October is National Eat Better, Eat Together Month, a campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of eating healthy meals with your children at the family table. For many families it’s difficult to get everyone in the same place at the same time, or often, time constraints posed by hectic work and school schedules make preparing family meals a stressful event rather than an enjoyable one. However, the potential benefits of this single activity are many. Kids who regularly sit down to family meals are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol, have fewer behavior issues, do better in school, and are more respectful of family values and traditions. In addition, family meal time is a great way to encourage open communication with your children.
If your weeknights are difficult to manage commit to eating together on the weekends at the very least and add more mealtimes whenever possible. Preparing meals together is also a great way to spend time together. Even little hands can tear lettuce or add toppings to salads or other menu items.
An even better way to encourage better eating habits is to garden together. Get outside and grow a family garden with everyone’s favorite produce and seasonal items. If you have a backyard pick a spot to section off, or if you have a patio, get a few large planter pots or window box style containers. Pick a few easy to maintain fruits and vegetables and plant them according to the directions on the package. For those of you who are relatively unskilled at gardening, like myself, visit a local nursery or gardening center and ask the people who work there about what grows best according to your setup. Let them know you are starting a beginners family garden and they should be able to help you get the basics and prepare you with the knowledge you need to successfully plant your first crops. You can even have a themed garden like “Classic Salad” or “Pizza” and grow the items that you will need to make your favorite meal.
Gardening with the 5 and under crowd can be fun (and dirty) and is a great way to educate them about where their food comes from and also encourages them to try new foods they might not try if they hadn’t grown it themselves! Let them dig holes to plant seeds, pull weeds, and help water. And they’ll be totally excited when they get to pull those strawberries, carrots, or peas when the time is right!
For more information about National Eat Better, Eat Together Month visit:
Washington State University
Dairy Council of California
For information on gardening:
Gardening With Kids
*Previously published on Heidi Deal’s blog, PlaySpaces.