“Food is an important part of a balanced diet,” wrote author Fran Lebowitz, and that humorously explains why it’s so problematic when food becomes something to fear.

The enjoyment of well-prepared food, traditionally one of life’s greatest pleasures, has been complicated by our busy schedules, the over-processing of many grocery products, our concerns with body image, and for some people by the constant and necessary vigilance needed to avoid food allergens.

Being continuously wary of food engenders chronic stress, sends our body conflicting messages about the meals we consume, and in some individuals can trigger the development of disordered eating habits.

Fighting Food Wariness

One antidote to food wariness is for families to practice the pleasure of enjoying home cooked meals – and the occasional pizza or “carry-out” fare – together. Here are some tips for getting your family to willingly gather around the table:

  • Family Contribution. When planning a meal or the week’s menu, ask for suggestions from the other family members. This sets the tone that dinnertime is family time, and ensures everyone will see food on the table they particularly enjoy, and might want to help prepare.
  • Colorful Cuisine. An easy way to ensure balanced nutrition is preparing meals with a rainbow of colorful foods, and kids enjoy cuisine with vibrant red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple hues. They may even be more willing to try new foods that are brightly colored.
  • Recruit Helpers. If you don’t already, consider asking at least one of your kids to help prepare each meal. Not only will they learn valuable chopping, mashing, and measuring skills, but will likely enjoy a sense of pride by contributing to the family dinner.
  • Mindful Moments. “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating,” said opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
  • However it’s impossible to enjoy a meal together when everyone’s attention is pulled elsewhere, so let dinnertime also be “devices off” time—no TV, phones, tablets, or games. This creates a distraction-free space to catch up with one another’s news, and share the day’s trials and triumphs. It also allows everyone to be mindful and appreciative of the food they are eating.

“You can’t forget how important coming together is, whether it be a mom and a son, a dad and a daughter, whether the family be ten people, or twenty people, or a million people. Dinnertime is the perfect time for that.” ~ Deborah Halliday, Dinnertime: Stories of American Life

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