One Simple Change that Can Transform Family Meal Time

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Frustrated with meal time at your house? Is it too stressful? Do you feel like you are waiting tables instead of enjoying family time? Are you dealing with many different palates?

We are looking for a few families interested in volunteering to try “family style” dining, a simple change to meal time that can have a big impact, and that want some guidance and support on how to do it! Email caron@firstbites.org if you are interested in joining us for this project!

Family style dining is a way of eating where the entire family sits down together and eats together.

  • Food is placed on the table in serving bowls, plates or baskets, and everyone, including the adults, sit down to the meal together and pass the food from one person to another.

As part of this type of dining, everyone serves him or herself (even children as young as two years old), allowing everyone to participate in assessing their hunger and enjoying a pleasant social atmosphere. Family style dining is important for children as they are able to:

  • Learn social skills such as taking turns and saying “please” or “thank you”;

  • Take control of what and how much they are eating;

  • Try new foods because children feel more in charge; and

  • Become better connected to their own hunger as they must determine how much they want to eat.

There are also benefits for families, when everyone is serving themselves:

  • Parents can be more involved in the meal and the time with their children instead of having to jump up and down to get more food;

  • Meals become more fun because families can eat together; and

  • Parents get a change to act as a role model in modeling the behavior of serving yourself and controlling your portion size.

We believe that serving food family style can be the single biggest and easiest change families can make to encourage their children to be more competent eaters and reduce the stress associated with meal time.

We are looking to select three-five families who want to try family style dining at their own dinner table. We will provide support and guidance to help you transition to family style dining if you are willing to give it a try for three weeks and let us know how it goes. We’ll share your feedback and experiences with others (on FirstBites.org, Facebook.com/YourFirstBites and Twitter.com/FirstBites) to help encourage others to try it. (Note: we will just use your first name).

Your commitment in this project would include:

  • A willingness to try family style dining for three weeks with your family; and

  • Weekly check-ins (via phone or email) to hear about your experiences, and to allow you an opportunity to ask questions. Check in’s would last no more than 10-15 minutes, unless you want to talk for longer/have more questions.

  • Taking a short ten minute survey before you start serving food family style and at the end of the three week period.

We are doing this project simply because we believe it’s an easy change that can have big results. Our hope is to share best practices and lessons learned with others eager to try this, too!

If you are interested in learning more or doing this project, please feel free to follow up by contacting Heather Statzer (heather.statzer@gmail.com) or Caron Gremont (caron@firstbites.org).

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