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Using meals to teach and connect

Posted by Manasa Mantravadi on
Using meals to teach and connect

Many of us have a lot of time at home with our kids right now. With more limited restaurant services and such a focus on health - I wanted to share some benefits of what these constant meals at home are: OPPORTUNITIES!!! 

  1. OWNERSHIP OF MEALS: Kids actually like to be involved in meal planning and cooking. We know that children who participate in meal prep tend to have a healthier view of food and make better choices at meals as they grow! They are more likely to try those veggies if they have contributed to the process. 
  1. EDUCATION: We often cook and bake together as a family activity.  My husband and I use it as an opportunity to teach. For example, we need a 1/2 cup of sugar and another 1/2  cup of flour. Seamlessly, a discussion about fractions unfolds; “2 halves make a whole” shouts our seven-year old daughter. At the stovetop, we talk about how the instant pot releases all that pressure. “Oh that's water” I gently say for the set-up. Our seven-year old son proceeds to talk about the water cycle that was taught in school. “Evaporation, condensation, precipitation!,” he shouts. We talk about the country our dishes originated from and see what we know about them and then google what we don't know. It's all about just creating a door to conversation and often it sparks curiosity and engagement. Kids are smart enough to connect the dots themselves! No amount of worksheets can teach that real world experience. 
  1. QUALITY TIME: Meals at the table together as a family. I’ve previously referenced the study that shows sharing 3 meals a week together around a dining table leads to healthier children. We have the ability to slow down and talk to each other without soccer practice, homework, music lessons, etc. to rush to ... if they have helped in prep and cooking, they are more likely to try new foods and often happily eat the meal they just helped with!

As always, parents - you are doing great. We are facing some challenging scenarios. If you just need a break, order some food or pull out a frozen meal! There is nothing wrong with that! Teaching children healthy eating habits from a young age is shown to help them make healthier choices as an adult. If you order out - you can still choose healthy options off the menu or if you love pizza as much as we do ... just serve it with carrots, strawberries and a glass of milk. It's not about getting it perfect, fresh from scratch each meal - it's helping to create a sense of balance in what we eat and how we eat. That balance is also needed for parents - serving healthy doesn't always have to be labor intensive - adding some fresh fruit and veggies to any frozen dinner/takeout instantly adds street cred in my book.

Do what you can when you can - as I say to my friends: The juggle is real. 

So while you juggle … don’t struggle. Sometimes you can just let it all fall, take a breath, enjoy the moment and pick up where you left off at another time. Sharing techniques on Oreo eating, sometimes, is just what the doctor ordered. 

 

 

REFERENCES:

Becoming a mom changed me as a pediatrician: Here’s how

Social Distancing: 5 things to do now that can make life better later

The Human Spirit, the importance of human connection

13 ways to make 'social distancing' fun for kids!

The next 6 months: The food adventure!

Is Frequency of Shared Meals Related to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents?

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