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How Family Meals Help Picky Eaters

Why Family Meals Are the Easiest Way to Combat Picky Eater Syndrome

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family meals

Eating Spaghetti with the Family

Marcy Maloy/Getty Images

Got picky eaters?

Believe it or not, you can enjoy pleasant meals, where everyone eats in peace. And you don't have to serve only mac and cheese or chicken nuggets.

You don't have to hide vegetables in the kids' food. And you don't have to beg them to take two bites of anything.

Family Meals: The Cure for All That Ails Them

The secret? Family meals.

Now the benefits of family meals are well-proven. From better performance in school to decreased likelihood of substance abuse, family meals have a positive impact on just about all aspects of kids' lives.

And it seems like everyone, from pediatricians to schools, even food celebrities like Rachael Ray, has gotten on the family meals bandwagon.

Or have they?

As so often happens in our society, something has gotten lost in the translation.

It's Not What You Eat, It's How You Eat It

The research doesn't indicate that only families who eat healthy, well-balanced meals benefit. It doesn't indicate meals have to have two vegetables or whole grains, organic foods, local foods, sustainable fish or whatever else the chic food style du jour is.

The research is about the value of family meals. The emphasis is on meals eaten together, as a family.

Indeed, it is the sitting down, face to face, sharing the same food at the end of the day that is beneficial.

Sure, there are long-term nutritional benefits from family meals. Yes, kids who eat frequent family meals end up with better eating habits as young adults than kids who don't.

But the research indicates it is more likely the modeling of parental eating habits that leads to better long-term nutrition, than being served (or forced to eat) a perfectly nutritionally-balanced meal.

How Family Meals Work Their Magic

In other words, the kids get the good stuff just by being with you. Just by watching what you eat. Just by hanging out and talking about anything with you.

They absorb everything from good table manners to good eating habits to the ability to steer clear of drugs and alcohol just by eating with you.

So forget about the two-bite rules. Don't sweat whether they ate the broccoli or not. Instead focus on sitting down and eating together. Face to face. That's what matters.

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