Happy family having dinner at home

This Version Posted: May 13, 2020

Photo of Laura Abbasi
Photo of Laura Abbasi

Laura Abbasi
Registered Dietitians
HKPR District Health Unit

Here’s food for thought for everyone whose lives have been upended by COVID-19. Enjoying family meals together during the pandemic offers more benefits than just satisfying hunger. 

As a Registered Dietitian, I strive to make time for family meals. Studies show family meals promote healthier eating habits, encourage good communication and improve self-esteem. 

With many families currently home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there may be more time to eat together, try new recipes, and use these moments to reconnect and support each other through challenging times. 

Despite this, I’ve heard from local families that there are still challenges associated with eating well during COVID-19. Shortages o f meat, fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or an inability to afford healthy foods can make meal time more difficult.  

It’s good to remind parents, especially those with young children, that family meals should be about the routine and the time together, not about a fancy meal. Eating together helps children feel loved, safe and secure. With that in mind, consider these tips: 

  • Keep discussion at dinner light and positive. Avoid difficult topics and avoid discipline. 
  • Be a good role model. Kids are more likely to try foods you eat. 
  • Not everyone likes every food, and that’s okay. Encourage kids to say “no, thank you,” if they want to pass on something. 
  • Trust children to say how much they want to eat and when they feel full. An important part of healthy eating is learning to stop when we’re full. Being forced or pressured to finish food should be avoided. 
  • Children can take longer to eat, so try not to rush them through a meal. Encourage them to eat slowly, chew their food well and enjoy the meal. 
  • Turn off digital distractions like TV, tablets and phones. 
  • Get kids to help plan a meal, prepare a recipe, or set the table. Doing so helps them develop important life and food skills.  
  • If unable to get your usual items at the store, substitute with something similar. You can also pair new offerings with familiar foods during mealtime. Children often need to see, smell and touch a food many times before trying it, so don’t be afraid to serve new items multiple times. 
  • Get more resources on family meals and recipes. Visit www.unlockfood.ca or call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5003. 

Making the most of family mealtime during COVID-19 is a chance to eat, enjoy and engage with loved ones… a welcome recipe in trying times!