it a habit to eat together as a family. You are doing your future self a big favor. Though you may be careless and slow because of old age, your grownup kids will still let you join the dining table instead of leaving you under the care of a caregiver by caregivers. You are also doing a huge favor to your future child-in-law and grandchildren to have a responsible parent who values family more than anything else.