Remember the old saying “Values are caught, not taught”? Well, I think there is truth to this saying in the arena of healthful eating habits too. When I took my first nutrition course in college, I realized that what was taught made much sense to me, simply because I had grown up with the same principles every day at the dinner table. In every dinner meal, we would have a carbohydrate source (e.g., rice), one or two vegetable-based dishes, a protein-rich dish (usually fish or a meat-based dish), occasionally soup, and then fruit was always the after-meal dessert. The concepts of a varied and balanced diet had just been ingrained into me gradually over all those years and seemed natural to me. I am grateful to my parents for this gift and that is why I seek to model these concepts for my children as well. Except I now try to provide a variety of plant-based dishes at the dinner table. Fruit is still the main dessert though!
In our busy lifestyles today, often with families that have two working parents or single parent families, it can be very hard to find time to sit down together for a meal. Especially one that is truly distraction free from mobiles, televisions and other electronics. But I encourage you to seek to do this as much as you can. Even if it is only for a family meal once a week on a Sunday or on other night during the week. Invest in it. Make time for it. Your children will reap health and emotional rewards far beyond just the meal itself. Why? Because eating around the table involves the positive modeling of enjoyment of plant-based dishes, pleasurable interaction with siblings and parents, and the treasured enjoyment of sharing food and company with loved ones. Not only that, you are presenting foods, especially if they are colorful and varied plant-based foods, on the table so that your children will come to see such foods as the norm and would be more willing to try them as they see others enjoying the foods. These can be powerful influencers over time on your child’s eating habits and preferences even as he or she goes to college and lives on their own. Eating around the table does matter!