By Sadé Meeks, MS,RD

Family Dinners

Take out, curbside pickup, and homecooked meals are becoming more popular these days. More meals at home just means more time to bond with your child and practice for eating out. Yes, practice! Mealtimes can be unpredictable, especially if you have a toddler. However, simple planning can support less chaos and more enjoyable mealtimes for both you and your little one. I researched a few tips from the experts – PARENTS! – and compiled my top five tips for successful mealtimes with your little one!

  1. Be Mindful of Allergens: If your child has allergies you don’t necessarily have to avoid a recipe that contains the allergen, simply look for substitutions. For instance, if the recipe contains peanut butter, but your child is allergic to peanuts, try using a sun butter, made from Sunflower Seeds. Also, if your child has celiac disease, be careful of cross-contact from knives and other utensils. If you share condiments with people who eat gluten, consider the “single dipping rule.”  For more allergy friendly tips, Check out Freedom Foods Allergen Help page at .
New Foods
  1. Try new Foods: If you were eating out, you probably wouldn’t want to try sushi for the first time with your child in a restaurant, however, at home is where new foods should thrive. Home meals are the perfect opportunity for exploring new foods with your child.  When exploring new foods, try to pick foods that may be similar in taste or texture of some foods your child is familiar with. This will take away some of the anxiety that may come with trying something different. And if your child decides they don’t like it, it’s okay. I wouldn’t recommend making them clean their plate. Instead, I encourage you to see if you can find out what about the food they may not like.
  1. Set Rules: As you would set ground rules when eating out, it’s equally important to set ground rules for eating in at home. This will set the precedent for meals eaten outside the home. Simple rules like, don’t talk with your mouth full, use your inside voice, and wait to be excused before everyone is finished eating, are great practice for eating out as well.
Stick with It
  1. Stick with It: Even if your child makes a mess, has a few loud outbursts, or refuses the food, know that it’s okay. Each mealtime is also a learning experience. With continued boundaries, rules, and structure you’ll recognized continual improvements and growth in your child’s table manners.
Avoid Distractions
  1. Avoid distractions: When you’re ready to eat out again, it is a good idea to pack some distractions, because you may be out longer than your usual mealtime. However, at home, the opposite is suggested. Try to encourage meals that are device free to help discourage distractions and encourage engagement. This will also support mindful eating practices that will remain valuable all the way into adulthood.

Let us know, how do you plan your mealtimes?