The family table is where your children will form habits around food that they will take with them into adulthood. Good habits are worth being intentional over, especially with little ones looking on.
I continually remind myself of this list of little habits because I know they will have a long-lasting positive influence on my family. These aren’t resolutions, or even goals, but merely small steps to introduce positive change. I’m confident you are doing an excellent job around your family table, but perhaps in reading this list, you will find there are one or two practices you could adopt and thereby help shape your family food culture for the better.
1. Reduce Waste
This one is first for a reason: wasted food makes me squirm. Cook less, if needed, and reduce portion sizes. Freeze or repurpose leftovers and store foods correctly to avoid waste. Talk with your children about global hunger and teach them to truly care about food waste.
2. Menu Plan
You will definitely waste less food if you make a menu plan and buy only what you need. I follow a loose Monday-to-Friday plan that I pencil out on Sunday afternoons, but you’ll find what works for you along the way.
3. Review Food Values
Is eating locally and in season important to you? How can you take steps to improve your food sustainability as a family? It’s important to us to support local growers as well as be conscientious of food miles—the distance food travels to your table.
4. Trust More
Delegating kitchen tasks to children gets easier the more you learn to let go. Give them an opportunity to shine, because they will undoubtedly surpass your expectations and the benefits are many. Also, trust yourself more in the kitchen. Try new recipes, new methods and new ingredients. Failure is a sign of action; you’ll never grow as a cook without stepping up.
5. Stress Less
Are your children only eating bread? Refusing meat? Gobbling down breakfast but just picking at dinner? These are normal patterns from what I have experienced. If they don’t get three square meals every day, don’t worry—they’ll be fine.
6. Stock Up Smart
It’s almost too obvious to point out, but if you stock nourishing foods in your kitchen, you’ll eat better.
7. Embrace Hospitality
Let your children see you open your home and welcome others around your table. Through your actions, they will learn how to be gracious hosts.
8. Practice Balance
Moderation is a foreign concept to children, yet never has it been more important that they learn it, with junk foods now so widely promoted. Don’t deprive them of treats entirely, but lead by example in demonstrating that a little goes a long way.
9. Encourage Conversation
Connecting with one another around the table is one of the main reasons why we gather as a family. Listen. Ask questions. Talk about stuff that matters and show the children you are truly interested. Spark conversation in your more reluctant talkers by playing “Tall Tales” for fun: each person around the table takes a turn sharing three things about their day but with one of them being a tall tale, then the others around the table must guess which one isn’t true.
10. Show Thankfulness
Slow down long enough to acknowledge the food in front of you before you eat. Perhaps say a prayer or a few words of gratitude. When so many in the world go hungry, it’s important to reflect on our abundance.