Our final PEP (Preschool Education for Parents) Talk for the 2017-18 School Year was a delightful success! Laura Laine, from the Sophia Grace Center, presented, “Balanced Eating for Preschool Children.” Parents went away energized with ideas for providing healthy snacks and meals, upholding the family table, and initiating other thought-provoking tips from Ms. Laine. Here are a few highlights.
“Food, Faith, Family!” These three words are at the heart of Ms. Laine’s recommendations to parents of young children. She encourages us to think of the act of healthy eating as an act of relationship with God. Simply put, God makes us hungry each day; He provides food; and He gives us the opportunity to meet Him at each meal! Whether we dine alone or with others, mealtime is more than simply refueling. Mealtime is a time to pause for thanksgiving as we show reverence and respect for God, for ourselves, for others, and for God’s amazing creation. In family life we can do this by upholding the family table; making a commitment to sit down together at mealtime, to share family rituals and nourishing foods, and to engage in encouraging conversations!
We all know there are barriers to maintaining a family table commitment. Things like parent work schedules, sleep deprivation, over-scheduling activities, eating out, and screen time deliver plenty of mealtime challenges to today’s families. Ms. Laine reminded us that when we take time to plan meals, have conversations, and share chores we not only build healthy bodies, but also healthy relationships! If the family table has fallen off your daily routine, take one step at a time. Here are some simple ideas Ms. Laine shared to support your family in creating solid family meal routines:
- Plan meals together
- Prep food together
- Set the table
- Make place mats for family members
- Share meal blessings
- Create a way for everyone to help with kitchen chores
- Give thanks for your day; at dinnertime, let each family member share things that went well and not so well that day
- Take a walk together before or after the meal
- Turn off cell phones, televisions, and tablets; do not allow screen time at the family table
- One parent may want to wait and eat with the other parent arriving home after the children’s mealtime; instead have one parent eat with the children and then sit and talk with the spouse who is eating later; eating with the children emphasizes that dinner time is family time
- Do not allow fighting at the table
- No one leaves the table until the entire family is finished eating.
Ms. Lane also shared nutritional information, feeding guidelines for children 1 to 6 years of age, and choking hazards to keep in mind. And as for those picky eaters, remember that it is common for children to be picky when they begin to eat table foods. Familiarize yourself with guidelines for serving size, nutritional value, and number of servings needed per year of life. The websites below are full of useful information. You may be surprised to find out the quantity and selection of food that will keep your child’s body healthy and strong. Typically, let your child be the judge of how much to eat. Attempting to force your child to eat makes mealtime very unpleasant. Here’s a tip to try as you work with your picky eater. Children are often more likely to eat foods they have helped to make. Letting kids help with food preparation can be messy and time consuming, yet can also be rewarding!
Providing a consistent family table and appropriate nutritional choices creates a balanced eating routine for our preschoolers and ourselves. These healthy habits are sure to make a difference for a lifetime!
www.healthyeating.org Dairy Council of California; lots of useful information
Gathering at the Table; Elizabeth Hoffman Reed, Liturgy Training Publications, 2007